Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Disneyland for the Bike Racer
An ATC Racing report from the Driveway Series

by Christie Tracy
Christie Tracy celebrating the win with a well-earned bottle of champagne
 from Driveway sponsor Whip In 

This is my first year racing on the ATC Women’s Racing Team, and it has been a year full of learning, growth, and achievements, both personally and as part of a wonderful team.

I started the 2015 Race Season as a brand new cat 3 who had never raced on a women’s racing team before. I had one solid year of racing as a cat 4 under my belt, but had been racing as the solo female bike racer on a team comprised of primarily triathletes and male bike racers. As a result, I was entirely unfamiliar with how team tactics "worked," and I had a lot of learning to do when it came to basic racing technique and learning how to read a race as it unfolded.

My teammates have been an invaluable asset this year – they have helped me to learn so much in such a short period of time through the celebration of achievements and constructive criticism of mistakes used as teaching moments. I feel that my knowledge of bike racing techniques and tactics has grown tenfold this year, and has contributed significantly to my personal successes recently, as well as my ability to work for my teammates and support/back up their efforts during races, and our overall success as a team.

Most local Austin Bike Racers know me as "the registration girl" at the Driveway because I spent most of last year volunteering at the local Driveway Bike Race Series in an effort to stay involved with the racing community while I recovered from not one, but two, collarbone breaks. As a result, the Driveway Series, as well as its volunteers, spectators, and those who come to race their bikes, are very special to me. When I started racing again this year after recovering from last year’s injuries, it frustrated me to no end that I couldn’t pull out a decent placement in any of the Driveway Series Races! Don’t get me wrong – I learned SO much in the early season races, and helped to support many successful finishes by my kick-ass teammates, but for some reason I just could never seem to pull out a podium at the Driveway for myself!

That is why, when asked to write up a short piece on my racing successes this year, I chose to focus on my recent first place finish in a Driveway Series Women’s Open race. This win was so special to me first because it required such a team effort in order to earn it, and second, because it happened at my favorite place on earth – Disneyland for the Bike Racer – The Driveway Bike Race Series Austin.

My first win ever at the Driveway came on July 2 in the Women’s Open 5 p.m. race. (If you’ve never come out to watch this race – you have no idea what a good show you’re missing! What are you waiting for? Come check it out this Thursday!!) It was Ladies' Night, and there was a pretty decent field size, thanks in part to the additional primes and prizes generously donated for the ladies' races by local businesses. We were racing the speed loop, which started out with a climb up the corkscrew followed by a long, fast straightaway with a gradual descent.

Christie's race-winning attack up the corkscrew

I lined up in the 95-degree sweltering heat next to about 30 other ladies and looked around to find my teammates. We had five strong ladies racing: Marla Briley, Chelsea Smith, Katie Kantzes, Estefy Gonzales, and myself. The whistle blew, and I attacked hard from the line. I looked over my shoulder as I crested the corkscrew and saw that I had a small gap, so I just tucked my head and poured on the gas. The field caught me just before the turnaround, and Marla launched a counterattack, flying off the front of the peloton and forcing the other teams to grit their teeth and burn matches in order to chase her down. Marla built a decent gap as well, but was eventually reeled in, at which point Katie attacked, shooting off the front like a cannonball! I heard someone mutter under their breath at this point "C’MON, REALLY??" and I knew that our attacks were already starting to take their toll on the competition. Katie’s attack also resulted in a gap, and when it was closed, Chelsea countered with the force of a charging bull. Once again, the peloton was forced to redline it in order to prevent a solid break. When Chelsea was caught, I countered, and we continued this cycle of attack/counter/attack throughout the race.

