Track Racing Report 2014

Wow. How did I let this one slip? I wrote this in October 2014 and, well... I have no excuse. OK, I have a long list but none of them are really worth it. So here it is...

Well, another race season has come and gone. And what do I have to show for it? Maybe a cat-4 upgrade? Not quite, but more on that later. 

To officially race at the Marymoor Velodrome you must jump through a few hoops-

  1. Take one of their Adult Track Classes. These happen on various Saturdays and Sundays throughout the Spring/Summer. I took mine on June 21, 2014. It lasts 4 hours and give you a great introduction to the track, track safety, and basic race tactics. Bike rentals available just bring a helmet (and your own bike shoes/pedals, if you have them).
  2. Safely compete at least 3 "Cat-5 races" on Thursday nights during the Spring/Summer.
  3. After you have been cleared by the Thursday night racing officials, you can go to Monday Night racing, where the Cat 4 men duke it out.

At least that's what I've heard: I didn't make it to step #3 but I'm getting ahead of myself...

As described previously, I've been having a blast on Monday lunch breaks doing track workouts.

A sunny October day at the track: you better believe I put in a few laps!

A sunny October day at the track: you better believe I put in a few laps!

I did quite a few practice runs before my personal schedule lined up with a Saturday track class. It showed me quite a few things I didn't know, like how to get on your bike and start pedaling without hanging onto a rail. No, I'm not kidding. Have you ever tried to start-off from a dead stop, with no assistance, with clip-less pedals and 48/15 fixed gearing? That one took a while to learn. 

Just under 2 weeks later I made it to my first of three required cat-5 sessions. My son made a video of my first ever time trial (1-lap 400m TT from a standing start).

Not my best attempt but it was enough to get me seeded in the racing for the night. More importantly, I didn't crash and I stayed below the red line for the entire lap. 

After that we did a 5-lap scratch race, a 3x4 points race, and an unknown distance race. 

Sitting on the rail waiting to start my first scratch race. That's me, second from the rear.

Sitting on the rail waiting to start my first scratch race. That's me, second from the rear.

Lap times in training vs. in a race (i.e. drafting)

Riding in a pack is a LOT different than alone on a wide-open 400m track. How different?

  • Best 400m lap time by myself: 39 seconds
  • Best 400m lap time in a pace line: 35 seconds

That doesn't look like much but consider this: that's an 11% improvement. The main reason is wind resistance while riding in a pack but the dynamics of pack riding also come into play. I know that the best way to run faster/farther is to find a running partner even if we only run side-by-side for the duration of the race, as I did in the 2010 Issaquah Triathlon.

The dynamics of pack riding are also something I seem to struggle with, especially the accordion action of entering/exiting a turn. I'm sure this will ease as I get more experience but for now it can be unnerving. 

Second race night (i.e. I've got nothing)

After my first race night I was very excited for my second of three required cat-5 races. The night of the race something just felt "off" and I couldn't get moving as fast as I had before. After every race I would hang my head and pant like I had just run sprints. 

It wasn't until later that night that I figured out the problem: I had a booster shot for T-DAP vaccine that morning and was having a mild reaction. Note to self: do not race within 12 hours of having a shot of any kind. It REALLY slowed me down. The other racers dropped me like 3rd period French, to coin a phrase.

Injury report

While coming home on my commute one night (July 2014) something didn't feel right. I got up the next morning with a familiar pain pattern. After a quick trip to the see the doctor yes, I had another hernia. Surgery ended my season before it really got started. As with 2013 this one had the same story: no riding for nearly 2 months. Ugg. 

Just over 2 months later I rode my bike to work for the first time and, as expected, it took me a LONG time to ride to/from work. This winter is going to be a little rough. There is also this sleep issue I'm still dealing with (as in lack-of-it) which totally zaps my energy and motivation. 

What about next year? I'm thinking track racing (at least an upgrade to cat-4), RAMROD, and Cycle Oregon. And maybe a triathlon. Only time will tell... }B^)

Magnum PI Ironman - A Race Report

The other day I was watching Magnum P.I. on Netflix, something I used to do with my family when the show was in its original run in the early '80s. Yes, my Netflix queue is full of shows like MacGuyver, Knight Rider, Highlander, etc. What caught my eye is that in episode 18 of season one, the season finale, Magnum competes in the Ironman! 

OK, it's not exactly the Ironman Championship in Kona but it is close enough. 

SPOILER WARNING: KEY PLOT POINTS DIVULGED. If you haven't yet seen this episode (season 1, episode 18), I highly recommend trotting over to your streaming provider of choice and check it out. The entire series of Magnum P.I. is available on Netflix as of Nov. 1, 2014. 

Episode Details

Plot summary

Magnum is hired by Babs to find her missing fiance Roger. She cannot afford to pay for his services for more than one day. Her fiance is... blah blah blah... he needs to find a guy who is also being chased by some other shady characters and the best way to find/save him and the girl is to participate in a triathlon. Cool!

Race Summary

First off, the events are in the wrong order (swim/run/bike) but we'll overlook that and call it creative license. If they did put them in the right order, and called it the Ironman, the producers would have probably had a disagreement with the M-Dot guys (were they even enforcing the brand in 1981?). It fits better in the plot that way because a bicycle race is much more exciting than a foot race: they can do a quick montage of the swim and run while focusing more on the bike. 

