January 23, 2018

Triathlon Training And Racing in The Wind – The Bike

cycling in the windThere is nothing more frustrating to me than riding my bike in the wind. At least you can see the hills so you know it’s going to be tough, but you can’t see the wind.

You never know what you’re going to get when you go out for your Saturday ride or your Sunday race. The weather could be quite pleasant or you could face gale force winds. As a result, you need to understand how to train and race on your bike in the wind.

At the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii on the Big Island I felt the full effect of the Goddess Pele’s winds. At times it seemed like you’d actually go backward if you stopped pedaling. And when you rode through a canyon the winds would “funnel” and nearly sweep you off your bike.

The funny thing is that when you compare the bike times of the pros from one year to the next on the same course, they’re not much different, even though the winds may be strong one year and non-existent the next. Why is that?

Here are some thoughts:

1. The pros just accept the conditions. I remember Macca (Chris McCormack) saying prior to one Ironman that he hoped the conditions would be brutal. Bring on the tough stuff because everyone’s got to suffer through it.
2. The pros are ready for it. They train in all kinds of conditions. Lance Armstrong used to say that a lot of pros didn’t go out and train when it got cold or rainy. His philosophy was just “put on a jacket and do it!” Don’t blow off a workout if the conditions aren’t just right, especially if it’s windy. Here in SoCal the surfers can’t wait until the waves are up. Perhaps you should do the same when the winds come up.
3. The pros are simply more efficient than us. When us mortals get tired on the bike we tend to get up out of the aero bars. Big mistake! When it’s windy you want to be in the aero bars as much as possible to CONSERVE energy. When it’s not windy I tend to stay in my aero bars whenever I’m going 12 MPH or more. When it’s windy I have to adjust that down to 8 or 10 MPH.
4. The pros work on their form. Just like swimming, you need to work on your bike form. This naturally includes a proper bike fit but also means your seat shouldn’t be any higher than it should be and your arms and legs should be tucked in as much as possible.
5. The pros keep their body quiet. I’ve talked about this a number of times but it can’t be overstated. Your body should be as still as possible without a lot of side-to-side action or front to back rocking. This just burns more energy and doesn’t’ make you any faster.

When it’s windy just keep your wits and employ these tips and you’ll feel a whole lot better about your performance.

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How Do We Afford This Sport?

triathlon expensiveMan, this sport is expensive! After you’ve dropped $10,000 a bike, $3,000 on a set of racing wheels, $2,000 on a CompuTrainer, $3,500 on a treadmill and another $1,000 on your triathlon kit, you can barely pay for 1st class tickets to Germany!

I’m kidding of course . . . at least for some of us. One of the guys in my age group bought a house on the Big Island so he could train there for the Ironman World Championships (I’m sure that’s the only reason too!).

This sport is expensive but it doesn’t have to be that bad. When I counsel new athletes I tell them to just spend what they can afford. You can quite literally get into this sport for hundreds, not thousands of dollars.

If you look hard you can find some good deals on new and used bikes (caution with the used bikes – have your local bike mechanic check it out in advance) as well as deals on new and used wetsuits.

You can also find good deals on race entries. Not every race is $600 like the new Ironman Texas race next year or the $120 a lot of race directors charge. Some of the great local races are as little as $60 and you get the full triathlon effect (pain).

And don’t worry; you won’t be the only one out there with a 10-year old bike. There are plenty of others just like you that can’t afford the new Cervelo or Trek as well as those that just want to dip their toes in the water, so to speak.

Once triathlon has its “hooks” in you, you’ll want to step up your gear, however. Depending on where you’re racing, your first purchase might be a new wetsuit. Get one that fits (not too tight or loose) because fit is everything. Then, concentrate on getting the best bike you can for the money. You’ll feel faster when you’re on a new ride whether you are or not.

I typically do about 10 races a year which amounts to about $2,500 a year! (Now I wished I hadn’t done the math.) It’s a lot but it’s a small investment to fuel my passion.

Be careful with your money but keep on racing!


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Racing And Training in The Wind – The Swim

In June I did the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii on the Big Island. The swim takes place at one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire world, Hapuna Beach.

Prior to the race I had a chance to swim at Hapuna Beach and the water was clear and calm. Not so much on race day.

Coming from a swimming background, I really prefer the non-wetsuit, challenging swims as I tend to fare better than my age-group competitors that are weaker swimmers. I came in third out of 47 guys in my division and only six seconds behind the #2 guy. It was a good day.

On race day there wasn’t any surf to speak of but there was a lot of wind and the water was very choppy. As a result, you need to change your swimming strategy.

First, you should to realize when it’s windy and there’s a lot of chop that you’re not going to swim your fastest. If you try to match your PR in tough conditions you’ll spend too much energy during the shortest part of the race.

