There and Back Again – A TriBike Tale – Day One Part 1

First of all, I want it known I love your bike. Maybe not as much as you do, but statistically speaking, I’m a lot less likely to pee on it than you are (given basic triathlete behavior and the fact that it’s in the back of a truck).

The basic description of what I do is that I drive the truck, but to anyone that has ever relied on me for the success of their race, I do a lot more. I am a facilitator. I am an enabler. I am a caretaker. But, above all else, I am the guy you trust with your bike.

Now, I know you are asking yourself, “how does it all happen?”

From an outside perspective, it seems like a simple process.

Step 1.) You drop your bike off at your local bike shop

Step 2.) It is magically there at your race

Step 3.) You have the transcendental experience that is an Ironman, and you hand me back your baby

Step 4.) You go home, and a bit later you get an email that says your bike is back home as well.

Over the next few weeks, I will share a few blogs that blow away the smoke and mirrors and let you know everything that goes into transporting your bike.

Before I start, you need to know that I am an Ironman as well. I first got to know TriBike Transport (TBT) as a customer. Prior to stepping behind the curtain, I used TBT to ship my bike several times to Puerto Rico to compete in IRONMAN® 70.3® Puerto Rico.

When I first started, Taylor (TBT’s SVP), told me, the process is not as easy as it looks from the outside. I nodded in agreement thinking, “how hard could it be?”. I quickly found out just what goes into getting your bike from your local bike shop to your race and back again.

This is me, James Mango.

I launched my TBT career and began with some short routes and day-labor work before I got truly sucked into the machine. This past fall was a crazy time that ended up seeing me working a 21- day stretch away from home visiting cities all over the country. The overall plan for my trip was to return the ITU Grand Final bikes from Lausanne, Switzerland, collect the bikes for the next round of races, work one of those races, and then return the bikes from that weekend.

On September 18, 2019, I was flown to Asheville, NC, from my home in Cleveland, Ohio, to start the loop. The first task was to unpack, sort, and load the trucks from the ITU Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland. That would be Day One, and let me tell you, Day One would have been enough for most folks for a couple of weeks.

The day started at 6:30 am when I left the hotel to pick up a rental truck and headed to the warehouse for the first time. I got the truck to the warehouse early and got ready for a 17 hour day of unpacking, sorting, and loading bikes.

Coming back from Switzerland there were 534 bikes that needed to be uncrated and sorted based on their return destinations. Two areas inside the warehouse and four other areas outside were prepped with bike racks – exactly like you’d see in transition at a race. Each rack was labeled with a notecard for different shops, and each area was designated for specific regions of the country that would later be loaded into trucks heading to every corner of this great land.

One of the trailers with the crated bikes.

The most important thing to know about this work: It. Is. Hard. Stupidly hard. That day I heard the statement, “We work harder than the triathletes.” Now, I don’t know if this is universally the case, but I can certainly vouch for the fact that a 17-hour day of moving bikes ain’t no joke.

Lining up and sorting the bikes.

While the work is hard, the process is simple: Unpack the bikes which are strategically packed like a jigsaw puzzle into wooden crates, each wrapped in a blanket with its front wheel in between that bike and the next. It was like an impressive game of Tetris: alternating positions to fit the bikes so tightly together.

Triathlete Handy Tip: If you receive your bike back from TBT and discover brake rub, it’s probably a loose front wheel. Loosen your front wheel, adjust it, and retighten it.

We opened each palette and unloaded the bikes, accumulating huge piles of blue packing blankets. Each bike was carried to the appropriate shop location with wheels that are also labeled by shop. A couple of guys just work re-attaching wheels as other folks run bikes…. 4 semi-trailers worth of pallets, each semi having 4 or 5 pallets of bikes. It’s a really long process.

Side Note: TBT owns more blue packing blankets than you. In fact, TBT owns more blue packing blankets then anybody.  Don’t bet me on this.  You will lose.

Blue blankets as far as the eye can see.

To get through so many bikes, TBT brought in every employee to work. A true ‘all hands on deck’ workday. People cycled through depending on commitments or availability, but we usually had between 6 and 10 people working at all times.  And when I say everyone worked, I mean everyone.  Jason, the HR/accountant guy, Emily, the woman who keeps the office moving…. Everyone. Job titles or listed job duties didn’t matter one iota. Today, you were carrying bikes and piling blankets.

Un-crating 500+ bikes was Phase 1 of Day One, which got us to about 3 or 4 pm. I will save the rest of day one for my next post.