Fast forward to the final lap. The peloton closed the gap on one of Marla’s attacks just after we crested the corkscrew, and I countered with every last ounce of power that I had left in my legs. I went all-out for about 30 seconds before daring to glance back, at which point I saw that I had a HUGE gap on the field! In the back of my mind, I started questioning myself: "Did I hear the bell right? Is this really the last lap? Was there an accident? WTF is going on????" After two seconds of second-guessing myself, I just said "Screw it, I’m all in anyway," and buried my head, giving everything I had until I came through the finish line. As I crossed the finish line, I didn’t even have the composure to celebrate – I was toast. I just gasped for air, and had just enough breath to yell to the official and ask if I had actually just won?!? He nodded his head, confirming, and I limped up the corkscrew into the arms of my wonderful husband who hugged me and whispered in my ear, "Congrats babe – you just won your first Driveway race!" That made it official. Huge grin, tears of joy, and the post-race interview, in which I profusely thanked my teammates. This was truly a team effort, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time on the final lap to launch that final counter attack at just the moment that the peloton had finally had enough of those damn ATC attacks and decided to give up the chase. :)

Celebrating after the race: ATC Racing's Estefy, Marla, Katie, and Christie

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ATC Turns 20

This summer, Austin Tri-Cyclist is celebrating its 20th year in business. Jon Hill started the shop in 1995 near Koenig Lane and Lamar Boulevard, moving to ATC's current location on Barton Springs Road in 1997. (Fun fact: Soon after the move, the current ATC Saturday ride was born; since then, the 8:30 start time and route of the "ATC world championships" have never changed.) Don and Missy Ruthven, shop customers from the beginning, purchased ATC in 2001, and the rest is history! Meet the current crew of ATC, still going strong after two decades.

Missy and Don Ruthven
Co-owners of ATC for 14 years
“In charge of pretty much everything but the bike,” Missy is one of ATC’s friendliest faces. She’s known as ATC’s shop mom (often baking a cake or cookies for employee birthdays) and resident wetsuit expert. Missy competes regularly in endurance events, from marathons to bike races; this is her 26th year of racing triathlons. Don is a triathlete as well and an ATC fixture, always easy to spot—a review once referred to him as “the guy who looks like Mick Jagger.” Don and Missy are the parents of two teenage girls, Taylor and Emily.
Adam Stroobandt
“Presidential Executive Director of Retail Operations”
ATC employee since 2006
Adam came from a running background, turned triathlete, turned cyclist, reverted back to triathlete, and finally came full circle to runner again. He has completed two Ironman races (at 18, he was the youngest competitor in his first one) and currently spends his time chasing two kids, which he says is equally exhausting.
Kaleb West
Store manager/chief director "of something"
ATC employee since May 2011
Kaleb has worked in the bike industry for six years. He's a very-soon-to-be dad. Interesting fact: As a side job, he installs craft brewery systems; he has installed breweries in Canada, North Carolina, and Florida for Premier Stainless. 
Allison Atkinson
ATC employee since 2012
Allison rides for shop team ATC Racing, teaches spin at Pure Austin Fitness, and is a certified USAC coach and brand ambassador for Castelli Cycling. Her lengthy experience in group fitness training makes her an expert in motivation and coffee consumption.
Andy Newton
ATC employee since March 2015 
Andy studied music at the University of Texas as an opera singer, and can play many instruments. He enjoys racing and riding road bikes.

Benjamin "Big Bo" Killen
Mechanic, Sales 
ATC employee since May 2015
Bo has worked around bikes for “half a decade.” When not riding bikes, he likes to crosstrain, trail run, camp, and watch cartoons. He was once in a Chuck E. Cheese commercial, and he raises two turkeys every year for Thanksgiving (always named Chobegoblin and Faceblast).

Brandon Smith
Mechanic, Sales
ATC employee since 2012
A former bike racer turned adventure cyclist, Brandon has vowed never to own a gas-powered vehicle again and has been using his bike as his primary form of transportation for the past eight years. He recently finished a 1,400 mile ride from Seattle to San Francisco.

Chris Warren
ATC employee since 2012
Chris Warren started riding in Central Florida, splitting his time evenly between road and mountain bikes. He has a long mechanical background, teaching himself automotive maintenance via the restoration of a first-generation Camaro. 
Derek Willms
Key Grip
Started at ATC about 1.5 years ago
Derek's claim to fame is that he has "better hair than Donald Trump" and the second best mustache at ATC.