Training

He runs and swims often, as shown in just about every episode of the TV show, including the opening credits. He frequently does sea-kayaking (surf-kayaking), snorkeling, and is seen playing basketball, softball, and, my favorite, running from the resident guard dogs at the Robin Masters Estate. Overall he is in good shape. 

Pre-race

They don't show packet pickup but they do show a Hawaiian band and hula dancers greeting the athletes. This scene also shows a banner with the name of the race, "The Iron Man Classic".

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

The racers do have their numbers written on their shoulders. Magnums's number is 62.

Rick and TC give him a thorough pre-race rubdown while Babs, acting as his "trainer" shoves a salt tablet in his mouth.

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

They line up for a mass start and are off!

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Swim

The first thing I noticed was that the swim was done VERY close to shore, within 75 feet (20-25 meters). The race distance was 5 miles?!?! (not 2.4) He swims without a wetsuit or swim cap, as do almost all the racers, which makes me wonder how much drag is created by his hairy chest and long hair. He does wear goggles with clear lenses.

His stroke isn't too bad and he breathes on every left stroke. His form is wonderful compared to some competitors who swim with their heads completely above the water.

From the start line, Rick, TC, Higgins, and Babs drive along the course in the Island Hopper van to meet Magnum at T1. Here the race team experiences a problem known to many triathlete spectators...

TC: "Which one is he?"

Rick: "He's right there! Can't you see?"

They then show a wide shot of the swimmers coming in to shore and it is not clear where Magnum actually is. The swim is typically the least exciting part of spectating at any triathlon. At least the band and hula dancers are there as well.

T1

The first transition area is a picnic table in the sand, with all his gear brought in by his transition team of Babs, HIggins, Rick and TC. The general public are in and around T1 area, which is not closed or marked in any way. Babs is in charge of his "4 ounces of glucose", TC is in charge of towel, tank top, and shorts, while Rick is handling socks, shoes, and foot powder (!). Rick and TC hold up a towel while Magnum changes his shorts. Higgins attempts to encourage Magnum by giving a rousing speech describing the Greek battle at Marathon as Rick and TC help Magnum on with his socks (with foot powder!) and shoes. 

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

As he sets out on the run Babs shouts, "Knees to chest!" A comment no doubt to remind him of his run technique.

Run

The run goes along beautiful roads and paths with views of the surf. The entire run in a short montage and moves directly into the bike. During the montage Magnum does a voice over to advance the plot. It is here where we get the title of the episode, where Magnum talks about how he had to try hard because "Beauty knows no pain."

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

T2

Not shown as the montage flows seamlessly from run to bike. Apparently T2 happens but we don't see it. I can only imagine it was like T1.

Bike

Earlier in the show Higgins announces that Magnum will be sponsored by Robin Masters, who will buy him an "Italian Racing Bike", which the internets say is a Bianchi with the decals removed. Magnum's helmet is a typical 80's minimal style (foam core with plastic). Most of the bike course is not closed, moving through "Austin Memorial Gardens" near Waimea Falls Park O'ahu. Inside the garden they have to dismount to walk over a bridge then ride across some packed dirt, not an ideal road bike course but perfect for Cyclocross.

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

At one point during the bike leg TC counts the riders in front of Magnum and determines he is in 14th place. At that exact point Magnum has figured out a major plot point, thanks to something Higgins says, he decides to turn around on the bike course to go back into the garden to save Roger. As such he never finishes the race. As he gets off the bike he is quite tired and can barely walk, as would be expected after such a ride.

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Post Race

After a scuffle involving Roger, Magnum, Babs, and a guy with a gun, Higgins points out that "you know you have no chance of winning." Magnum, now holding the gun, looks at Higgins, then at the pistol in his hand, and back at Higgins as we fade to black.

Magnum is then seen resting in the main house of the Robin Masters Estate with his feet on ice as they watch the news highlights of the "Iron Man Classic". They see footage of Magnum riding backwards on the course, much to TC's chagrin, until the news reporter compliments the rider on his resolve and repeated mentions Island Hoppers, TC's tour company, and shows the logo on Magnum's jersey.

Where might he have placed?

Swim: As far as swimming goes his stroke is slow, short, but not terribly inefficient. Hmmm, sounds like me? His pace would easily put him in the rear 2/3 of the pack. The footage gives no visual perspective of where he might be.

Run: Magnum claims he can "run 8 miles a day in under an hour". That puts him at a 7:30 mile pace, which is moderate but not in contention to win the race. If he could hold that pace for a marathon (doubtful) he would have a 3:16 split, which would have been faster than the real 1981 winner John Howard by about 6 minutes, and only 9 minutes slower than the Men's run best in 2013, Joe Kashbohm at 2:59:48. What is more likely is that he was doing 8:30-9 pace, which would make his run split 3:45-3:55, squarely in the middle of the pack.

Bike: As stated previously, he was 14th up until the point that he turned around. We aren't shown at what point he did turn around so we cannot gauge how much he had left at this point. Based on his swim and run pace as well as his 14th place observation he was no doubt moving up the field. If this is the case he may have finished in the top 10 or just outside it.

Conclusion/Lessons learned:

  1. An Ironman can be a great place to get away from it all and solve an attempted murder case.
  2. Even guys with shaggy hair and a big 80s mustache can get a top-20 finish at Ironman.
  3. Sometimes the most boring person in your life (i.e. Higgins) can give you the inspiration you need when you least expect it. 
  4. In the end, saving the life of a petty thief is more important than finishing an Ironman. Wait... what?

