Sh^t Triathletes Say (and Don’t)

We triathletes…welll…we talk about ourselves.  Typically a lot.  And to anyone.  Our training partners.  Our coach.  Our friends.  Random strangers at the mall.  Basically any person that we can corner and start shelling with our race history and training regimen.

We generally are good sports about it, too.  Many of us like to poke fun at ourselves (and others like us).  I know I LOVE to people watch and have a good sense of self-deprecating humor.  Besides, if I didn’t laugh at myself, I’d only have to go as far as my house – where my wife and kids are spectacular at teasing me.

Last year, lots of folks did blog posts and YouTube videos about “Sh^t Triathletes Say”.  Some are really funny.  I’ve posted what I think is the original below.  Check it out.  Totally cracks me up!

I may or may not have said some of these.  To find out if I have, just follow my blog…

Here’s a video that gives some examples of sh^t we don’t say…

Hope you enjoy these!  And if you don’t like them, just go eat more fiber!

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By the Dawn’s Early Light

The sky is inky as you head outside. There’s an almost full moon, but it’s partially obscured by clouds. Street lights cast the only light about. You don your helmet, illuminate your headlamps and tail lights and start to pedal.

The darkness is entombing. It’s as if you’re riding in a tunnel of darkness. You can only see the road immediately in front of you. It’s impossible to view houses, trees, animals even, as you motor down your favorite road.

Cars are infrequent. Runners, with their reflective vests and iPods lighting their arms, pass by on the sidewalk. Dogs startle and bark as you pass.

Alone with your thoughts, you pedal on. Sweating, yet enjoying the cooler air that accompanies the pre-dawn. Unable to look at your Garmin due to the darkness, you cycle hard. You base your effort on your perception. You feel the wind. You count to guess your cadence. Time passes, and yet it’s hard to know exactly how much time has gone by. Luckily, your Garmin is set to beep every 10 minutes – initially set as a reminder to drink during races. Now, those alerts allow you to guess your time – so you know when to turn around to head home and still be on time to take the kids to school.

A few cars pass. A school bus. Even a garbage truck. They seemingly grant your more space on the road than they would during the day. Perhaps it’s because of the darkness. Perhaps people are just more courteous in the early morning.

There are few cyclists out. In fact, you only pass two during the entire ride.

As you approach home, the sky begins to lighten. The inky blackness morphs into a lighter grey. You’re able to begin to see better. Houses. Parked cars. Runners.

You arrive, sweaty and tired. Satisfied that you had a good ride. Thankful that you were safe. Ready to start your full day.

And the sun begins to rise…

How to Build Your Own Transition Rack for About $10

You might think that a triathlon is three events.  Yeah, it’s swim, bike and run.  That’s three.  BUT, in reality there are four key disciplines that one must master in order to be really superior at this sport.  What’s the fourth discipline, you might ask?  Transitions.

And just like everything else, in order to be good at transitions, it is beneficial to practice your transitions.  Herein lies the problem for some of us.  How do we best approximate a triathlon transition area so that we can practice in a “real life” environment?  Certainly you can just lean your bike against a wall or tree, but to create a more authentic race experience, why not build your own transition rack?

Building a personal bike rack is really simple and requires very limited supplies and very little time.  In fact, you can invest less than $10 and spend about 30 minutes to create your very own transition rack.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • One 2″ x 4″ piece of lumber, 10′ long.  This will generally cost you about $5.00 at Lowes or Home Depot.
  • A few nails.  I used 12 nails, but you can get by with 8.  I had a box of nails in my garage, but you can pick up nails for next to nothing at a hardware store.
  • A hammer, tape measure, and pencil for marking your wood for cuts
  • A saw of some sort – I used my circular saw, but a bow saw or carpentry saw will work just as well.

The process:

The design for this rack is really super simple, and is actually similar to the design used by Rev3 for their transition racks (just not as long, and not painted).  Of course, you could paint this rack and then affix a name plate to it so it looks like a transition rack at a Rev3 race…

First and foremost, you should have a method for stabilizing your wood so that you can cut it cleanly.  I used a handy-dandy workbench that has a vise to hold the wood:

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First, you will need to cut two “longer” boards – these will serve as the main supports for the rack.  I initially measured them at 30″ each.  This is certainly long enough; you could probably make them a little shorter.  After I built my rack, I went back and cut off 5″ from the ends of each support, making them 25″.  Longer is probably better than shorter, but you’ll probably not want to make it too long so you can easily store this in your garage or apartment or wherever.