Jef Cooksey
Mechanic, Sales
ATC employee since 2012
An interesting fact about Jef: Last year, he converted a Dodge Ram 3500 pickup truck to run on vegetable oil and traveled the country, pulling an Airstream on Highway 1 along the California coast. 
Kara Uhl
2nd summer working at ATC
A college student, Kara will be the Graduate Assistant for the Union College Cycling team next year to assist with coaching and racing.

Kimble Martin West Esquire
Astronaut Elder (Sales)
ATC employee for 2.5 (thousand) years
Kimble once ventured to the edge of the Universe for breakfast, in 2014 won the Cat 5 Walburg Classic, and has the longest hair at ATC.

Robert "Speedao" Dao
ATC employee since 2014
Robert is a former Texas A&M triathlete and current triathlon coach. His ATC claim to fame is that he once sold seven bikes on one ticket. For more info on his coaching business Driven Endurance, visit or

Tristan Uhl
Mechanic, pro mountain biker
Employee at ATC since 2011
Tristan is ATC’s token pro cyclist, a mustachioed man who has been racing bicycles 23 of the 27 years he has been alive. He says he’s been around so long that he remembers the days when Don would do the ATC ride!

Kat Hunter
Freelance writer
Writing/managing the ATC blog since 2010
Though not officially a staff member, Kat has blogged for ATC since 2010. A longtime member of ATC Racing, this year she rides for national pro team Visit Dallas Cycling p/b Noise4Good

Monday, July 13, 2015

Adult Onset Swimming

By Missy Ruthven

Missy's early days (at center with 90 degree bend in elbow)
Ever since high school I knew I wanted to do a triathlon. I also knew, being a runner and cyclist, that the swim portion would be a challenge. I had been around water all of my life but had never become proficient in freestyle. This became obvious when my (awesome!) high school track/cross country coach had us swim and run in the pool a few days a week to avoid run injuries. I could barely make one lap (25 yards) of freestyle swimming. I couldn’t get enough air!

Fast forward to after college when I am ready to do my first triathlon and have still done almost no prep for the swim. I figured I could resort to sidestroke and/or dog paddle if needed. Of course, my dog paddling skills were, in fact, needed a minute into the swim. I had the “can’t-get-enough-air” panic attack. I stopped swimming, treaded water, let everybody get away from me, took a lot of calming breaths, and examined the distances to the shore and turnaround buoy. I seemed to be in the middle of the two so I dog paddled, side stroked, and eventually “swam” my way around the buoy and back to dry land.

(As an important side note, I was comfortable being in open water—I’d been in too many lakes and oceans in my youth to have a fear of drowning. I knew I could be safe. I always ask newbies, when they express apprehension for the swim, if they can “save themselves” in the water: can they tread water, dog paddle, sidestroke, or otherwise do something that allows them to calm down if they have a panic attack or feel overwhelmed? If they don’t answer with a strong “Yes,” then I ask more questions; they may not be ready for an open water swim.)

My first triathlon race experience taught me two things. Or more, really, but for today’s article I will go with these:
1. I needed help learning how to really swim (freestyle swim), as I didn’t ever want to experience that again.
2. I loved triathlon so much that I was willing to work on my swim.

After that first race (New Braunfels, June 1990!), I met with some friends and training partners to get help on the swim. I did a few more triathlons the following years, and even just having minimal help on swim technique I was more comfortable, though still slow in the water. (Let’s just say it was pretty easy to find my bike in the transition area, as it was usually one of the last ones to leave.) I began to focus more on duathlons over the next five years.

I’d been successful competing in duathlons, but I wanted to start doing triathlons again and really needed to bring my swimming level up (I was competitive in the run/bike portion, but I would give up 10+ minutes in the swim for an Olympic distance). My husband, Don, who I was dating at the time, suggested joining a masters swim team. I had not heard of that and assumed from the name it was for “older” people, but I soon found out it was just coached swimming for adults. I was working at the University of Texas at the time as a nurse in the Exercise Physiology department, so I joined a masters team there—not Longhorn Aquatics with the big-time swimmers, but a group that was geared toward beginners.