}B^)

Finally Getting Back on Track

At 12:30 pm today the countdown officially ended: sunny skies, high temp around 55, and a slow day at work. The stars aligned to allow me to bring out my new training tool...

That's right, I'm finally doing something I've always wanted to get into. And it came about on a whim.

My '07 Scattante has been having some frame issues so I've been shopping around for possible replacement options. This has taken me to Craigslist and eBay countless times in the past several months. As I was browsing frame after frame, I came across a listing for a track frame with a current bid of $30. After considering it for a few minutes, I put in a max bid of $70 and thought nothing of it. A couple days later I received an email from eBay notifying me that I won the auction at exactly $70. I was floored. 

You will notice that it is missing a few things, like wheels, a seat, and even a chain. With further searching on eBay I found a set of wheels that fit my needs: tough, somewhat aero (Deep-V rims), and around $200.

That left me with just a few other parts to purchase, which arrived from Amazon over the coming week: a chain, cogs of various sizes, a cog lockring, and a Park Tool Head-Gear lockring wrench.

I had other parts on-hand from previous replacements or stock-ups: Schwalbe Durano S tires, Specialized tubes, a Forte Pro SLX seat, and Shimano PD-R540 SPD-SL pedals.

And then I had to go to the bike store to buy some rim tape. Duh!

Now that I have a track bike assembled and ready to go... I became a hipster and started wearing weird clothes and drinking PBR, right?

Um... No.

Only 5 miles from my house is the track that hosted the cycling events for the 1990 Goodwill Games, many regional Olympic trials, and several National Championships, the Marymoor Velodrome. It is a fabulous outdoor, 400m concrete oval bicycle track with 25 degree banked turns. Most tracks are shorter, which means banking up to 45 degrees. 

Panorama of the Marymoor Velodrome, Redmond, WAThe key thing here is "outdoor". That 25 degree banking can be downright dangerous in the wet. With that in mind, the only thing I needed was a dry track. This requires a dry/sunny day. In late winter in the Seattle area. Suuuuuure. It only took about a week of waiting.

My new track bike at the Marymoor VelodromeI came down for a long lunch at the track and took in a few turns. There were only a couple people there, including Rob McD, a track racer I know from work. He had some very encouraging words but in the end I was just there to show everyone how slow and out of shape I have become in the last 18 months. 

The circus had indeed come to town. No, really. That big white tent behind me is for Cavalia. Think Cirque du Soleil but with horses. One of these days I'll actually go to one of their shows. Anyway...

I did an even 40 laps of interval training: sprint for 1-2 laps, rest for 2-3 laps, repeat. OK, I did have to stop a few times to adjust various things on my bike like stem position, handlebar height, etc., since this was my first time on this bike.

In the end I didn't kill myself. I didn't even embarrass myself, although I tried a few times. Note to self: FIXED GEAR BIKES do not have a freewheel. Trying to stop the pedals at 25 MPH is a BAD idea.

It was a great day. I can't say enough good things about this track. And I'll be back. My next opportunity appears to be Monday, only 3 days away!

On race night the atmosphere around the track is electric. The competition is fierce and the speeds are high.

Marymoor Velodrome during the 2012 FSA Grand Prix

One of our favorite track events is the "Marymoor Crawl" where they have everyone "race" from turn 4 to the start/finish line for up to 2-3 minutes, at which point they ring the bell and everyone does a 1-lap sprint for a $100 prize. The catch? If you put your foot down or cross the start/finish line before the bell, you are eliminated. It is crazy and looks a little something like this-

Getting Back On Track: T-Minus 2 Days

The suspense is building... except not as I would like it. As I have embarked on this latest adventure, which I have mysteriously referred to as "Getting Back on Track", it seems that I keep forgetting small details.

First came the initial box...

 

Then a friend showed up...

And then some other frends arrived and pulled a couple of others that arrived last year. What a party!

We'll see where this party ends. I'm hoping by Monday. My kids are just lapping this up.

}B^)

Getting Back On Track: T-Minus 4 Days

"What does a dyslexic owl say? How! How! How! He should get together with another owl and the werewolf then all they need to know is when." - Boy #3

That's how my day started. How about yours? }B^)

It ended like this...

Our town is on a plateau with rather steep sides all around. Once you ride off the plateau, getting back up can be a challenge. On the north side of the Sammamish Plateau, where we live, there are three choices, all of which have 1/4 mile sections that with a 10% average grade-

 

  1. Sahalee Way - 1 mile, average grade 8%, max grade 12%
  2. NE 42nd Way - 1.4 miles, average grade 6%, max grade 24%
  3. Inglewood Hill Rd - 1/2 mile, averge grade 9%, max grade 13%

 

There is also 244th NE but it is a little out of the way and very narrow, not my perfect combination. 

Today I was riding home with my eldest son, Patrick, who recently turned 12. He has always been an enthusiastic bike rider and takes every opportunity to ride with me, even when it means riding up big hills. Today we rode from my office to his swim practice via the East Lake Sammamish Trail and then home via Inglewood Hill Rd. I like to dangle carrots in front of him to see if he can push himself a little more.

Today's challenge was a big one: ride to the top of Inglewood Hill Road without stopping.

