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Archive for March, 2010

Bike component blog

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Okay the next few blogs will include some about my equipment so you will know why I use what I use in races and training.

This year I was lucky enough to get a SRAM sponsorship which was it great because I was using it last year but had to buy it from the store. I would have ended up buying it again this year but don’t tell them that. ;)

I guess most people look at bike parts and think that they are all the same and although they can look pretty similar there are definitely a lot of differences in SRAM’s road components.

I use the top of the line SRAM Red components on my P3 and P4 not just because that is what pros are supposed to do but because that is where the maximum performance is. You don’t have to be a pro to appreciate that. You could be an age grouper going after a Hawaii/Clearwater spot or a middle of the packer trying to finish your first Ironman or better your PB. Sometimes the difference between meeting these milestones or missing them are very small. The last thing you want is to have any regrets, and after you finish a race it is hard not the think of them, especially when you typically only have one crack at these goals each year. I am the same way. I would rather control as many of the variables as I can. I strongly believe to race fast you have to use your bicep and your brain.

So where does the performance come? Well lets start at the front. Right at the tip of my fingers I use the carbon 900 TT shift levers. They have ten speeds as well but are made out of exotic materials with more carbon and aluminium than their Dura-Ace counterparts. They shift just as well but are significantly lighter. This many not be terribly significant when you consider the levers alone but every little bit helps and you will start to see how all of the SRAM Red parts are the lightest available. When you add all these little savings up you get a really light bike.

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I don’t use the ROC (return to centre) levers that some athletes use for 2 reasons. I received my parts in late January just before I left for a 3 month training camp in Thailand and I did not think it was the best idea to try something new that was that important. The ROC levers are a great idea for some. Their main advantage of ROC levers is they are always in the best aerodynamic position regardless of what gear you are in. This is improtant if your hands are not on the levers and they are exposed to the wind. This is the case for many riders that use S bend to straight aerobar extensions. With my position, my hands wrap around the shift levers all the time so the advantage is negated a fair bit. I choose the TT 900 levers because their shifitng is spot on and they are the lighter option.

The shift levers attach to the front and rear derailleurs. This year SRAM Red has come out with a new front derailleur that I am using and I notice the difference. It has a stiffer design and flexes less so your shifts are faster and more positive in front. The rear derailleur is nice as well. It shifts so smoothly and quietly that you would wonder if it even shifted if not for the change in pedalling. One nice advantage over Shimano and Campy derailleurs are the stock ceramic bearings in the derailleur pulleys. These things spin extremely fast; 5 times faster than your legs are going and high RPMs are where ceramic bearings really excel. Again when you combined the ceramic bearing with a carbon cage and aluminium bolts you come up with one of the lightest high end rear derailleurs you can get.

I mentioned I have a 10 speed bike but part of the greatest benifit of being sponsored by SRAM is that I get a bunch of cassettes and chains. Having a number of cassettes is an advantage because you can pick the perfect cog ratio for the terrain you are riding. I used an 11-23 in Abu Dhabi because it was flat but when I go to Switzerland this summer I will use an 11-28 for the mountains. The key is to always keep your cadence the same regardless of terrain so choosing the proper cassette ratio will help that and SRAM has the widest range of gears than any other company. 11-23, 12-23, 11-25, 11-26, 12-25, 11-28. There is a cassette for everyone.

One of the nicest features in the SRAM Red components is the cassette. The gear choices are great but the material is great as well. The gears are all steel so they will wear longer than other companies’ titanium and aluminium cassettes. Using steel typically means it is heavier but SRAM believes in using their brain as well. They machine all the cogs out of block of material and hollow out the inside. It ends up being lighter than all others but being harder and wears longer which is good for me because we put on a tonne of km in a year.

Having all the chains is nice as well. Last year I did not use a SRAM chain but the new OG-1090R (emphasis on the R) a lot quieter and shifts better. Chains do wear but if your change your chain regularly, which is rather inexpensive, then you will never have to replace your more expensive cassette. It seems like an easy enough thing to practise but most people don’t change the chain often enough and run into issues when their stretched chain, that works on their worn cassette in training, does not work with their new race wheel cassette at the moment of truth. No body wants that. It is good that it is such an easy thing to solve.

