#TBT – Old School Tri Products

Keeping with the trend of Throwback Thursdays, we’re going way back into the TriMadness vault for this post – and we’re going even farther back in the time machine for what this post is actually even about!

Today’s #TBT post comes from August 2011, and is all about Old School triathlon products!

Rewind to 1989.  I was in the midst of college, and home in Chapel Hill for the summer.  I needed a good summer job, and I was a cyclist – so where did I go?  Naturally, I went to the local bike shop to get a job.  Of course, it wasn’t any plain janebike shop.  I went to work for Performance Bike Shop.  Yep – the mail order bike shop that you may be familar with.  Only, I didn’t work that summer in the mail-order part of the business, I worked in the brick & mortar retail store in the next town over – Carrboro, NC.

Basically, during my time at PBS, I was counter help in the retail store.  I did some minor repairs and built more than a few bikes, but by and large, I was the equivalent of the dude at Abercrombie working the counter selling jerseys, shorts, etc.

In the late 80’s, triathlon was still a new, fringe sport.  And yet, we sold a TON of triathlon related stuff back then.  To share with you just how far we’ve come in terms of triathlon gear, I thought it worthwhile to pull some photos of some of the stuff we sold back in the day…


This is one of the earlier aero bars – the Profile Aerobar

This is one of the original Profile aerobars, and note the vibrant neon yellow coloring!  This was a highly popular aero bar back in the day.  Notice the lack of shifter placement – most shifters were still on the down tube at this point.

Nike Sock Racer.  The ORIGINAL minimalist racing flat!

Why buy a solid-core disc wheel when you could buy a vinyl wheel cover that you add on to your wheel.  The material was similar to lots of the window shades you can purchase for your car windows.  Cheap speed!

Bolle shades.  Hardly anything better (except the original Oakley Blades).

Why DRINK your electrolytes when you can just CHEW them?!


Definition of a Triathlete

Triathlete definition


Yep.  Pretty much sums it all up.  Actually, could have stopped at #1 and been substantially correct 🙂

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:


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:


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.


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.


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. 


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).



No…this isn’t the newest romantic installment from Nicholas Sparks.  You won’t find this post full of descriptions of some long lost love, or a daring and dashing guy sweeping some young girl off her feet.  Nope.  This is a real-life story.  A description of breathtaking beauty and a couple of runs that left me completely and utterly breathless.

Last month, my family and I took a vacation to Glacier National Park in western Montana.  In a word, this trip was AWESOME!


We saw some of the most majestic mountains that one can dream of.  The Going-to-the-Sun road from West Glacier up to Logan Pass is perhaps the most scenic road in the entire country.  This 50-mile road transects Glacier National park, and goes up and over the Continental Divide.  The sights of big mountains and glacierly carved valleys is awe-inspiring.

We enjoyed a week of being outdoors and trying activities that really took us all out of our comfort zone.  We learned how to skip rocks.  We went horseback riding.  We went white water rafting.  We challenged ourselves on a high-ropes course.  We went zip lining.  We hiked to, and touched, a glacier.  We saw tons of wildlife – including Grizzly bears, a black bear, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, things that could have passed for meercats (I think they were ground squirrels), and a giant rodent called a marmant.  We snacked on wild huckleberries and strawberries.  We went to a rodeo (and were BY FAR the preppiest people there).  We slept with windows open.  We tried some of the most amazing local craft beers (Moose Drool, anyone?).

And we sucked wind.

See, my family and I live at sea-level.  My house is literally 20 minutes from the Atlantic ocean.  Whitefish, MT – the town where we stayed – is at 4500 feet elevation.  Our hikes in the National Park took us close to 10,000 feet elevation (up inclines that seemed vertical).  Air at this altitude is thin.  Especially when you’re used to thick-as-mollasses, humid and salty air where I come from.  I found that I was winded at even the slightest level of exertion…like climbing a flight of steps.  Imagine what my lungs felt like on a 5.5-mile hike up to Grinnell Glacier that gained about 1600 feet – with the majority of that gain in the last two miles.

Perhaps nothing, however, impacted me quite as significantly as going for a run.  Way back in ancient history, I used to love running on hills.  I grew up in a moderately hilly part of North Carolina,  My high-school cross country days were in the piedmont area of North Carolina – over some of the most ancient hills in North America.  I went to college in the mountains of North Carolina and did a lot of cycling and running on mountains.   I rode the Blue Ridge Parkway frequently.  I would climb miles-long mountains.  I became a fan of switchbacks and quite rapid descents.


Today, I live in a place where the terrain is as flat as your kitchen floor.  Hills are man-made in my town.  A typical net elevation gain on a long bike ride might be 100 feet, give or take.  I’m just no longer used to running up and down.