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Once you’ve measured, go ahead and cut.  Remember the old adage – measure twice and cut once.  If you use a power saw, be sure to wear eyewear and not stick your finger into the moving blade (that might cause a slight flesh wound).

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After you cut the “supports”, you’ll need to cut two boards that you’ll use to actually hold your bike up.  I cut mine at 24″ – this seems sufficient.  You might be able to go a little shorter, but this was a nice round number, so I went with it.

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Once you have all of your cuts made (you’ll have two 30″ boards and two 24″ boards) you can put your saw away.  On each of your support boards, draw two lines that are approximately 1″ to 1.5″ (depending upon your tire width) apart.  These lines are important because you’ll line up your two shorter boards so that there’s a gap between them for your bike tire to fit into.

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Note the two lines below.  The way I did this is that I put the first line six inches from the end of the board.

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To make the assembly a little easier, I pre-nailed two nails into the support boards.  Notice that just below my support board, I have clamped in one of the shorter boards – that way I could tell exactly where to put my two nails so that they’d be in the middle of the boards I was nailing into.

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I actually did this on both sides of the lines, and on both of the support boards.  At the end of that process, my two longer boards each looked like this:

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Once you pre-nail the support boards, it’s time to begin the actual assembly.  I set all the boards down on the driveway, lined up the shorter boards so that the inside edge of the board was on the lines that I drew for my 1.5″ tire gap, and then drove the nails home.

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You’ll do this on both of the support boards.  You can note below that I set up my support boards so that I had two longer ends facing opposite directions.  You could also make this so that the slot for your tire is in the middle of your support boards.  What you’re trying to do is create a structure that is strong enough to not wobble and drop your bike.  If your support boards are 30″ long, you won’t run into any problem no matter how you align your support boards.

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And, voila!  Your very own personal bike rack.  Now you can lay out your transition stuff just like you would in a race and practice your transitions.  The cooler thing?  This is a very light rack, so it’s portable.  You can take it to the track, to your pool or lake, or wherever. 

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Now that you have your own bike rack, you’ll be the envy of your triathlete friends – and because you’ll be able to easily practice your transitions, you’ll be faster than them, too (which is always a good thing).

You Might Be a Doper!

Chances are you were slightly taken aback by that headline.  Perhaps more than “slightly”.  The fact of the matter, though, is that you may well be in violation of the World Anti-Doping Code.

Doping has been on top of the news chain for the past several years.  Certainly, the exploits of numerous professional cyclists have been well exposed.  Who could forget the furor that accompanied the news that Lance Armstrong was found to be a doper?  The problem, unfortunately, isn’t isolated to the Tour de France.  We’ve read far too frequently about track and field superstars taking steroids, weightlifters bulking up artificially, and even swimmers hitting the juice.  Even more recently, we’ve read that the long tentacles of doping have started to wrap themselves into triathlon.  Just a few weeks ago, professional triathlete Virginia Berasatagui retired from our sport due to a failed test.  It doesn’t stop in the professional ranks, either.  Last year, age-grouper Kevin Moats was banned for doping.

Here’s the scary thing:  There are likely far more people who would fail a drug test than you might think.  And far too many may not even realize that they would fail.

First, some background.  As you might expect, doping didn’t just start in the 199o’s.  As long as man has competed in sport, he has attempted to find a way to artificially improve his performance.  You’ve likely heard tales of  athletes using synthetic steroids, human growth hormones, amphetamines, and blood boosting methods.  Erythropoietin (EPO) was the “rage” during the 1990’s and early 2000’s.  The IOC realized that doping was becoming more and more a problem (partially as a result of many doping scandals in pro cycling), and hence the convening of the First World Conference on Doping in Sport in 1999.  This International Olympic Committee convened conference examined the history of doping in all sports and sought to come up with a solution.  The World Anti-Doping Agency was born from this conference, and officially came into existence in late 1999.  After much work and three major conferences, the World Anti-Doping Code was finalized and implemented in January 2009.

