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Lifestyle: You Need to Watch a Bike Race

As someone who started into cycling with road riding, I take some offence when comments are made regarding the cycling quality of triathletes. Comments about triathletes being a danger to others on group rides, not knowing how to turn corners, or being poor climbers are definitely over-reaching. However, I do think that triathletes have a lot to learn by just going a watching a good old regular bike race (in particular a crit race if you want maximum entertainment).

For the past several years I’ve been going down to watch the Springbank Road Races put on by the London Centennial Wheelers. The first thing that struck me while watching is the ferocious speed and tight quarters. For the oldest, slowest category, Masters 3, the average speed last year was 39.6 km/h for 36 km!! Sure you gain a lot of speed riding in a group, but we’re still talking speeds that would put youimg_6_burst20160911161118 at the pointiest end of a triathlon.

For me, watching a bike race really opens your eyes to what competition on a bicycle can look like and sound like. Where triathlons involve silent, solo efforts where the challenge is not to zone out and stare at your stem, bike races involve elbow-to-elbow contact, lots of chatter, flying water bottles, and the occasional explosive crash. It’s a different environment, and the frequent short laps of most bike races means a lot more time seeing the athletes than you would in a triathlon.

This past September I took the opportunity of travelling with my son to watch the Grand Prix Cyclistes de Montreal. We had a chance to get up close to the pro riders of the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, get lots of great cycling swag, and see some of the most intense riding you can imagine. How many others sports allow you to get right up close to the action for absolutely free?

This year, make it a commitment to go and watch a bike race. Bring along a cow bell, a picnic, and a camera, and spend the day on your own, with friends, or with family. If you are in Ontario, you can find a calendar of races at: Ontario Cycling Association.

Swim Training: The Pull Buoy Set

Chances are the pull buoys at your pool look a little ragged, perhaps a bit closer to brown than white, with what looks suspiciously like bite marks. However, I would encourage you from time to time to see the pull buoy as an option to get in a great swim when you might otherwise have taken the day off.

8033660673_4cc7b84ae8_oWhere I find the pull buoy most beneficial is when I get up in the morning to swim and my legs are concrete because I went too hard at the bike or run the day before. Perhaps it was a long run after taking a week off, or I got carried away at the velodrome with a fast group of riders. Either way, where you get up and would otherwise be too stiff to swim, head out and get a full workout without using your legs.

Triathlete.com highlights the pull buoy as a to enhance form, and I agree with this as well. In particular, I find that removing the legs from the equation allows me to really isolate body rotation and hand entry. Secondly, as an adult learner who has only recently gone to bilateral breathing, the pull buoy has allowed me to work on my ‘bad’ side. Try adding some one arm drills to perfect your catch, or swim looking at your hand entry, as you don’t have to worry about sinking. I would warn you though, if this is going to be a regular use, to still focus on keeping the hips up and not get lazy on form just because the floating is done for you.

Two major downsides to pull buoys are risk of injury and impact on stroke rate. Because all the power is coming from your arms, for those experiencing shoulder or neck pain, be particularly conscious of any increased tenderness. In regards to stroke rate, Ironman.com notes that improved buoyancy often leads to decreased stroke rate. I can attest to this, and the need to consciously keep a quick turn-over.

So, no excuses from heavy legs, use the pull buoy to get a great swim in no matter what. And if they sketchy ones at the pool put you off, you can get one for cheap at Amazon.

Swimmer photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ganatlguard/

Winter Running Shoe – Saucony Xodus 5.0 gtx

If you live in the north where the snow flies, winter running takes some consideration. Snow, wet, ice, wind, and cold all conspire to make staying outdoors year-round a challenge. If you have a treadmill at home then staying inside can be a simple solution. However, if getting on the treadmill means a drive to the gym first and packing up your gear, it’s easy for the runs to tail off. When it comes to triathlon, running is actually pretty simple in terms of gear and planning, so what does it take to make popping out for a run a viable year round option? One thing in particular: the right shoes.

I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to running shoe weight. For speed work and 5k races I use the Saucony Type A at 5.2 oz and longer runs the Saucony Kinvara at 7.7 oz. Both are relatively light shoes, and something I can train in sockless without discomfort. However, both prioritize breathability and lightness, therefore are the opposite of waterproof and warm. In winters past I have skipped runs due to weather, or risked life and limb running on the road if the sidewalks were poorly plowed. Finally last year I made a change, and was able to run through the winter, only 2 treadmill runs all year!

The difference was the Saucony Xodus 5.0 gtx from Runners Choice in London. Two key features make all the difference in terms of comfort and safety for this shoe: grip and waterproofing. For grip, they feature a Vibram outsole that stands apart for it’s deep and wide outer treads. Sure, this won’t keep you up on the smoothest ice, which requires a stud, but will cimg_20161227_160838omfortably handle slush and hard packed snow. For waterproofing, the shoes are fully Gore-Tex lined, which serves the purpose of keeping out both wet and wind. I find that the wind is often what I underestimate when I start a long winter run. Even if conditions are dry and things are mild to start, turning into a brisk head-wind in an exposed area can quickly lead for frosty toes.

Downside? These are not a light shoe. At 12+ oz you’re going to have to dial back the long run pace or you’ll be feeling the weight towards the end of your run. These can double as a trail running shoe for the really messy, rainy race days, but if you want to compete seriously on the trails you’ll want another, lighter option in your arsenal. If you’re running in the snow you won’t be watching your pace anyways, so use these to take away any excuses you might have when the weather is bad. Your toes will thank you.

For brief reviews on this and other waterproof trail running shoes, check out: http://thebestrunningshoes.info/best-waterproof-trail-running-shoes/