Guest Post – The 2019 Season By Julie Moss

The triathlon season is winding down and I’m taking inventory of my season so far.

The year started early, in February, in Sri Lanka for the Colombo 70.3. It was a wonderful adventure with my son, Mats Allen, and we were both fortunate enough to use that race to qualify for the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships. Of course, the bombing of Sri Lanka a few weeks later was devastating and our thoughts and love went out to the new friends who were suffering in such a terrible way. The spirit of Colombo is strong and I know they are well on their way to recovering.

Unfortunately, TBT did not service Sri Lanka, and it felt like the dark ages of tri-travel to have to haul my bike through the airport – especially with complicated overnight connections.

My next race was much closer to home at Oceanside 70.3. Once again Mats joined me and we enjoyed a nice weekend of racing with friends and sleeping in our own beds. It was nice to see our friends at TBT working hard all weekend and support them from afar but not require their services.

My most recent race was the Boulder 70.3. This year I was able to spend almost three weeks in Colorado visiting with my good friend and former pro, Wendy “Wingnut” Ingraham. Not only did she put me to work at Skyview Farms, her equestrian center in Castle Pines, but she gave me a chance to acclimate to the extreme heat and altitude in her comfy home nestled in the trees. The community lap pool was only minutes away and was always empty, which provided a great training opportunity.

Racing the Boulder 70.3 was an epic full-circle moment for me, bringing together my past and present. Racing in full view of the majestic Flatirons, I was able to think back to my training days in Boulder with so many Ironman legends. From the very beginning, Boulder was well known to elite runners and cyclists for the miles of mountain trails, open roads, and rare air. So, naturally, it didn’t take long before the endurance newbies of triathlon came a calling. If San Diego is the birthplace of triathlon then Boulder is the most prestigious training ground for Ironman Champions, past and present. Boulder has proven to be every bit the sacred Ironman real estate that is Kona. Here is a list of my fellow Ironman Hall of Fame alumni who were Boulder regulars during my tenure, in order of their induction:

  • Dave Scott
  • Scott Tinley
  • Paula Newby-Fraser
  • Mark Allen
  • Greg Welch
  • Jim MacLaren
  • Graham Fraser
  • Heather Fuhr
  • Peter Reid
  • Chrissie Wellington
  • Erin Baker
  • Scott Molina

For every triathlete racing in Boulder is a unique opportunity to race on the hallowed ground that shaped the best triathletes on the planet. Whether celebrating the pioneering groundbreakers or supporting the current trailblazers, Boulder should be a bucket list race akin to Kona in its depth of history. At this year’s event, the TBT crew was hard at work in some very hot conditions with additional afternoon thunderstorms just to keep them on their toes!

My next adventure is heading to the south of France, to Nice, for the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships, again with Mats. Mom races on Saturday, Sept 7, and Mats on Sunday, Sept 8. It will be my first time racing with the women’s field on one day and the men’s on the next. I love that ‘ladies first’ still applies.

I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Nice many times in the early ’80s-’90s. At that time, it was a 3/4 Ironman distance that was one of the biggest paydays in the early days of our sport. The race in Nice was one of the firsts to step up and offer big prize money, which was a huge boost to our professional careers. When I travel to Nice to race this year there will be one big difference – I will be traveling without my bike!

Using TBT for my first international world championship is another memorable first. I’m thrilled to not have to worry about packing the bike, dealing with the crowded airport scene, navigating trains, lugging it up the stairs, and especially not having to reassemble it. Of all my years going to Nice, the hassle of the bike is something I’m thrilled to leave in the past. This year using TBT will allow me to have peace of mind by eliminating the worry of my bike, allowing me to get prepared for the biggest race of the season.

For 2019, I’ve focused solely on the 70.3 distance this season. It’s been one of the most memorable years I’ve ever spent racing triathlon from my time with my son to the friends I’ve made along the way. I often tell people it’s the moment in a race when you choose to dig down and go way outside of your comfort zone that makes you a better person, and it’s the collective energy of all athletes coming together that makes our sport so incredible.

When I got on the plan for Nice, I had packed light – carry on only, thanks to TBT. The only extra baggage I’ll be carrying is the emotional baggage that comes from a full heart and the desire to race like a champion. Can’t wait to reunite again with my incredible triathlon family.

Guest Post – 4 Tips for Racing & Training in Cooler Weather

4 Training & Racing Tips For Cooler Fall Weather

As temps start to cool and you’re about to finish out the race season with a final event or two, these are a few good reminders for race day.

Hydration is still a thing!