Second, all of your competitors are in the same boat (so to speak). They have to contend with the same conditions you are so try not to let the mental demons creep in and think that you’re being singled out in any way.
Swim in choppy water
Third, you’ll do much better if you swim in challenging conditions in practice. The more you practice the better you’ll handle the adversity. I was swimming down at Corona del Mar in California by my home a couple years ago and the conditions were very challenging. There was only one swimmer crazy enough other than me to even attempt a swim that day – Swim Jim (Jim Fitzpatrick).

Normally the conditions are very calm there but today the wind and surf were coming in from the south with eight foot surf!

The swim was very challenging and at one point on the way back in I looked at Jim, who was to my right about 20 feet and noticed that he was actually about 15 feet below me as well. I was on top of a huge wave and he was down in the trough! The scene was surreal but helped me build confidence in the big waves.

Fourth, you’re going to have to adjust your stroke in windy/choppy conditions. Here are some things you may have to do:

1. Lift your arms more to get them above the waves. While we all practice perfect form in the pool you’ll have to throw all that out to swim effectively in the chop.
2. Lift your head more to breathe. If you can breathe bilaterally this will help quite a bit but if you don’t you’re likely to be drinking a lot of water.
3. Kick harder. In order to lift your arms and head more you may need to kick harder.

Naturally, all of this takes more effort so you may also need to back off your ideal pace so you don’t expend too much energy.

If you don’t have access to similar conditions you may experience in your next race modify your stroke in practice in the pool with the exaggerated stroke as I described above.

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Triathlon Training And Racing With Friends

I just finished watching the 1993 Ironman World Championship DVD as I rode my CompuTrainer. I have all of the DVDs from 1992 forward and they always inspire me.

In the 1993 version they interviewed a lot of the top contenders prior to the race in Boulder, Colorado – the other triathlon mecca. At one point they interviewed Mike Pigg and he said he really enjoyed the fact that they could all train together as friends but race as enemies!

It was a great point which Mark Allen amplified. His word of caution, however, was to make sure you’re doing your own thing during training and racing. If you train with friends stronger, or weaker than you, you could be compromising your workouts. Also, if you try to race someone else’s race you could get yourself in trouble as well.

I’m extremely fortunate to have a couple of really good friends in my age group that I train with occasionally. Larry does the long stuff, like me, while Russ is a short course specialist.

I train more with Larry because our rides tend to be longer (50 – 100 miles) which is what I need for my Ironman training. Although I also train with Russ occasionally and put the hammer down for shorter rides and runs.

It’s great to have people you can train with but race day is different. Russ called me a couple days ago and asked if I was doing the Pacific Coast Triathlon in September. I told him I had just registered. He told me that I was his primary competition for the series championship.

head to head triathlonEarlier this year Russ and I did the OC Duathlon. Russ took first and I took second. Pacific Coast is the second in the three-race series. While I’m flattered that Russ even considers me competition, he needn’t worry because I’ll be in Kona for Ironman at the same time as the third event of the series. I’m not going to cut him any slack at Pac Coast, however.

Yes, come race day I put it all out there. I try to run my own race and leave it all on the course. For Pacific Coast I’ll try to push the pace a little harder than normal on the swim to get an advantage on Russ. Then, I’ll try to stay ahead of him for the entire bike leg of the race. This will be tough because Russ is one of the best cyclists out there – of ANY age!

If I can manage this it will only be a matter of time before he catches me on the run but I hope to put a little bit of a scare into him to push him a bit. You see, Russ will have just come back from Budapest from the sprint ITU World Championships so he should be suffering from the race and jet lag. This may be my best chance to beat him.

It’s all in fun but the “smack talk” has just begun!

Ron Saetermoe

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Run Fast to Race Fast

We all have our favorite workouts – those that completely kick our butts and make us faster. To get faster on the run I suggest you put some time in on your treadmill. It’s not fun, but will make you faster.

For triathletes over 40 I only recommend three running workouts weekly. If you’re under 40 and in good athletic shape four is fine. One of these workouts should focus on getting faster and building endurance. To do this you’re going to need to crank up the speed on the treadmill.

We rely on the Borg scale but we’ve modified it a bit to make it easier to understand. The scale is based upon a rating of perceived exertion (RPE) from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.

Here’s what it looks like:

Triathica Training Zones

So here’s the workout:

Workout that will make you faster

As you can see, the workout includes a 10-minute warm-up and 9 minute warm down. In between you’ve got 10, 30-second accelerations followed by some 5-minute intervals that build to a very high effort.

Hey, if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger (faster)!

Ron Saetermoe

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The Big Island

I hated Hawaii (Oahu) my first trip there. I went on business in 1986 when I was working with Mazda for a dealership meeting and couldn’t wait to get home.

It was hot, humid, crowded (Honolulu) and my boss was a real jerk. That first trip there could have easily been my last.