The WADA Code lays out a list of prohibited substances and methods, testing programs, international standards, and procedures for securing Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE’s) to offset the use of some otherwise banned substances.  The Code distinguishes substance use as “In-Competition” and “Out-of-Competition”, and the overall status of a substance might differ depending upon the classification.  Additionally, some items are considered acceptable out of competition and in-competition, but only up to a certain threshold.  Amounts taken beyond that threshold (typically in-competition would be banned).

There are many drugs and substances on the WADA list.  Generally there are several categories of substances that are prohibited:  Anabolic (steroid) agents, Peptide Hormones (like EPO), Beta blockers, Diuretics, and a few others.  Additionally, you can’t manipulate your blood or blood components to increase the ability to absorb oxygen, take stimulants, narcotics, cannabinoids (uh…duh…like pot),  or glucocorticosteroids.

Here’s where this all gets interesting.  Included on this list are things that some people need to take for medical reasons, or are otherwise advised by their doctor to take (I use that phrase somewhat loosely…I’ll explain why below).

Take for example, you’re a mid-forties guy.  You’ve got receding hair, a little pot belly, some stress, and a hectic life.  Maybe you’re not sleeping as well as you used to.  Or maybe you aren’t recovering as quickly as you did ten years ago.  Sex life?  Don’t you need libido for that?  Sound familiar?  Of course it does.  In fact – this may very well describe yours truly.  All too often, general practitioners will tell you (and marketers will support) that all of this is due to low Testosterone levels.  Doctors will go so far as to prescribe T for lots of guys to help bring up their blood levels.  I know first-hand; my GP has tried for two years to get me to start taking T.  I don’t really “need” T.  My levels were considered “low-normal”, basically on the low-end of the normal range approved by the FDA. I chose not to take T.  Lots of guys do, though.  And guess what?   Surprise, surprise!  Testosterone is a banned substance!  Plus the likelihood of securing a TUE is extremely low for cases where men have “low-normal” T levels.

Have other conditions?  How about ADHD?  Maybe you take Ritalin?  That’s prohibited too.  Take dietary supplements?  Those may contain prohibited substances.  Believe it or not, some things that are seemingly normal, everyday medications, fall on the WADA list.  Sudafed, Symbicourt, Prednisone, Phentermine.  Just a few examples.  There are certainly others.

There’s an adage that you are the sole person responsible for what you ingest.  It is our personal responsibility to understand the medicines, supplements or vitamins that we take and whether or not they are prohibited in or out of competition.  Each of us needs to be 100% sure that we’re not violating the WADA code.  The unfortunate thing, however, is that far too many athletes don’t have any clue about (1) what they really are taking, and (2) what’s on the banned list.

Luckily for us, there are a significant amount of resources on the internet to help us educate ourselves.  I strongly suggest that you take a few minutes to review these sites.  Take the time to check each and every one of the prescriptions or supplements you take against the WADA database.  If needed, take the steps to fill out and submit a TUE – even if you’re just an age-grouper with no designs on winning a race or turning professional.

Some critical resources:

  • World Anti-Doping Agency:  www.wada-ama.org/en/.  This site is your best starting place.  Here you can find lots of information about the history of doping, the structure of WADA and links to lots of information about what is banned and not banned.  Furthermore, you’ll find information about how to file a TUE
  • US Anti-Doping Agency:  www.usada.org.  This is the website for the US antidoping federation.  Here you will find news, details on testing procedures, and more.
  • Global Drug Reference Online:  www.globaldro.org.  This is a website where you can search to see if your prescription, supplement or other drugs are on the prohibited list
  • Supplement 411:  www.supplement411.org.  This website gives lots of information that you need to know about supplements.  You think those diet pills, sexual enhancers or other supplements might be beneficial for you?  After you review this website, you might just have second thoughts.

Be smart.  We all hate cheaters.  We all get disgusted when we read about someone caught doping.  It’s an affront to sportsmanship.  It’s gaming the game.  It’s dirty.  Don’t be that guy or gal who cheats.