While your body temp will likely be lower than in the hot summer months, you still need to hydrate! Stick to your race day game plan even if you don’t feel thirsty and the temps aren’t blazing. When you lose water and salt they need to be replaced, it’s that simple.

Sun’s not out? Still, use sunscreen.

Again, the temps are lower, but that sun is still out even on the cloudiest overcast days. Avoid a dreaded sunburn and apply sunscreen just as you would on a summer race day. Make sure you use sunscreen that allows your skin to breathe and sweat. Sweating is essential for allowing your body to self-regulate and avoid overheating. Zealios Sun Barrier SPF 45 sunscreen won’t clog your pores allowing your skin to breathe and freely sweat to regulate your body temperature.

Layer up!

Be prepared for all kinds of fall weather with a light shell, base layer, and gloves. Yeah, at times these seem like overkill, but in the most dire times, they’re the difference between racing comfortably and miserably. Beat mother nature at her own game!

Weather prep.

Take the time to train in the elements you’ll likely be racing in. When you’re headed to a destination race this can be well worth the effort and cost to arrive a few days early. The fall season can bring unexpected weather and you want to make sure you’re comfortable and prepped with all the necessary gear on race day.

Good luck out there!

Guest Post – The Recovery Run

If you have worked with a coach you may have seen the workout on your training plan that states “Recovery Run, Bike or Swim.” Many athletes seem to be very diligent about keeping their legs spinning and their watts or speed low when doing a recovery bike session or subsequently, with the swim, keeping the focus on drills and really easy swimming but when it comes to the Recovery Run, that can be a whole different story.

Often, we see athletes doing their recovery run only marginally slower than their Z1 or Endurance run efforts. If I am looking at pace alone, this tells me that they have either been doing their Endurance Runs way to slow (dogging it) or their Recovery Runs – way too fast. This is where using a heart rate monitor can help to paint the real picture. For Recovery runs – heart rate should be ideally, anything less than 76% of Threshold Heart Rate while Z1 Endurance Runs should be between 80-86% of threshold heart rate.

Let’s take a step back and define what Threshold Heart Rate is. This is the average heart rate based off approximately one hour of maximal intensity effort that can be maintained (also known as Functional Threshold). To help determine this, and if we stick with running as our example, there are a few different methods that can be used. A field test such as race might be a good starting place since in most cases you will be putting forward your best effort.

If using a 5km Fun Run to determine your threshold, determine your average HR (generally based off your watch) and then subtract 15 beats to extrapolate the result to be based off a one hour based effort. Alternatively, if you have completed a recent 10km race, then subtract 10 beats off the average HR and for a Half Marathon subtract 5 beats. Another method that works well is a 4 x 1 mile test (with 1.5 min recovery) and then subtract 2 beats off the average HR.

The Karvonean method which takes into account the maximal and resting heart rate is also a nice way to approximate threshold HR. Since most athletes will know what the highest heart rate is that they have seen and are also familiar with their resting heart rate, this is an easy method to try. Using these numbers they can be applied using the following formula: .81*(Max HR – Resting HR) + Resting HR = TH HR.

You may decide to use one of the above methods or try each of them to approximate your Threshold HR for running. Keep in mind that due to differences in the nature of running and cycling and athletic experience, threshold values are generally different for each discipline and therefore should be tested independently.

Once you have determined your Threshold value then HR training zones can be established. Using our HR training zone system and also that adopted by USAT, heart rate training zones are as follows:

ZR: (Recovery/Pliability) Everything below 76% of TH HR

Z1: (Aerobic) 80-86% of TH HR

Z2: (Tempo – Sub Aerobic Threshold) 86-83%

Z3: (Tempo – Sub Lactate Threshold) 93-100%

Z4: Best Sustainable Effort

Now that you have a basic understanding of Threshold HR, let’s return our attention to ZR Recovery Runs. I am sure you are asking so what is the purpose of doing a Recovery Run. The recovery runs purpose is not necessarily to derive direct “fitness” gains; instead, a recovery run is Active Recovery. It provides an opportunity to actively engage the soft tissue: muscles, tendons, and ligaments by promoting blood flow without the catabolic effect of over stressing muscle fibers. The low-intensity active effort helps to flush the muscles of accumulated by products of lactic acid. Mentally, the recovery run also gives an athlete the opportunity to recharge, a mass volume and subsequently, add to the durability needed for long course racing.

Athletes that struggle with injuries such as chronic Achilles Tendonosis and Plantar Fasciitis tend to respond well to inserting regular short recovery runs into their training as opposed to simply having long periods of rest between runs. Since tendons receive very little blood flow it makes sense that keeping the tendons actively engaged but not overly stressed helps promote blood flow to the area and help with the recovery process.