I’m not sure why I went back but I did go back with my wife (at the time) but this time we went to Kauai and I loved it. Now I was starting to “get” what Hawaii was all about. Honolulu was just a hotter, more humid version of Long Beach to me, but it certainly wasn’t the Hawaii I know and love now.

Since 1986 I’ve been back to the islands at least once a year – in good years it’s more than once. This year, it will be three times.

I didn’t plan to go three times this year but you might say things just kind of worked out for the best for me. About a year ago I planned a trip to Hawaii (the Big Island) with my son, sister and niece. I burned up my remaining frequent flyer miles, which covered the airfare, hotel and rental car for an entire week for everyone!

The reason I’m going three times this year (all to the Big Island) is because I had a good race at Ironman 70.3 California (took 2nd in my age group) so I wanted to find another Ironman World Championship race qualifier. It was either going to be Buffalo Springs or Honu. It was Honu, and I got my slot.

As a result of qualifying at Honu I’m going back again in October. YOOHOO!

scuba at the Big IslandMy son got certified as a scuba diver a couple years ago (on the Big Island) and recently turned 15 so now he has his full “C” card. He and I did three, two-tank dives off our favorite boat, Bottom Time. My sister and niece got certified this trip while Steven and I were diving. It was an absolute blast!

We also did a zipline tour. This all-day, 9-line tour was our first attempt at it. It too was a blast!

I did three swims, with two at Hapuna Beach and three runs down the Queen K. Visualizing my race coming up in October all the while.

Yes, you could say that I’m in love with Hawaii. I always look forward to going back . . . even if it is three times in one year.


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Panic During The Swim

Ron Saetermoe

The bane of many a triathlete is the swim. They seem to enjoy the cycling and running training but pretty much hate everything about the swim.

With that hate comes fear. Fear of everything: getting kicked, losing goggles, drowning, sharks, etc. Coming from a swimming background I personally don’t get it but let me tell you a story, because I can relate.

The Ironman start is a mass-start, which means that you, along with 2000+ of your closest friends, all start at the same time. Stuff is just going to happen when you jamb that many people together – you just have to accept it.

Last year at Ironman Arizona I got into the freezing cold water (about 53 degrees) 20 minutes before the swim start. Big mistake! I’m not fond of cold water in the first place but to be treading water for 20 minutes in it was just stupid.

I became hypothermic and was shaking badly and had a hard time breathing. When the gun went off my legs, from the waist down, completely froze up with cramps. The pain was horrendous and the only thing worse was the fact that I also couldn’t breathe! Naturally, the next thing I did was vomit! Not a good start for me.

Okay, so what can you do? The first thing NOT to do is panic! Difficult when you’re completely cramped up and can’t breathe I know, but that’s where you start.

The next thing is to figure a course of action. In my case I thought maybe I could get to the shore to work the cramps out. The problem is there were so many other people between me and the shore that that was out of the question.

You do have options. Here are a couple of them:

1. Get to shore until the conditions change (i.e., you cramps, the waves, etc.). Generally, you won’t be DQ’d (disqualified) unless you make forward progress.
2. Get to a lifeguard. They can usually be found on a surfboard or kayak. You’re welcome to hold onto them as long as you don’t make forward progress.
3. Keep moving, albeit slowly. Try to keep making forward progress to the best of your ability. Your situation may improve just by moving forward.
4. Roll to your side or back. The triathlon swim does not dictate what stroke you have to swim. Backstroke or sidestroke are completely acceptable.
5. Move out of traffic as soon as possible. Your inclination may be to take the shortest path but that’s where the traffic is. Just like driving your car, get into the slow lane.
6. Quit. It’s not worth drowning over. We all have bad days. Write this race off and come back and kick ass next time.

Like most athletic endeavors, there simply isn’t any substitute for being prepared. Try to simulate race conditions as much as possible. Try to swim in the ocean before your ocean race. Get some friends together and simulate a mass-start. Practice backstroke and sidestroke. The more you’ve thought these situations through the better able you’ll be to deal with them.


Discover the secrets to improving your swim technique, avoiding painful injuries, and shaving minutes off your best triathlon times to date! Are You Ready To Make A Change In Your Athletic Life?

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Ron Saetermoe

I don’t hear it talked about much but etiquette plays a big part in our sport. It hit me Saturday as I was riding on Santiago Canyon.

I saw a guy with a flat on the other side of the road and I called out “Need anything?” For those of you that don’t know, essentially what I was asking is whether he had everything he needed to fix whatever problem he was having.

No sooner did I call out that he yelled back “Ron?” It was my buddy Al Gaspari – the same guy I did the Honu 70.3 with a few weeks back.

I crossed over to discover he had a flat so I watched him change it and we chatted. I’ve made similar stops for people over the years. It’s really a good feeling being able to help someone out.