The reward: a trip to his favorite fast food place, Jack-in-the-Box.

I guess I already spoiled it, didn't I? The last time he rode up this hill, not more than a month ago, he was very proud of himself when he only stopped 3 times. This time he got into a groove and held it all the way up the hill, without stopping or putting a foot down until he reached the top. We consider the Inglewood Beach Club sign the "official" top of the hill, even though the grade isn't completely level for another 20 meters.

For me this represents 3 consecutive days of effective exercise. I cannot remember the last time I did this. Yes, it has been many, many months, probably April of last year, just before my injury.

Tomorrow promises to be a bit wet but we still plan to do some mountain biking at Tolt MacDonald Park at arguably the most last-minute campout ever planned by boy scouts. 2 days notice. Sheesh!

GETTING BACK ON TRACK: T-MINUS 5 DAYS Part II

"Hold on a second... Part II? Why aren't you counting down?"

Well, the Brown Santa decided that the final day is actually Monday, as opposed to Saturday, thanks to some big cold, wet thing called Vulcan dropping immense amounts of snow on a few people in the entirety of the eastern US. That's only a slight exaggeration. 

And now, I bring out the ever-popular Soapbox...

Yesterday afternoon I took advantage of the gorgeous weather here in the Seattle area to go for a jog. OK, it was more like a fast-paced amble. I went on a local trail (the 520 trail, for any curious locals) for a couple of miles, nothing big, and was passed by many cyclists of all shapes, sizes, and colors (Blue shorts with brown jersey? Seriously?)

To the cyclists who passed me, I have 1 word for you: LUBRICATION.

If I can hear your transmission from more than 50’ away, it is time to invest in some Tri-Flow. Or Finish Line. Or White Lightning. Or even the new WD-40 lube if you are too cheap.

The worst offenders? The 5 guys in matching kits that passed me near NE 40th. WOW. It sounded like a flock of birds squeaking up behind me.

Perhaps this is a new bicycle warning system for pedestrians on multi-use trails?

That is all. I now yield the soap box to the more capable voicing of others.

Anyway, back to the countdown. What is it? Well, it's a way to get my health back to where it should be: right back on track. Any other place would be uncivilized.

How many kids ask for this, along with 3 of their friends? Quite a few, actually. FSA seems to like it.

)

Getting back on track: T-minus 5 days

Where do I start? Let's start with the obvious.Boy #3, demonstrating the proper way to "soak in some rays" on a cold, sunny, January day.
I love my kids. I really do. But sometimes they are incredibly difficult to deal with, both academically and emotionally. One day we are tearing it up at Soaring Eagle Park on some wonderful single-track and the next we are having the biggest battle of whits/wills I ever imagined. I used to be an extrovert until I had kids, each with their unique learning disability that makes life VERY interesting. And I learned a level of humility and patience I never dreamed possible. That much is true.
I love my body. I really do. But in the past 12 months it has put me through hell. And back. And back again. OK, I'm over-exaggerating a bit because I don't have some incredibly bad/terminal illness. A major injury that required surgery. And more sicknesses, trips to the doctor, and even one to the hospital (not for me, BTW) than I care to talk about. Yep, I'm whining again. I think I should be allowed to whine about gaining 50 pounds over the past 5 years. Time to shed that weight. (Hint: things that you "lose" you might find again. I never intend to find this weight again.)
I hated 2013. There, I said it. No races. None! Not even a basic sprint tri. The biggest bike ride of the year I did with my kids. No tours, no centuries, no athletic events. 
But this all stops. NOW. Why?
Because eBay is evil and should always be avoided. Just like Craigslist. 
...and because the correct number is always N+1. 

Doing it on the cheap - Redeaux!

In looking at my website stats, my "Doing it on the cheap" post is #1. There is no other post that even comes close, even my Cycle Oregon page has less hits by a 10x margin. And now I present an updated and expanded version of...

Triathlons: Hot to be a Triathlete on a budget.


Triathlons are not for the faint of heart and, apparently, not for the thin of wallet. 

"So Triathlon is the new golf?" I was so flabbergasted that I didn't quite know what to say. This could not possibly be true but there was the data in black and white-

"According to a study initiated by USA Triathlon, the average triathlete is a married 38-year-old with an income of $126,000. Forty-four percent have kids living at home; 60% are male. They spend in excess of $4,000 annually on bike gear, athletic footwear, race fees and nutritional supplements. Nearly half have traveled more than 500 miles for a race."

-Natalie Zmuda, Advertising Age

$4000 a year on gear, race fees, and food? PER YEAR? Seriously? If it doesn't turn out to be a fad then there is significant money to be made marketing/selling gear to triathletes in the coming years. 

...Unless that triatlete is me. I may be squarely in the demographic quoted above but I spend NO WHERE NEAR that amount of money on my craft.

Is it possible to be a triathlete and do it on a shoe-string budget? My answer: ABSOLUTELY!

Let's break it down into the main categories mentioned in the article above and see how you can do it without breaking the bank. To be fair to all you lady triathletes out there I called upon an old friend, Valerie, who finished her rookie race in 2011 and did it for just-over $200!

Finding the Best Deals

TIMING IS EVERYTHING: Best advice I can give you - plan what you need NOW and start researching and window shopping. Notice I didn't say buying? That comes later. If you wait until the last minute to find what you need you will either spend WAY too much (i.e. list price) or find yourself loaded down with worthless gear that doesn't fit or meet your needs.