Missy circa 1990

The group’s coach (thank you, Riggs!) was very patient with my stubbornness. I didn’t like to kick, was resistant to flip turns (after all, there are no flip turns in open water swimming), and didn’t see why I had to learn other strokes (since triathlon was freestyle). Of course, I understand the importance of these tasks now. It's true that during open water swimming the kick isn't used much for propulsion, but an effective small kick helps maintain good body position in the water. Becoming familiar with all of the strokes helped me to learn how my body moves through the water. And even flip turns are worth the time and trouble. In lap swimming, especially when sharing a lane with others that flip turn, it's more efficient, but the process of learning flip turns also taught me to be calm when my body (or mind) tells me to BREATHE NOW. In doing flip turns and also swim drills, I couldn't just breathe when I wanted; I had to time my breathing. Practicing this day after day, I found I could "roll with the punches" in any open water swim or race situation. If I couldn't get a good breath on one stroke, I could just wait until the next stroke.

I learned the basics of freestyle swimming with that first masters swim group, and continued learning even more with my next (and current) swim coach, Jimmy Bynum. I found that I became the most proficient in swimming when I had frequent (at least three times per week) coached swim workouts. The focus during these workouts is technique, not distance: the idea is to concentrate on your best technique as long as you can in a workout, really paying attention to and remembering how that technique feels.

Missy circa 2014

Even if you don’t have the time or money for masters swimming year-round, I would highly suggest one month of dedicated, coached swimming in a group if you really want to improve your swim. Also, the more open water (mass) starts you have, the easier it gets!! In my early triathlon years the swim was very stressful. Now I can handle anything that is thrown my way, even an elbow.

One great open water race opportunity coming up is tomorrow, Tuesday, July 14, at Pure Austin's Quarry location (Pure Austin Open Water Race Series). Pure Austin also holds a “Splash-n-Dash” the third Tuesday of each month, which is a swim/run. And the Marble Falls Triathlon, currently in its 15th year, will be held July 19 (online registration closes this Wednesday, July 15).

Coached swimming opportunities in Austin: 

Western Hills Athletic Club
Location: Rollingwood pool
Coaches: many

Pure Austin
Location: 4210 W Braker Ln.
Coaches: Peri Kowal, Julie Stupp

Austin Aquatics and Sports Academy (new)
Location: 5513 Southwest Parkway
Coach: Brendan Hansen

Texas Iron
Location: JCC Austin
Coach: Andrea Fisher

Location: Lost Creek Country Club & Circle C Swim Center
Coach: Maurice Culley

Longhorn Masters
Location: UT
Coach: Whitney Hedgepeth

Missy and Don Ruthven have owned Austin Tri-Cyclist for 14 years. An elite-level triathlete and former pro duathlete, Missy is currently in her 26th year of competing in multisport events and is also a member of ATC Racing’s road cycling team. She’s the mother of two teenage girls, Emily and Taylor.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

How to Help a Woman on a Bike

by Kat Hunter

I’m not one to complain about men opening doors for me. (I’m usually carrying a 34-pound toddler.) A little gallantry now and again, as long as it’s not expressed in a way that undermines and insults, is a great thing.

But in the world of cycling, some men can be overly “helpful” to women cyclists. Nine times out of ten it’s well meaning, which is why we nod and smile at the advice-giver instead of bludgeoning him with a water bottle. I’ve had strangers ride up and comment freely and critically on my fit, equipment, and even gearing. In my first year of riding, one older gentleman told me I should stay out of the big ring for a few years to save my knees. I know men cyclists encounter these annoying authoritarians, too, but the frequency with which female riders attract their attention seems to suggest that we’ve been flagged: clearly, not having a penis is indicative of a physical and/or mental disability.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the men who are aware of how even the purist chivalry can be perceived; they don’t want to be “that guy,” so they hang back even when they genuinely just want to help. So how do you approach a woman without coming across as condescending? It’s not as difficult, and we’re not as sensitive, as you might think.

Is it necessary? The first rule of thumb is, make sure your assistance is warranted. If it’s some minor point and you don’t know the woman well, it’s probably best to keep your thoughts to yourself. Would you say or do the same thing if the cyclist was a guy?  