Then there are the brakes. Brakes seem like they are all the same until you have to brake. So many people gloss over their brake but they are incredibly important even for triathletes. For example many people will pay a lot of money for stiff bikes that they only push to its limit when they sprint hard. How many times do you do that compared to use your brakes on a ride? You notice how good your good brakes are every time you take your bike out. For racing I use a cork brake pad for my carbon race wheels. It takes a bit of effort to change them out prior to a race but I find they are amazing for hard braking when it counts and they never squeal on difficult descents even if I do. Again the Red brakes are incredibly light. There are almost as light as Negative G brakes from Camillio but stop 1000% better.

Of course brake callipers do not control themselves so I use the carbon 900 TT brake lever. They are very light and have a much nicer feel even in my smaller hands than the very sharp Vision Aero brake lever while still being aero. They also run the brake cable internally in my aerobar for better aerodynamics which is nice.

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Lastly, I was lucky enough to get a SRAM SRM crank this year. Last year I used a Zipp Vuma Crono which is an amazing crank and I was sad to take it off my bike but it was made easier with the SRM. It too unifies the Sram TT chainrings with the spider for better aerodynamics and although it is a bit heavier it provides soooooo much information about my training. When it is set to 0.5s second recording frequency it can measure speed, cadence, distance, power, altitude, HR and all averages/maximum values for 6 hours! Push the sampling frequency to 1 second and it will record for over 12 hours. In the end you can download the computer to your PC and really get a feel for how your ride went. What is most interesting to see is that altitude and power plots almost look the same which shows that power is the best gauge to know how hard you are going (or how hard you should go). I also pay particular attention to my cadence. In races often I will ignore everything and just go off of cadence.
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To help sweeten the deal SRAM uses a ceramic BB and incorporated very light but stiff carbon crank arms. It just goes to show that they are concerned about all the little details which is nice because I am the same way.

So those are all the SRAM components on my bike and why I use them. It is important for me to use the best equipment I can. It definitely pays off long term for me and it can for you as well. Having good race performances is not just important to pros. In fact it think it is more important to the typical triathlete that does not race as much as we do.

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Picture Smorgasbord

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

I was looking through some of the photos I have taken while here. I am definitely not a happy snapper, so my pictures form a very small collection, and quite a few of them seem to revolve around food.

Easy enough to explain. Training camps are great because all of “real life” distractions are removed. Which leaves us with training, resting, training, eating, sleeping, training and by now you have the idea. Well, since training photos are difficult to take while you are swimming, or biking or running yourself, and sleeping photos, resting and reading a book photos, are even less exciting that just leaves food I guess. So here goes.

Last week we headed into Krabi for dinner at the street market. A very exciting night out for us, but yes, we were still back by 9 pm.

Jocelyn trying to decide, which one looks super spicy, and which one just spicy.

Jocelyn trying to decide, which one looks super spicy, and which one just spicy.

Chicken on a stick.

Chicken on a stick.


Squid anyone?

Squid anyone?


Hiro enjoying the squid on a stick

Hiro enjoying the squid on a stick


And a flash back to our first week, and the pineapple on a stick.

And a flash back to our first week, and the pineapple on a stick.

So hope that was enough pictures for someone who recently told me my blogs are boring, and need more photos. Believe me, the things that are interesting or funny when you have been out in the sun for 6 hours, running and riding around in circles, are far from entertaining when written down later.

Abu Dhabi Race Report

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

Abu Dhabi, how exotic. When I heard about this race last year it definitely piqued my interest. The only down side was the race date, early March when I am usually still trying to find my training groove, and regain some fitness from too much down time. But I was excited to make the trip from Thailand, get in a race, and see my husband Chris whom I had not seen for over a month.

Mural from the Sheik Zayed Mosque- I just think it is pretty, and exotic

Mural from the Sheik Zayed Mosque- I just think it is pretty, and exotic

I must admit it was not the smoothest of pre-race prep. Chris was bringing my new 2010 Cervelo P4 bike, and on Friday when we had to check our gear into transition he was still missing in air space somewhere, instead of arriving Thursday night. So too much stress, not much sleep for a couple of days, and lots of “things you should not do prior to race day and race day” happened. I did finally wake up Friday morning and had a working bike that I would be able to race on. Thank you Chris, his specialty is putting together bikes at 3 am.