So, what should a recovery run look like? A good rule of thumb is to keep the run under 35 minutes and while HR should be in the ZR range this would generally equate to a pace of at least 1.5 to 2 minutes slower than current Z1 pace. Interestingly enough some of the fastest runners have the biggest differentiation between Endurance and Recovery paces. Just look up some of the Kenyan runners and you will see just how easy their recovery runs are. Keeping the cadence high will also help ensure that you are keeping the feet under you as you run and not overstriding and placing additional stress on the extremities.

Next time you see a Recovery Run on your schedule remember the many other benefits associated with it and embrace the challenge of going slow.

Karen Allen Turner is a coach for QT2 Systems for both the QT2 and OutRival Racing brands and has been involved in the sport of triathlon as both a participant and a coach since 1986. As a regular national presenter for the USAT coaching certification program, Karen’s ability to draw on her many years of coaching experience and ongoing quest to expand her understanding of the sport provides a valuable resource to new and experienced coaches alike. For her athletes, the combination of her analytical approach, teaching methods and her ability to look at each athlete as an individual with unique needs has lead to her success as a coach.

Guest Post – Mental Fitness: Goal Setting

Goals are one of the hottest topics discussed in training circles and online forums throughout the triathlon community, but who really knows what they are? There are variety of opinions on what they are and what they mean. A common understanding is that a goal represents the purpose, or objective, towards which an endeavor is directed. The intended destination of a journey, if you will. The achievement of a set goal can be one of the most rewarding accomplishments that an athlete (or any person, for that matter) will ever realize.

Falling short of a set goal can have just the opposite effect. For that reason, it is vitally important that the goal-setting process be regarded in a manner that ensures realistic and achievable results. At QT2 Systems we use a very structured approach to the goal-setting process that addresses and drives both short- and long-term progress. This helps to supplement an athlete’s mental fitness toolbox. Like training itself, appropriate goal setting can help to keep an athlete motivated. Inappropriate goal setting can leave an athlete feeling lethargic at best, and at worst like a failure.

The Framework

The goals we conjure up for ourselves as athletes can be placed into one of three categories:

Objectives – Things over which we have nearly 100 percent control, such as “I am going to be tough”, “I am not going to give up, no matter how hard things get”, “I am going to follow my pacing plan”, “I am going to follow my fueling plan.”

Targets – Things over which we have a bit less control, but are directly related to our training, and can, therefore, be pretty closely predicted. Examples: “I am going to average 250 watts on the bike,” “I am going to produce a very even power profile,” “I am going to run a 7:45 pace.”

Outcomes – Things over which we have the least amount of control, such as age group or overall placing, race time, Kona slot qualification, etc.

Goal setting should always take a top-to-bottom approach, where we place the greatest emphasis on that which we have the greatest amount of control, and reduce the focus as we must relinquish more and more control. Athletes should consider the framework of their goals to exist in a series, where objectives receive the greatest amount of attention, targets the next, and lastly the outcomes.

Unfortunately, many athletes invert this process, asking the question “What must I do to achieve my desired outcome?” This most typically takes the form of Kona qualification. They set the goal to qualify for the World Championship, calculating where they will have to place within their age group to be able to punch their ticket. The next logical step is to determine the targets (wattages/paces/speeds/etc.) that will be necessary to do so. Objectives are often lost in the shuffle, and can become very dependent upon whether or not the athlete is hitting his or her targets from day to day.

When this inversion takes place, a great deal of mental capital ends up being paid to meaningless outcomes. “I didn’t outride Mary Sue!” or “Bobby Joe dropped me late into the run!” We have no control over how Mary Sue and Bobby Joe train and race. Therefore, the comparison is invalid, unfair, and sets up an unhealthy mental pattern.

Athletes tend to be most upset by not meeting their desired outcomes, though the far greater transgression is in not meeting their objectives. Outcomes are very much dependent upon the actions of others, while objectives exist wholly within the individual athlete. When focus is concentrated on appropriate objectives and targets, the desired outcomes will typically be met. To this end, objectives should slowly incorporate suitable targets, depending upon the athlete’s mental fitness. Athletes who are motivated by the achievement of potential success will often be more receptive to trying to transform their objectives into more concrete targets, because they view their targets as a challenge. The athlete who is motivated by potential failure, however, may view their targets as just another opportunity to fall short of their goals. For this reason, it’s often necessary to spend more time and focus on the outlined objectives, keeping their targets more subjective in nature.