Be an authority. I have a litmus test for people who are welcome to give me unsolicited advice: they need to be in a higher category and/or have raced longer, have a career in or related to cycling, or be extremely smart and tech savvy. I also much prefer if they actually know who I am and where I fall on all those scales, too. A cat 5 telling a cat 1 woman how to ride her bike is annoying; I don’t care how much of a cycling prodigy he is.

Be humble, even if you are an authority. A little dose of humility and respect goes a long way. Everyone is new sometime, and everyone makes mistakes, so try to put whatever it is you’re trying to help with in the context of your own failures and foibles. Most women will pick up on the fact that you’re treating them like an equal and not an idiot, and they’ll listen and learn.  
Ask nicely. Some women will want your help with mechanical issues and others won’t—your best bet is to ask. I like the ambiguous “Need anything?” In the case of changing a flat tire, for example, that question could mean anything from “Do you need a tire lever?” to “Do you need me to do that for you?” You can avoid feeling like a jerk, and she can avoid feeling like a damsel in distress. I used to prefer it if the guys I was riding with changed a flat for me because I knew they were standing around waiting and I’d be slow. To each her own.

Never touch. Or not unless you know her well enough to know that it’s okay. Touching (when it’s not necessary or isn’t in a race situation) can come across as demeaning or just plain creepy. Elbow, hip, bike…doesn’t matter; that’s very personal space. Some guys will give a woman a friendly push out of the blue in a race or a fast group ride. Personally, I’d like to say thanks but no thanks on that one. The gesture is nice, but most of the time it just succeeds in surprising me. I’ll use your wheel any day, though, so come around and motor me back up that way if you’re feeling generous.

The key, always, is to treat others as you’d like to be treated. I’d say “just treat us like one of the guys,” but we’re not one of the guys, and that’s okay. Letting us have a wheel, leading us out for a sprint point, not shoving us off the road or yelling at the other guy who just tried to—as bike racers, we’re primed to take advantage of every opportunity we get, to capitalize on the strength or weakness of others, so any woman with sense isn’t going to complain about a helping hand or wheel. White knights are welcome and appreciated! Just don’t be surprised if our manners aren’t very ladylike in turn and we pull ahead of you at the line, okay?  

Friday, June 26, 2015

2015 State TT Championships Race Report

By Kat Hunter

I’ve always wanted to be more “put together.” I want to have good hair. I want to have a spotless, organized house, one that doesn’t have spaghetti sauce and bike grease on the walls. I want to cook healthier meals and read more books. I want my toddler to say “Please” and “Thank you” as regularly as he screams “NO!” I want my writing career to really take off, so much so that editors will respond to every email and pitch instead of one out of ten. I want all these things very much, and many more.
TTT: Christie, Kat, Allison, and
Theo (standing in for Katie Kantzes)
It all seems so easy, looking at what other people have and you don’t. It’s taken me 31 years to realize the truth behind that obvious lie—whatever you do, if you’re going to do it well, it takes a lot of energy. For the last 10 years or so, my workout is what I get done during the day, come hell, high water, or a bad case of the sniffles. First it was running, then briefly triathlon, and finally my ongoing, roller coaster love affair with bike racing. In the beginning I cultivated the obsession with sport to lose weight (in college I’d packed on 20+ lbs), but later my workouts became something else entirely, a compulsion that had nothing to do with balancing out the day’s dessert menu. Competition is at its heart, and most of all, meeting expectations.  That’s another way of saying, I guess, that I’m striving for perfection in this, perhaps more than all other things.

The State ITT was something of a debacle. Other people might say they’d be happy with my time. But you know what? I bet they have great hair. Or maybe a really high-paying job, or a spectacularly polite child, or a house that doesn’t perpetually look like they just moved in. I probably sound like I’m complaining a lot this year, but when you know that you’ve actually given everything your all—the training, the preparation, the necessary equipment—it’s hard not to feel a sense of betrayal when your careful plan melts away like a popsicle in the Texas sun.

The State Time Trial Championships, put on by the Northwest Cycling Club, were held in Hempstead, a small town about an hour northwest of downtown Houston. The 40K course was basically all flat, fast road: an out-and-back with a 180-degree turnaround. Saturday was the individual TT and Sunday was the team TT. Both days it was windy, with a headwind for most of the way out and a tailwind for the return. But there’s one word that describes this course best in mid-June, trumping everything else: HOT.