Once you know what you are looking for, you can take your time and wait for the right sale.

The best time of year to buy gear is the last month of the season and the 2 months following (August-October in North America). That's when shops are clearing out the current year's merchandise, prepping for Inter-bike, and getting ready to stock up on the latest products. If you can settle for the previous year's clothing or gear you can save some serious dough.

Deal Websites: My favorite site lately has been Chainlove but you can also find great deals on Amazon and many others. Also look for "deal of the day" on sites like Western Bike WorksREI, and Competitive Cyclist. These sites are great but if you don't know what you are looking for they are useless. Do your footwork first and they are much more valuable. 

Clearance Sales: The REI seasonal clearance sales, the clearance section of just about any shopping website, and even Performance Bike and Bike Nashbar are a great place to find hidden gems. Case in point: My bike commute shoes are a pair of size 49 Canondale Roam shoes. I found them on a fluke on Bike Nashbar for nearly 75% off (less than $30). 

The Clearance Rack: When I go shopping at any store (clothes, electronics, and especially sporting goods) the first place I go is the clearance rack/section. Some of my best finds have been at REI, the Nike Factory store, and, yes, Target (amazing low prices on basic workout clothes such as base layers for running). Go to ALL of your local bike stores (LBS) and check out their clearance rack/table. You will be surprised what you can find marked down by 80% (like every set of gloves or glasses I have ever worn). 

Race/Training Clothing

I put this category first because it crosses boundaries with the different disciplines on race day and, most of the time, while training as well. 

Tri shorts: A good pair of tri shorts will serve you well on the bike and still be comfortable on the run. I prefer the Pearl Izumi Tri Shorts, men's model of course. List price: $55. If you are going to skimp on something, for heaven's sake don't skimp on your shorts. Do it on the...

Tri top: This is where there is the most flexibility. For short races a normal bike jersey will do but for the longer races you need something that won't chafe your armpits or other sensitive upper-body areas. Once again, Pearl Izumi Tri Top (Sleeveless) is a good choice. List price: $55.

Tri Suit: The even cheaper way to go is to combine the jersey and shorts into a tri suit. The Pearl Izumi Tri Suitlists for $99, $10 cheaper than the shorts and top combination. 

I hate to sound like a broken record for Pearl Izumi but they seem to have a lot of clothes that fit me (size XXL). There are other options out there but they are harder to find and often more expensive. 

That about covers race day clothing but race day itself is less than 1% of the total time you will spend all year in your sport. The rest is spent training. While training, especially on single-sport days, you can wear something a little more tailored for the current sport. If I'm going to spend 120 minutes on the bike doing a long ride I would much rather be wearing bike-specific shorts. There is a lot of flexibility there. I will cover each individually below.

Swim exit to T1, Beaver Lake Tri 2010Swim Gear

Race Swim Suit: See Tri shorts/suits above. For race day there really is no substitute. In big races (i.e. Ironman events) there is an enclosed changing area where you can change into a tri-suit if you desire but not so in shorter/local races. I actually saw a couple of women changing in the transition area of T1 during a race. One would hold up a big towel around the other while she changed, then they would switch. Their T1 times must have been somewhere around 10 minutes.

Training Swim Suit: This is where you can get ultra-cheap. Any suit that fits for swimming, and allows for freedom of movement, should do the trick. I use a cheap pair of swim trunks while Val uses a womens model Speedo suit that she has had for years. 

Goggles: Talk about cheap! You can get goggles for as little as $5. I use the Speedo Baja Goggle which I picked up from a local sport retailer for $10. Just as with any equipment it has to fit. 

Swim Cap: Since these are provided with your race this is one of the few no-cost items on the list (well, almost no-cost, since race entries aren't exactly free). I didn't think much about using a swim cap during training swims until I took a lifeguard class. Those bright-colored swim caps make it MUCH easier to find a lost swimmer underwater, especially when visibility is limited.

Beaver Lake Tri 2010 Swim StartWet suit: This is by far the highest priced item in the swim section. For race day wet suits can be rented in most major cities for anywhere from $40-70, depending on type and length of rental. If you live in an area where you must train using a wet suit (like I do) then purchasing one may be a better deal. These can cost anywhere from $100 to as much as you want to spend. Second hand wetsuits are plentiful around the end of the season via Ebay, Craigslist, or even your favorite retailer (think rentals models clearance). I bought my wetsuit for $150 from Chainlove.com, a 2XU SC:1 sleeveless wetsuit. 

 

Bikes and Bike Equipment

The Bike: There are no other pieces of equipment in your list that will meet the cost of the bike. You can use an existing bike (like Val did), buy a used bike for under $100, or spend as much money as you want (the sky is the limit in some cases). Now, before you run out and spend more than the value of your car on a real tri-bike, remember that even Chrissy Wellington won her first Ironman Kona on a Drop Bars with clip-on aero bars. Of course that bike was a Cervelo P2C tricked out with full Dura-ace groupo and an HED wheelset. Even Lance said, "It's not about the bike." The best place to start is a bike that fits your budget and your body.

A word about bike sizing: Any good LBS should be able to size your bike to you. If you are going to spend hundreds of hours training, commuting, and/or racing on a bike in an aero position a fit is more important than you may realize: as with other repetitive strain injuries, the right positioning and posture can prevent countless hours of pain and thousands of dollars. A post-purchase bike fit is covered by most insurance companies to make sure your bike is adjusted to fit your specific body needs. 