Prior to setting the outcome goal of wanting to qualify for Kona, for example, athletes must ask whether that’s even a possibility. Do you possess both the mental and physical toughness to endure the training? Have you been able to execute a race plan time and time again? Do your performance indicators and durability put you in a plausible Kona-qualifying position? These are the most important aspects of successful training and racing, and cannot be ignored when considering the focus of an upcoming season.

Applying it All to Race Day

While we have already discussed the structure of goal setting from the overall training perspective, the very same structure can be applied to race day itself.

It’s not uncommon to see the Queen K highway littered with marathon walkers late into the run portion of the World Championship. This is typically indicative of over pacing the early portion of the race, which then exposes the athlete to a strong potential for difficulty in handling their race day nutrition. This dovetailing of completely controllable factors will leave athletes cooked, physiologically speaking, and able to muster little more than the infamous Ironman shuffle. Why? Unfortunately, when the cannon sounds, on race day, most athletes do not know what kind of a performance that they are truly capable of. They set out on the day guided by what they would like their race outcome to be, as opposed to an execution strategy that is built around their training and capabilities.

Stay away from negative mental patterns on race day! These will typically come as a result of focusing on outcomes, which reside at the bottom of the goal list. If you find yourself focusing on your position, relative to Mary Sue or Bobby Joe, wondering why you are fifth in your age group when you would like to be in third, then a quick redirection of your mindset is essential to success.

Objectives are right there at the top of the goal-setting list. Remember, these are things that we have the greatest amount of control over. “I am racing tough.” “I am executing my pacing plan.” “I am following my fueling plan.” Once you have shifted your mindset to this more positive approach and are successfully implementing it, it’s then time to move into your race day targets: “How is my wattage compared to what my training indicates?” Not wattages that you would like to push, or paces that you would like to run, but wattages and paces that are clearly defined by your training results.

Only athletes who are competing at the elite level, or those who are in the closing miles of an event should consider the race’s outcomes. Most of the time it’s only worth considering these outcomes once you have crossed the finish line. But, in the final 5 to 10k of the run, when mano-a-mano with a fellow age group competitor, it may be necessary to put your targets by the wayside and just race. Having said that, when all is said and done, if an athlete has stuck to their objectives and hit their targets, then it’s very likely that realistic outcomes will have taken care of themselves. Even so, an athlete can have the race of his or her life, and still not realize the desired outcomes. Why? Because placement in the age group or overall time are affected by so much more than only the athlete. There are always factors that can’t be accounted for, such as heat, humidity, and wind. Barring all of that, you simply cannot control who shows up on race day. To determine that you would like to place in the top-five of your age group at an Ironman event, is quite arbitrary. What if that particular race becomes your age group’s championship showdown, with a Who’s Who of competitors? Is that desired top-five placement still appropriate? What if nobody shows up? Is that desired top-five still worth its weight?

This ambiguity is exactly why it’s necessary to give race day outcomes the least amount of weight when assessing race day success. There are certainly no shortage of athletes who have missed out on Kona slots despite having the races of their lives. That doesn’t make their race any less successful. Though significantly fewer, there are also no shortage of athletes who have earned a Kona spot despite terrible management of their objectives and targets. This doesn’t make their race any more successful. In the end, Kona typically has the final say in determining that, and rewards those who race according to their objectives and appropriate targets. Those who fuel their day with thoughts of outcomes are often left wilted beneath the starry skies of the Big Island.

With Kona just a few months away, those toeing the line may want to carefully consider, or perhaps reconsider, the genesis of their particular goals. Approaching this race with a clear set of objectives and targets can really help to maintain a positive frame of mind throughout the day. Let the outcomes fall where they may. Out on the Queen K, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of instantly comparing yourself to others, be it appropriate or not. It’s not uncommon to see athletes whizzing by, within the first 20 miles of the bike, and start to feel a bit despondent. But, you don’t know what kind of training they have done. You have no idea if they are pacing themselves properly, or are racing according to desired outcomes. Fear not! It’s a long day. Those who have put in the work, and pace themselves according to what they know they can do will truly enjoy the experience and finish strong. Those who race according to how they want to place run the extreme risk of getting their money’s worth out on that run course.

After making so many life sacrifices during your training, it doesn’t make sense to set yourself up for a disappointing day. Mental fitness requires that you take a very holistic approach to your training and racing. A mindset that builds from objectives into targets, and lastly into outcomes, is one that is certain to put you in the perfect position to succeed. After all, mental fitness is nothing without success.

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