So during vacation, I went on a couple of short runs (one was 3 miles; the other 4), but afterwards I felt as if I’d run a marathon.  My legs were trashed.  My lungs seared.  I recalled quite quickly how easy it is to go really, really fast running down a hill, and how painful it is to even crawl up a moderate hill.

One of my runs had a half-mile climb at maybe 9% grade.  For me, it was my death march.  My pulse quickly approached 180.  My breathing became one with Darth Vader’s rattled asthma.  I just could. Not.  Breathe.

Despite the lack of oxygen, both of my runs were totally enjoyable.  People in cars were friendly – each waving and smiling (probably thinking I was an idiot).  I found a nice trail on my second run.  I rounded a corner and came literally face to face with a deer.  He stood his ground and didn’t move until I was about 10 feet from him.  I saw beautiful mountain flowers and streams.

All-in-all, the whole experience was absolutely beautiful, fun, and breathtaking.


Listed below are some hyperlinks for information about some of the things we did and where we stayed.  If you are considering taking a family trip to the western part of the US, I’d STRONGLY recommend that you consider Montana and Glacier National Park.  I know that Yellowstone & Yosemite get a lot of “press”, and are often very, very crowded.  We found that Glacier was not crowded, that the people were amazing, and the sights incredible.  This particular vacation is amoung one of our top three all-time vacations.

  • Glacier National Park – National Park Service:  This is the official NPS website for Glacier.  Tons of information and photos here about the park, how the Going-to-the-Sun road was established, weather, animals you’d see, etc.  This is a must-visit website!
  • Whitefish Mountain Resort:  We rented a two-bedroom condo at this resort.  The condo was perfect – king bed in one bedroom, the 2nd bedroom had a queen bed and two twin-bunks.  Perfect for our family of five.  The resort has tons of summer activities – this is where we did the high-ropes course, zip lined, and did one of our hikes.  We also went on an “alpine slide” – which is basically like a luge course on a skateboard.  You can also mountain bike on the mountain (we didn’t).  And – if you go to the mountain anytime after October, expect to ski (both alpine and x-country).  The folks at the resort said that Whitefish is one of the top ten ski destinations in America – we aren’t skiers, so I can’t vouch for that.
  • Horseback riding in Glacier:  We used Swan Mountain Outfitters, and went out of the Lake McDonald Corral.  These folks were awesome.  The horses were well taken care of and certainly knew their way around a trail.  We went on a two-hour ride (which actually became almost a three-hour ride because, well, horses don’t wear watches, and the ride lasts as long as they want it to).
  • Whitewater Rafting:  We went on a half-day float with Glacier Raft Company in the town of West Glacier.  We floated the Middle Fork of the Flathead River – the rapids were mostly graded category 2 and 3.  Our guide was excellent, and the ride was amazing!
  • If you’re a fan of craft beer, there are lots of options – both in local draugh houses and available for purchase in stores.  I really liked options from Big Sky Brewing (Moose Drool and Trout Slayer were my favorites), but I also really liked the Nut Brown and Sawtooth offerings from Bitter Root Brewing.  We also dined at a couple of brew-pubs, but for the life of me I can’t remember which ones they were.  One was in Columbia Falls, MT and I think the other was in Hungry Horse.  It could have been in Whitefish.  I’m just not sure.  Either way – the beer in Montana is GREAT!  And – by the way, Big Sky Brewing is a sponsor of professional triathlete Linsey Corbin.  If that’s not enough of a reason to drink it, I don’t know what is!  Unfortunately, for those of us east of the Mississippi River, you’re not likely to find many of the Montana brews.  Word is that they aren’t pasteurized, hence they aren’t shipped that far.  Too bad.

An Olympic Encounter

It’s not every day that you get to see an Olympic-calibre athlete compete in person.  It’s even less often that you get to see literally a handful of them all at one place.  Even rarer is the opportunity to meet an Olympic gold medalist.

This is exactly what happened this past weekend.

My son Carter and I headed down to Orlando to attend the USA Swimming Arena Grand Prix meet.  This three-day meet is one stop of a six-city Grand Prix event.  Let me tell you…the swimming was top-notch and fun to watch.

There were some HUGE names at the meet.  Missy Franklin.  Ryan Lochte.  Conor Dwyer, Tyler Clary, Dana Vollmer.  Anthony Ervin.  There were also some up-and-coming, keep your eye on athletes:  Becca Mann and Ryan Murphy.  And even though the vast majority of the swimmers weren’t fully shaved and tapered, the meet was exceptional – and included a handful of best-in-the-world-this-year times.