Take the time to educate yourself.  Share what you know with others.  The integrity of our sport is in our hands…

It’s All On the Line

Chances are, at some point or another you have crashed your bike.  Virtually all of us fell off our bike when we were kids and first learning how to ride.  I can’t even recall how many times my kids wiped out when I was teaching them to ride their bikes.  Even now – as adults – there’s a really good possibility that you have crashed.

Your crash might have been pretty tame.  For instance, one time I pulled up to an intersection in my neighborhood and had to stop because of a red light.  Wouldn’t you know it, but at that very moment my clipless pedals stopped working, and I was unable to unclip in time to put my foot down on the ground.  I toppled over on my right side, spilling all the liquid out of my aero bottle and landing on my back with my bike (still attached to my feet) sticking up in the air.  Naturally, this happened when there were multiple cars at the light – with one of them being driven by a friend.  That happened probably four years ago, and he still ribs me about it.

On the other hand, your crash might bave been pretty severe.  I’ve had my fair share of these, too.  Six years ago, I was out on a group training ride.  There were about eight or ten of us, riding fairly close…drafting off of each other.  We approached a hill (which in reality was just a slight rise in the road….but we call those hills here in Florida).  Another guy and I had a testosterone-filled moment and took off.  I was on his wheel – literally inches away.  All of the sudden we were both on the ground.  We think his chain dropped when he was switching gears…but I could have crossed his wheel with mine, taking both of us down.  At the end of the day, we were both pretty significantly hurt – he had a broken jaw (which needed to be wired shut) and I broke my left clavicle and right thumb (both of which needed to be surgically repaired). 

I’ve been cycling for close to 30 years.  At one point in time, I raced in US Cycling sanctioned races.  I worked in a bike shop.  I would go out and drop 100 miles and think nothing of it.  I’d rocket down hills at close to 50 mph.  All without never wearing a helmet.   I consider myself a pretty solid cyclist.  And yet, I still have crashed.  Lots of times.

The bottom line here is that if you ride a bike, chances are you will crash.  Hopefully your crash(es) will be more like my former example than the latter.  For whatever reason, triathletes have become synonymous with poor cycling skills.  Perhaps it’s because we tend to ride solo.  Or we spend too much time on the bike trainer rather than outside.  Whatever the reason, lots of triathletes have shoddy bike skills.

Over the next several blog posts, I’ll share my thoughts as to how you can become a better cyclist, and ergo, a safer triathlete.

Tip # 1:  Learn how to hold a line

“Hold a line”, you say.  “What the heck is that?”

In cycling vernacular, holding a line means having the ability to maintain a dead-straight line without wavering.  This skill is critically important when you are riding in a group setting, with other cyclists around you.  It’s even important when you’re riding solo.  You may not realize (especially if you don’t practice this skill) that it is really easy to swerve around – even small amounts.  This can be exacerbated when climbing, when eating or drinking, or even when riding in aerobars. 

Imagine why this could be a critical skill when you’re riding in a group setting.  You might have several other cyclists around you – both on the sides and perhaps behind you.  They could all be very close to you…mere inches.  If you’re unable to hold your line, you potentially are moving closer to – and potentially hitting – some of those around you.  Clearly this could be dangerous.

When riding solo, having a lot of lateral movement or swerving is inefficient and ultimately could reduce speed or add slight amounts of distance to your ride.

The really good news is that improving your skills around holding a line is really pretty easy.  All it takes is practice.  Here’s my suggestion:  on your next ride, be very specific to ride only on the white fog line on the side of the road you’re on.  It’s about four inches or so wide, and serves as a great tool for giving immediate feedback in terms of how you’re doing.  Ride on that line consistently.  For miles and miles.  And miles.  Practice riding on that line on your drops.  Master that, then practice on your aero bars.  Once you’ve mastered that skill, then practice moving between drops and aero bars.  Then practice grabbing water bottles and putting them back – all without wavering from the white line.  Practice taking things out of your pockets and putting them back in.  The better you get at doing these things while staying on the white line, the better your control!

Having the ability to hold your line while cycling will prevent some crashes.  I have a few more tips, too.  Check back often for more posts that include those!