Bike Accessories: After you buy a helmet (required at all races in the US) the basic item you need is some type of hydration (i.e. water bottle and mount). The cheapest are only a few dollars. Other essential items are bike shoes, with compatible pedals, and perhaps a bike computer. My friend Val went old-school with a set of clip-pedals for under $20, which is what I would consider the bare minimum for any race. Without clips or a clipless pedal/shoe combination you cannot capture the energy of upward/backward pedal strokes and will waste precious muscle energy on the down-stroke, which is the same primary muscle group you use when you run. 

Bike Computer: There are a TON of toys you add to your bike, including GPS devices with mapping and directions (I use an old Garmin Edge 705 or Forerunner 310XT), but why not just use your smartphone? If you have an iPhone, Andriod, or Windows Phone then you have all that functionality already. Go download a free fitness app and you will have speed and GPS data. You can even add on a heart-rate monitor to your iPhone for under $100.

Repair Kit: Some racers, especially in the elite class, really go light on their repair kits or even skip it completely. If you, like me, are one those "finish at all costs" type of athletes then a good repair kit is essential but it doesn't have to cost much at all. A basic flat kit, an extra tube, and a CO2 pump will weigh only a pound or 2 and can cost less than $20. 

Bike-specific Clothing (Training): Jerseys and shorts can be a very personal item in terms of fit, use, and style but one thing is for sure: a good pair of bike shorts goes a long way. Or at least it can help you go a long way with lower body impact than a cheaper pair of shorts. Best advice I heard early on: buy a really cheap jersey and use the money you saved to buy the best shorts you can afford. Your nether-regions will thank you later (as opposed to screaming).

Beaver Lake Tri 2010Running Gear

Running Shoes: Along with tri shorts, running footwear is another area where you should be careful about getting overly cheap. Properly fit footwear is the first requirement but it must also fit your running style. A quick visit to a podiatrist or running store for a gait analysis (i.e. how do you run?) will help determine the best type of shoe. I have been wearing Asics Gel Kayano shoes for the past several years and LOVE the feel, although I have been experimenting with minimalist footwear with some success. 

Once you know what works best for you there is nothing to stop you from buying online. My favorite source for shoes has been Ebay. Search for your specific make/model/size of shoe and you can find screaming deals for as much as 50-70% off, especially if it is "last year's model". 

Run-specific Clothing (Training): This is where I get super cheap. My running shorts, shirts, and base layers come from either the clearance rack at Target or my local sporting good store. Total cost: $15 per set. 

 

Race Fees

This one can get a little ridiculous if you are not careful. In 2009 I completed 3 races, 2 sprints and an Olympic distance. My total race fees for the year: $222 ($72, 75, and 75 respectively). 

I prefer smaller, more local events than the larger M-Dot events (i.e. World Triathlon Corporation, or WTC, owners of the Ironman brand). While very well run the M-Dot events support upwards of several thousand racers and cost a lot more than the local non-profit events I usually participate in- 

  • Ironman 70.3 (US prices): $250-300 (depends on registration date)
  • Ironman 140.6 (US prices): $600-700

 

Nutrition

Gels, Protein Shakes, jelly beans, etc: This one is like arguing religion or pizza toppings (very contentious in some cases). No matter your preference in this category you can find numerous vendors our there and, if you shop smart, you can find good deals. Watch the clearance sales and bulk buy web sites for the best deals. I usually spend less than $50/year on nutrition. 

A warning about clearance "nutrition": Watch the expiration date. I bought some Honey Stinger Waffles recently (my new favorite food for distance riding) and found they expired in 6 months after purchase (hence the low cost). Don't stock up big if they won't last.

 

Summary

How much did I spend in 2011? (my last big race year prior to 2014)

Race day gear (per year, as spent in 2011)

  • Race clothing: $0 (bought my Tri-shorts in 2010 for $30, no new jerseys in 2010)
  • Swim gear: $15 (new goggles, wetsuit was purchased in 2010 for $150)
  • Bike gear: $150 (new chain, rear cassette, and front/rear tires)
  • Run gear: $65 (new shoes)
  • Nutrition: $50 (new gels)
  • Race fees: $75 (only 1 race in 2011)

My 2011 total: $355 (i.e. nowhere near the $4000 number above).

How much did Valerie spend on her first tri in 2011? (An off-road Tri in eastern WA state)

  • Race clothing: $0 (borrowed Tri-shorts for the race, but have since purchased a Tri-suit at TJ Maxx)
  • Swim gear: $0 (used existing goggles, no wetsuit)
  • Bike gear: $20 (new toe-clip pedals)
  • Run gear: $80 (new shoes)
  • Nutrition: $50 (new gels, should last into 2012)
  • Race fees: $60 (only 1 race in 2011)

2011 Total: $210

Was this a typical race year for me? Well, almost. My race fees would have been about $150 higher (i.e. 2 races) if I was able to better coordinate my schedule. My typical race schedule is for at least 3 races, 1 of them a half-iron distance (i.e. 70.3 but it's not an M-dot event). My race fees should be closer to $300.

The Race Rookie Year

What if you are new to triathlon and looking to complete your rookie race? Let's assume you are starting from absolute zero and do a little math...