The first time I remember needing such help was at the Malibu triathlon. I finished the swim and got to my bike only to find out I had a flat. Oh well, no PR today. I changed it hastily (bad idea) and started out. No sooner did I leave transition that I got another flat.

I started to fix it again and snapped the valve stem. Well, that was the end of my day. At least I didn’t have far to walk to the car. My first DNF . . . or was it?

There was a guy, a cyclist, watching the race and saw my dilemma. Flat with no more spares. He looked over the situation and not only gave me a tube but he helped me change the flat as well. A good Samaritan I thanked but will never see again.

I think most of us in this sport are the same. I think we watch out for each other and encourage each other, even if we’re in the same age group. It would be a shallow victory for me to beat one of my main competitors when they weren’t at their best.

So next time you see someone pulled over to the side of the road, yell out “Need anything?”


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Triathica is introducing the first DVD in the Triathica Academy series: Power Up! Power Up! is a 60-minute spin workout designed to help build your leg strength to climb hills and power through the wind.

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How Important Are Race Wheels?

Ron Saetermoe

Undoubtedly you’ve seen some really “hot” wheels at your triathlon races. If money is no object you can spend upward of $3,500 for two wheels! Insane, I know, but you’ll see plenty of them at the big races.

First, what are race wheels? Race wheels include solid rear disc wheels as well as deep rim and tri-spoke wheels. There are many different companies that manufacture them and many different varieties.

You’re also aware there are tubular and clincher wheels, aren’t’ you? Tubular tires are thought to be faster overall (but new clincher technology is close behind) but very difficult to change. Essentially tubulars include the tire (the outer part that makes contact with the road) and the tube (the part that holds the air) together as one unit and is glued to the wheel. Clinchers are tires that “clinch” the wheel and have a separate tube inside.

So should you use race wheels? As usual, it depends.

Here are some factors you should consider:

• How competitive are you? If you’re really just racing for fun and are not competitive in your age group it’s not that important. The timesavings, in the right situations, will only save you a fraction of your overall time.
• How important is the race? If it’s not your “A” race (your most important race) you probably don’t need them. Because of the cost, it probably doesn’t make sense to drop all that extra money just to look good.
• What race are you doing? Some races, particularly hilly races, will change your strategy a bit. The added aerodynamics may be offset by the additional weight of a rear disc, for example.
• What length are you racing? You’ll find race wheels at all distances of races from the shortest sprint to full Ironman races. The advantage is relative. Where they may save you 10 seconds on a 12-mile ride they may save you several minutes over the course of an Ironman.
• What about the wind? The primary thing that differentiates race wheels from regular wheels is rim depth. The problem is the greater the rim depth the more difficult it is to manage the bike in a crosswind. For this reason, they do not allow full-disc wheels at the Ironman World Championships because the side-winds are almost always a factor. Lighter riders should also be careful because they will be particularly susceptible to strong winds.
• How’s your head? Many people “think” they’re faster with race wheels, therefore they are. I agree with this, by the way. When my bike is decked out with a set of Zipps, I just “feel” faster.

If you’re concerned about maximizing your aerodynamics but you’re on a budget, it’s probably best to rent race wheels for your “A” races and take the extra dough and enter a couple more “B” races.

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Ron Saetermoe

Earlier this week a friend of mine and I were moving some stuff . . . some heavy stuff. We moved three large laser printers, two treadmills and some boxes. I don’t know what the printers weighed but the treadmills were 355 pounds each!

We moved all this stuff without incident and then . . . you guessed it . . . . I tweaked my back lifting one of the boxes that probably didn’t weigh but 10 pounds!

Naturally, the thing I thought of first was whether or not I could continue to do my workouts! Funny how we think.

How you deal with injury depends on so many factors. How severe the injury is, your next race, your tolerance for pain, your dedication, your training phase, and even your doctor’s recommendations (I put that one last because most times it seems this is the least important to us).

For me, I subscribe to the “let’s wait and see” philosophy. Rather than call my doc (Dr. Sam Sunshine) and have him order x-rays, MRIs and cortisone injections, I just wait and see. Let’s just see how bad this injury is rather than overreact.

So Tuesday comes around and I’ve got a one-hour CompuTrainer session scheduled. While it’s hard to lift my right leg and get it over my bike, I manage to hoist it over and start spinning. Guess what? It’s a little painful, but tolerable. Okay, this is good.

I’m writing this Friday so it’s been four days since I hurt myself and the pain is still there to be sure. However, since that time I’ve managed to keep working out including a marathon resistance training session yesterday. Very cool!

The real test will come tomorrow though because I plan to ride the 93-mile Palomar loop. Should be nice and hot too! This sufferfest isn’t for the faint of heart but I think my back will hold out.

Now, if my condition gets worse, or if I can’t manage the pain with Aleve alone, I will go see the good doctor, but until then, “rock on!”


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