This is what I thought would happen- The morning of the race the camel taxi takes us from our tents to the start line, where in the middle of the desert there is a beautiful oasis, with a crystal clear lake. The gun goes off and we all dive in only to find that there is no water, just a mirage and we are all chewing on sand. I have had plenty of running in sand nightmares, so swimming in sand is no obstacle. Then we jump on our bikes, and head out along sand swept roads, past palaces and palm trees till we realize that the extra 20 km in 200 km is like going to the all you can eat buffet one too many times. We finish it off with a lovely run, where at the aid stations they serve figs, and pour strange brews out of golden flasks instead of paper cups.
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In reality the 4:30 am bus took us from the Park Rotana 5 star hotel, to T1 and the swim start- not as exciting as a camel, but much more comfy. After a 30 minute delayed start the pro men went off, and we started 1 minute later. This definitely was a good dream swim for me, after the first 200 meters I looked around and realized I was right with the leaders which does not often happen. I sometimes have sluggish starts, and then spend at least a kilometer or two catching people. Not this time, I was excited to feel good, and settled behind Lucie Z, Julie Dibens and Leanda Cave for the remainder of the swim. A decent transition and I was onto the bike in third place.

Swim star race morning

Swim start race morning

The bike course was mostly highway, with a little stretch on a formula car racing track. I expected that perhaps I would have some company on the bike, but found myself alone for most the 200 km, which meant that I did a bit more thinking than I should have. I pedaled away, as best as I could, but every few minutes the little dervish in my head asked ” is this too fast?” and a few minutes later it would be ” is this fast enough? “. The 200 km flew by, and only felt and took as long as 180 km. This is where you realize how crazy ironman is, when you can say “only 180 km bike ride”.

I started off the run on legs that somehow were not connected to the rest of my body. Not sure where they got separated, if felt like a magician cut me in half. Not a bad feeling, just very odd. And soon enough my head was telling me I was going too fast, slow down, pace it smarter. But my legs didn’t get the message, until about 7 km, where they suddenly got all the messages at once, and started to cramp, very very badly. My quads were quivering, and I was at a standstill. Ok, this just went from a race, to survival. Made me think of the Marathon de Sables ultramarathon in the Sahara desert in Morocco- the rumour is they have only lost one competitor. A sand storm picked up, and the first rule is stay where you are an bunker down, don’t try to find your way in a sandstorm. Well one of the ultramarathoners didn’t know this, and kept running, and running, losing all sense of direction, and was never found again. Well, I was wishing for a sand storm right then and there, so that everyone would take a little mini break. But I was the only one standing still while everyone else was still in race mode. So the Abu Dhabi motto will not be “we only lost one” but rather “only one wished to be lost”. I shuffled, and shuffled, salt pills grinding between my teeth as I picked the longest stretch without an aid station to try and take a salt pill. Others flew by me like they were on magic carpets. The finish line finally did come around, but it was not a very exciting feeling finishing 10th, when I knew that I had undone my own race.

T2 the day before the race

T2 the day before the race

I had some mixed feelings after the race, parts that went well, parts that I know I screwed up, but mainly just happy that my 2010 race season has finally kicked off. Plenty more race opportunities coming up. I am now back at training camp in Krabi, plugging away each day, and hopefully I will show up at the next start line stronger and smarter.

Abu Dhabi Mosque Visit

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

There is a race report coming along, but while I am sitting at the airport, during a layover almost as long as the race was I thought I would post a few pictures from my trip. I never take enough pictures, but when we visited the Sheik Zayed Mosque the day after the race I did my best tourist impersonation, and snapped away.

The Mosque has been under construction for the past 14 years, can fit 40 thousand worshipers at once, and I lost track of how much marble and gold has gone into building it.