  • Race clothing: $100 (Tri-suit)
  • Swim gear: $20 (cheap swim suit and googles)
  • Bike gear: $600 (bike, clipless pedals, shoes, shorts, jersey)
  • Run gear: $100 (running shoes, shorts, shirt, base layer)
  • Nutrition: $50
  • Electronics: $50 (basic heart rate monitor)
  • Race fees: $100 (typical for a local Sprint/Olympic-distance race, not an M-Dot event)
  • Total: $1020

This assumes you have no gear whatsoever, which is not true for most athletes. 

The moral of the story: you can EASILY spend less than $1000/year on triathlon gear and race fees if you are careful. I will grant that my goals are not as lofty as some. If you are shooting for 1 or more Ironman races this year (140.6) then your budget may be a bit larger. Spending that much time in training puts a lot of stress on your body and clothing which wears it out faster and sometimes requires you to buy the more expensive clothes in the first place.

But for "normal guys" like me (hence the website name) it is very easy to be a tight-wad and a cheap-skate. Just don't tell my wife or she may cut my gear budget even further. }B^)

Quick Update and Detour...

A quick update on my status and a slight detour...

Last spring my son Patrick decided he wanted to try mountain biking. So we packed up our bikes and headed off to a local park to try our hand at single-track. At this point I didn't own a mountain bike so I was riding my commuter bike, a Specialized TriCross Disc. It didn't end well for me, in a way. After less than half a mile of riding in the mud and muck, we turned around. My 1.6" tires were not built for this type of riding. And Patrick beat me back to the parking lot by a sizable margin. The grin on his face was incredible.

So I've been shopping for a new bike. My injuries and other priorities earlier in the year put that on hold but last week I pulled the trigger. I plan to use this bike for fun rides with my son, bike camping, and our big ride across the state (someday). 

2014 Specialized RockHopper 29, my newest ride.

So, the detour... Over on my other website, RideAcrossWashington.com, I wrote up a blog post  detailing my shopping experience and my first real trail ride with my son. It was an amazing day.

Patrick at Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish, WA

Red-Tac Island Hopper Ride Report

Most married men complain about their in-laws, specifically their Mother-in-law (i.e. the mother of their wife). Rather than go into the vagaries of standard social convention, I will end it all by saying that when I married my wife I hit the "in-law lottery." My wife's parents are two of the coolest, most laid-back, accommodating people I have ever met. They are VERY hard working, every waking minute is spent working, even though they "retired" almost 15 years ago when they sold their business. They even come to my races to cheer me on!

My In-laws (i.e. the Grandparents) wait with my boys at the finish of the 2009 Issaquah Tri

With that in mind...

I live in Sammamish, Washington. My wife's parents live in Tacoma, about 50 miles away (the direct route by car). Living in such close proximity allows for frequent visits to the Grandparents. And each year I tell my wife that I want to ride to their house. This has been going on for 5 years now. Well, I finally found time to do it and with a route that was relatively safe. 

My first idea was the direct route, as calculated by MapMyRide. I tweaked it a bit and came up with this route via Lake Washington Blvd, the Interurban Trail, and lots of city streets through Puyallup and Tacoma to the lovely town of University Place.

Yes, there is a town called Puyallup (pronounced pew-ALL-up). It is home to THE BEST FAIR in the world, the Washington State Fair. Oh, and Fischer Scones. Gotta get me some of those... <drool>

Fisher Scones at the Puyallup Fair...but I digress.

Some facts about this route-

  • Distance: 63.25 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1280'
  • Scenic Factor: 4 out of 10

OK, I totally made up the "scenic factor" but I plan to use it again in the near future. Maybe even in this post. This route does ride along Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington, and has a nice view of Mt. Rainier off in the distance, but it is also VERY suburban in nature. The other thing about this route that bugs me is the last few miles into University Place: the bike lanes are virtually non-existent.

So I considered another option, this one involving a trip to Seattle, a couple of ferries, and an island. Oh, and a little Defiance thrown in for good measure. It came out in 3 sections: Sammamish to Seattle, Vashon Island north-to-south, and Point Defiance to University Place.

Facts about this route-

  • Distance: 48.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3021'
  • Scenic Factor: 7 out of 10

This route cuts off nearly 20 miles and includes 2 ferry rides, plus it is on trails, side streets, and rural roads the entire way. Piece of cake, right? What I didn't notice about this route was that the elevation gain is DOUBLE the longer route above.

On ride day (Aug. 2, 2013) I rode into work, then took off from my office in Redmond on my way to Seattle. It figures that the day I plan to do my first big ride since my surgery was also the first day in nearly 2 months that we had any rain. Yes, I'm that good at weather planning. The interesting thing about rain in the Seattle area is that people freak out when it rains. You would think that since it rains a lot in Seattle that people would be used to it. You would be wrong...

Riding the 520 trail, westbound through Bellevue, passing cars stopped on the freeway.So once again I was glad I planned to do this route on trails and side streets. The other route would have been a lot more dangerous. I still had a few city streets to navigate as I connected to various trails along the way.

There must be a trail around here somewhere...

Oh! There it is!

Narrow trail in Bellevue, glad there is no traffic!Through Bellevue, the Mercer Slough, and under I-90.