So Carter and I headed down to Orlando on Saturday with high hopes of watching some good swimming and maybe getting a few autographs.  Once we arrived at the pool, we (along with 20 or so other kids from Julington Creek Loggerhead Aquatics) hung out at the athlete/coach entrance hopeful to catch a swimmer on their way in for warm-ups.  Not long after we arrived, a video crew came out looking for volunteers to participate in a segment taping for an upcoming TV show focusin on Ryan Lochte.

Carter – being a silly 13-year-old – naturally jumped at the chance to get taped.  Of course, he thought that he was going to get videotaped actually interacting with Lochte…but that wasn’t the case.  Regardless, he got the chance to be asked a few questions about Ryan, say why he liked Lochte as a swimmer, and ultimately ask “What would Ryan do?” (look for the TV show on “E Network” later this year, and you’ll understand the significance of that question).


Carter and his friend Owen getting interviewed as part of the taping of Ryan Lochte's forthcoming reality TV show.

Carter and his friend Owen getting interviewed as part of the taping of Ryan Lochte’s forthcoming reality TV show.


Following his entry into the world of Reality TV, Carter and I headed into the meet.

The Arena Grand Prix Orlando was one of six different meets spread throughout the US.  I believe that swimmers earn points for swimming at each meet – and can ultimately win a share of a pretty big prize pool (ha – get it….prize POOL).  Additionally, I think there were cash prizes for winners of races in Orlando.

Saturday was the last day of a three-day meet, and we were there for finals.  We got to see some good races:  the women’s 800 LC meter free, and men’s and women’s 200 IM, 200 Back, 100 free, and then the men’s 1500 free.  They had two heats of each race – a “B” final and an “A” final.  The “A” final is the faster of the two, and where most of the “superstars” were.


As expected, there was great swimming.  The first race – the 800 free – was won (going away, I might add) by 15 year-old phenom Becca Mann.  You need to remember this name!  She is going to be the real deal come time for the next Olympics.  She pulled off a pretty amazing double at this meet – literally 5 minutes after winning the 800, she got right back in the pool and won the 200 IM!  Keep in mind, though, that this young lady pulled off an even more amazing double a couple of years ago at the Florida Age Group Championships.  She swam two Olympic Trials cuts in back-to-back races.  And I mean literally back to back.  She finished one race, got out of the pool, got right on the blocks and swam again!

Of course, the real stars of the night were Lochte and Franklin.  Missy didn’t disappoint at all – she easily took the 200 backstroke and then turned around a few minutes later and won the 100 free (in :55:37….which for all of us short course swimmers translates to :48:95 in short course yards).  Lochte won the 200 IM in a race that was fun to watch.  It was like he toyed with the other swimmers for 150 meters and then literally floored the accelerator to surge past the rest of the field to win by more than a body length. 


Another highlight was watching 31-year-old Anthony Ervin swim a :49:85 in the 100 free.  That, in case you’re wondering, converts to :43:52 in a short course pool.  Absolutely FLYING!  Just for grins & giggles, I could do 50 yards in the time it’d take him to do 100 yards.  Really puts into context how fast these world-class swimmers are.

Perhaps the biggest highlight (at least for the kids) was that they had an opportunity to get a bunch of autographs from the swimmers.  One girl from our team snagged Dana Vollmer’s swim cap.  Literally every big-name swimmer autographed something. 

It was after the meet really ended that something really blew me away.  Enter Missy Franklin – the 17-year old darling of the London games.  She came out and hung-out and literally signed hundreds of autographs.  I think she was out for more than an hour – the whole time with a million-watt smile on her face.  She signed backpacks, swim caps, shirts, autograph books, phone cases…you name it.  She probably posed for a couple hundred pictures (like the one below with Carter).  In fact, I think she stayed out signing things until she was sure that anyone who wanted something had been cared for.  It was, frankly, very impressive.  I’ve never seen a “superstar” be so open and giving of her time.  It really made an impact on us adults.  And probably on the kids too.

Carter hanging with Missy Franklin!

Carter hanging with Missy Franklin!

Carter got Missy to sign his Beats headphones.  He was super excited to have her do it!  Later on, he found Lochte (actually as he was leaving the building) and got him to also sign his headphones.  (Here’s a cool sidebar about Lochte…I heard over the weekend that once when he was a kid he tried to get an autograph at a New York Yankees game and the player wouldn’t do it because he “didn’t have time”.  As a result, Lochte has vowed to never be that type of guy and will sign anything and everything).

At the end of the day, I can say that our little trip down to watch the Arena Grand Prix swim meet was AWESOME and built memories that will be hard to forget!