Driving up to the Mosque

Driving up to the Mosque


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Before entering a dress code must be followed. Men had to wear long pants, or if they were wearing shorts were given a white robe to put on over top. While women are given a black robe, and head scarf, and asked to cover their hair. As foreigners we were quite fortunate to be able to see this amazing building, and have a chance to wander the halls and outdoor courtyard.

Trying to figure out how to wrap the scarf so it does not fall off every 2 minutes.

Trying to figure out how to wrap the scarf so it does not fall off every 2 minutes.


Lucie Zelenkova, Caroline S. and me, quite a change from running around in bathing suits the day before.

Lucie Zelenkova, Caroline S. and me, quite a change from running around in bathing suits the day before.

There were flower and nature motifs all over the walls and the floors both inside and in the outside courtyard. The colours of the flowers against the white marble were brilliant, and it was amazing to think just how much work and thought went into each little component.

The outdoor courtyard used for prayer.

The outdoor courtyard used for prayer.

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There is a clock in each room with the 5 different prayer times that change daily, as well as the time of the sunrise each day.

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Inside the largest of the prayer rooms.

Inside the largest of the prayer rooms.

There was too much information to remember, and it made me wish I was more informed about the history and culture of UAE. Often I just fly to places, not fully even knowing where on the globe I am. I was glad to have a chance to see a tiny bit of Abu Dhabi, that I would not otherwise see from my bike, or my running shoes.

Cinderella, cinderella

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Shoes, or actually taking off one’s shoes is a big thing here in Thailand. Before entering the hotel lobby everyone takes off their shoes, leaves them on the steps and then enters. In some of the small convenience stores even when there is no door shoes are left outside. The thresholds of little shacks are littered with flip flops, and the tiles in the shop are shoe free. Even at the pool, before we enter the hall, we all take off our shoes, leave them by the front and then are allowed to enter the stands, or the hall.

Steps leading to the Tawanthai hotel were we are staying

Steps leading to the Tawanthai hotel were we are staying


Shoes, shoes and more shoes

Shoes, shoes and more shoes

So the other day we had a run right after our swim, and instead of our regular flip flops, or bike shoes, we all left our run shoes by the front.
After a nice, toasty warm swim, since the outdoor pool is heating up just like the weather, everyone jumped into their run gear as fast as they could to head out onto the run. I was a bit slow, wrestling into my gear, so when I got to the shoes I realized mine were gone. This is what happens when you have a team, lucky enough to all wear the same Avia run shoe, and somehow all the girls seem to wear size 9 shoes. Not sure how that happened, since we are all not the same height, yet somehow 5 or 6 of us wear size 9. Mine were gone, that much I knew, since I had put them in the corner, and that corner was now empty. A couple of the girls were already off and running so I started to go through the leftover shoes trying to find a substitute. Amy managed to prevent me from stealing her shoes, which looked pretty comfy just then, Baywatch had very frayed laces which made her shoes easy to identify, which meant one more pair was left over. They definitely were not mine, but it was that or run barefoot. I slipped them on, and headed out for our little jog. Poor Amy had to listen to me whine how these shoes were worn in all different spots them mine, and were not quite right.
I figured out part way into my run that Bella had the same shoes, and was a quick change artist after the swim. So when I got back to the hotel and saw Bella I asked her if perhaps she had grabbed my shoes by accident. She laughed, and said no wonder her run felt funny, the shoes were all weird and worn out differently. Besides, she wears one shoe half a size different than the other, so my pair which are both the same size definitely must have felt odd. Mystery solved, and both of us were reunited with our own worn in comfy shoes.

Now of course we all just got outfitted with the same Louis Garneau helmets and cycling shoes, so it is bound to be even more exciting. I was complaining one afternoon about having to put on my sweaty helmet that had not dried out yet from the previous workout. James just laughed at me, and pointed out that if it is someone else’s sweaty helmet it is even more gross to think about. Of course Maki solved that problem with the help of Mickey Mouse- or actually a Mickey Mouse sticker on her helmet. No stealing that one.
I am about to pack up my shoes and helmet in a couple of days as I head to Abu Dhabi for the new long distance triathlon held there. I have had a great stretch of training for the past few weeks, so am keen to see how it comes together in a race. And I have never been to that part of the world, so yet another first coming up.