Bridge over the Mercer Slough in Bellevue, WA

Under Interstate 90 in the Mercer Slough in Bellevue, WAUnder Interstate 90 in the Mercer Slough in Bellevue, WAThe I-90 floating bridge across Lake Washington has a bike path on the north side of the bridge, one of the most traveled bike paths in the country. It is a lot of fun to bomb down the hill, get into a tuck, and hammer across the bridge. Unless the wind is blowing in your face and you can barely keep 15 MPH.

I-90 floating bridge from the Seattle side.Once on the Seattle side you have the choice between a leg-burning climb up and over the hill, with a grade approaching 20% in places, or a quick ride through a 1/4 mile long tunnel. It's not a tough choice given the distance I planned to ride.

East entrance of the I-90 trail tunnel in Seattle, WAFrom the tunnel I wound my way through bike paths, making only 1 wrong turn, used a couple of side streets, avoided the ever-present road construction, and found my way to the Seattle Ferry Docks at Pier 50. 

Pier 50 in Seattle, home to the Seattle-Vashon Water TaxiI missed the boat by about 10 minutes so I had the opportunity to relax my legs and take a few pictures.

The Seattle-Bremerton ferry at Pier 50 in SeattleThe Seattle skyline in the background with cars waiting at the Seattle ferry terminal.Flynn waits patiently to board the Seattle-Vashon water taxiThe Seattle-Vashon Water Taxi, operated by King County, arrives at Pier 50 in Seattle.Bike parking inside the water taxi was very easy...

Bike rack in the Seattle-Vashon water taxiThis is where things got interesting. If I had been paying attention to my elevation profile I would have noticed that, once you reach Vashon Island, there is a HUGE climb from the ferry dock up to the main part of the island. I would have a better elevation profile to show off, and may even a Strava segment under my belt, if my Garmin Edge 705 hadn't decided to stop and restart the route in the middle of climbing. Ok, maybe it wasn't "massive" as hills go in this area but it was about a 12% grade for just over a mile, gaining 450' of elevation. 

The island itself simply oozes beauty. I saw a LOT of deer...

Doe and fawn along Vashon Highway on Vashon Island. My phone decided not to focus on anything of note.Anyone wanting to do some rolling-hills training should definitely consider Vashon. I don't think there was more than 50' of flat pavement anywhere on the entire route: lots of rolling hills, sweeping curves, and great vistas of Puget Sound. And halfway through I realized that Vashon "Island" should really be called "Vashon Islands" since it is really two islands smashed together. Remember that climb coming off the ferry? I got to do it again halfway down the island (450' in 1.3 miles) as I passed by this harbor/marina on the west side.

As I climbed the grade in the middle of the island I came across a "roadside attraction", as the street sign put it, which purveyed information about the history of Vashon Island and its exploration by European mariners.

History of Vashon Island in 50 words or less.

Quite possibly the coolest thing about this island is the Vashon Island Bike Tree. I had heard rumors and stories about this bike but nothing does it justice until you see it in person. I was amazed at how small and well-preserved it is. It is actually a kids bike (tires are no more then 12" in diameter). It is definitely worth the trip and very easy to find. Unfortunately someone has removed the handlebars.

The ever elusive Vashon Island Bike Tree, in all its glory.After more rollers than I care to count I finally hit the down-hill grade that signaled the south end of the island. The Vashon-Point Defiance ferry dock was remarkably small and, to my great surprise, uninhabited.

Vashon-Point Defiance Ferry dock with Point Defiance Park in the background.The ferry ride itself isn't that long but it only sails at the top of the hour. This meant I had the chance to rest some more and take a few pictures...

Vashon Ferry dock looking across the water to the Point Defiance ferry dock, with the ferry en route.

With only a handful of cars on the ferry I started out with my bike simply laying on the floor, until I noticed the bike parking area up above.


Ramp leading up to the bike parking area.Bike Parking and seating area on the Vashon-Point Defiance Ferry.By the time I left the ferry, dusk was making it impossible to use my cell phone for pictures. 

Riding out of the ferry dock I found yet another big climb of 450' over about a mile (sound familiar?). And, for future reference, when exiting the ferry at Point Defiance, use the sidwalk to make the steep climb out of the ferry area: the road is a very narrow one-lane affair. As I slogged up the hill (in the dark) the cars on the ferry (all 6 of them) backed up behind me. It was a little un-nerving to hear the pickup behind me spin his tires on the wet pavement as he stopped and started again. I exited the ferry at 9:10 pm so there was virtually no pedestrian traffic. The sidewalk would have been a much safer option.

The next 6 miles were some of the slowest I have ever ridden. The hill at the end, although only about 70', felt like 700'. My legs were cooked. Like "chicken falling off the bone" cooked. When I finally arrived at my destination I could barely stand, let alone walk.

Total distance: 46 miles

Total elevation gain: 3003'

Total time: about 5.5 hours

Total riding time: about 3:20:00

GPS routes: Part One, Part Two

Lessons learned: 

  1. Check the elevation profile and know where the climbs are located so you can pace yourself accordingly.
  2. Bring more food or stop for snacks along the way: the small snacks I brought along were not nearly enough foor for a ride of this length and duration. In hind-sight I should have stopped in the small downtown area of Vashon for a break and some food.
  3. Yep, I'm out of shape.

In the end I'm glad to cross another ride off my bucket list. The views were amazing and it was indeed an adventure worth the effort.

Rubber-side down! 

}B^)