The air was thick and humid, with the temps probably in the 90s around my late-morning start. (I’ll go ahead and say, with no small amount of jealousy, that I think the riders who went earlier had a much easier day of it.) About two weeks before I’d had an episode with heat exhaustion—my first ever—when I was riding with a fast friend in East Texas. I’d suddenly started feeling nauseous and weak mid ride, with on-and-off cramping in my lower back. Hours later I’d thrown up and felt awful for the rest of the day, with what felt like a hangover the next morning. The episode seemed crazy to me because I’d worked out hard in much hotter temperatures before, but hot weather has come very suddenly to Texas this year after a mild spring, and I’d spent a few weeks racing/traveling out of state. The best I could figure was that I still wasn’t acclimatized.

This TT I certainly started out with more respect—verging on fear—for the kind of havoc heat could play on my body, but it still wasn’t enough. My goal was to hold 260 watts average. I’d had a couple of good runs at the Castroville TT the previous weekend and in May, and I was expecting this course to be faster. With the heat, though, I probably should have started at 250 and just done my best to hold that. Instead I’d let the average power creep up to 265, feeling great, until all of the sudden I wasn’t anymore.

Racing in the heat seems a lot like racing at altitude. If you go a little too hard you won’t be able to recover, and sometimes you don’t realize what that point is until you’re past it. Five or six miles in I was painfully aware of my mistake.  Soon I was doing good to hit 230 watts, and from that point on it was the most miserable TT I’d ever done in my life. A TT is by nature already awful, but add to that the fact that a) it’s hot as blazes, b) you still have forever to go, and c) you know you’re going to have a much slower time than you were aiming for, and then you’re pretty much looking for any excuse to stop and just lie down on the side of the road. If I’d seen a nice, sharp-looking bit of road debris, I might have run over it with gusto; with my luck, though, all that was available was a flattened possum.

I’d wanted something that would show the fitness gains I’ve made this year, but my finishing time was exactly one minute slower than 2014. A lot of other people had similar stories of being way off on power; of course, many had done a better job of anticipating that than me and had planned accordingly. Officially, at 57:23 (my head unit, oddly, showed 58:30 and the course at about 250 meters too long) I was the winner of the P12 category. Allison Atkinson (ATC Racing) was the only other person racing the cat, though, so there was no prize money for us. While I wished we’d had more competition out there, at that point I definitely wasn’t blaming anyone for opting out.

Team time trials, unlike ITTs, are actually fun, and I don’t understand why more people don’t do them. A TTT is an interesting formula in which you try to get the best out of everyone, and while there are lots of ways to get that wrong and maybe only a few ways to get it exactly right, the process of trying is genuinely enjoyable and educational. You’re not out there suffering alone, and you have your teammates to encourage/curse at you. Compared to an ITT, the miles float by.

Like last year, I was signed up for the TTT with ATC Racing (now state champs three years running), but this time I was guest riding in my hot pink Visit Dallas Cycling p/b Noise4Good kit and there was a completely different squad of girls in the orange and black: in 2014, it was Missy Ruthven, Marla Briley, and Maggi Finley, and for 2015, it was Christie Tracey, Allison Atkinson, and Katie Kantzes.

We were the only team signed up for the P12. We’d also had no practice riding together on TT bikes, as we’d made the decision to race the State TTT together only two days prior. Our plan was to keep things casual and fun, but also as fast as we could go.

The starting rotation was me, Christie, Allison, and Katie, who was on a road bike. I probably started out too hard again, and though I knew better, it’s hard to curb yourself with so many unknowns. With the headwind on the way out, I felt like I was pushing against a wall. Christie seemed comfortable—probably too comfortable—tucked in behind me (she'd put in a great individual time the day before), and I worried I was actually slowing us down. I shortened my pulls, feeling better within a few rotations, and then ramped the intensity up when I was on the front to offset the fact that I was spending less time there... This approach was, obviously, a mistake, but I'm not sure my brain has ever functioned correctly during an all-out effort.  My teammates were working too hard, and even when they pulled through quickly, they were getting a big dose of the wind.  I was also accelerating too much when coming back to the front.

Katie, a phenomenal rider, was having a bad day—she was the only one on a road bike, not to mention the crazy heat. She fell off before the halfway point, which none of us realized until it was too late. The TTT time would be determined by the top three riders, so now we couldn’t afford to lose anyone else, but we struggled with this. Two or three times we let a gap form and had to slow to let the rider catch back on, also making the mistake of slowing too much and breaking her momentum as she regained... We probably would have had a better idea of where to set the pace if we’d ridden more together beforehand and could have made a lot of small improvements throughout the effort to add up to a substantial time savings; overall, however, we had a fast time (58:04) and a good race. We worked well together.

ATC Racing support crew: Jack and Theo Mott
My son, Theo, stood up on the podium with our ATC Racing team. He’d been running my husband ragged for two days of racing, and Jack had managed to help with team equipment and preparations in spite of it all. I owe him big time, especially since I forgot it was Father’s Day… Again and again, Jack has picked up the pieces for me this year and kept me rolling.

Next up for our little bike-racing family: the three of us will travel to Bend for the Cascade Cycling Classic, July 22-26.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Race Recap: Du Nats
St. Paul, MN, June 6, 2015

By William Jabour

The 2015 Duathlon National Championships are past, and it was another great experience in my life. It turned out to be a very challenging couple of weeks just getting ready to go with all the flooding in the area; as a firefighter, I was really busy. I got off shift on Wednesday evening around 9 p.m. to start the 1,200 mi drive to St. Paul knowing it was going to be a quick turnaround trip. 

I had planned to be there Thursday afternoon so I could get two good nights of rest, but my truck got a fuel leak outside of Dallas around midnight, and I found myself in the IHOP parking lot wondering if I was going to make it at all. I stayed miserably in my hot truck all night, and thanks to Google I found Gillette Automotive in De Soto, who got me out in a few hours on Thursday morning. I could make it yet. My friends Brian Zahm and Angela were way ahead of me in Iowa, and here I was 1,000 miles away leaving Dallas. With a quick stop in Irving to pick up a bike for transport for my good friend Monte I was off.

Many naps and multiple thunderstorms later I arrived at the venue on Friday afternoon around 1:30 to pick up my race packet and do openers on the course. Before I knew it, it was 4 p.m. and I hadn’t even been to the hotel yet and was really feeling a bit rough. Before I left I saw Jeff Gaura, Mike Kostenik. and Mike’s girlfriend; seeing these friends was a real pick-me-up. I drove to my hotel (in traffic of course), got checked in, found an Olive Garden and ordered takeout, and was back by 8 p.m. I was whupped by this point and I hadn’t been there six hours.

William with fellow athlete Bob Jones
Thanks to Chris at ATC, I knew my bike was race ready, so it was a standard race night prep. I was in bed by 10 and slept till 5 a.m., and then it was race day, thank god. I met Brian and Angela at the venue parking lot at 6 a.m., where they laughed at how someone can eat beets, oatmeal, egg whites, sweet potatoes, and brown rice at 6 a.m.  I needed all the help I could get on this one.

I was early in transition, and then I started seeing people I hadn’t seen in a while, including my good friend Bob Jones. As he said in his own race recap, it has become a tradition for us to do our pre race warm-up together. He is an outstanding athlete and fellow age grouper, and I’ve been chasing him for three years now but am getting closer. I was feeling very calm and relaxed that morning, and this was a good thing, though it was probably from lack of rest.

At 8:15 a.m. we were off. As expected, it was
a very quick start, but I stayed in control and settled in behind Bob to finish the first run in 18:57. That put me in eleventh, three seconds behind Tony Prado and 22 seconds behind Bob. (I told you these guys are fast.) With a quick transition I managed to get out ahead of them, but Bob came back on the long climb that we would make three times. On the long downhill leading back to the river, I managed to pass Bob again. After a very steep sweeping downhill that cut back to the opposite direction, there’s about a 4-mile stretch along the Mississippi river back to the long climb. Here I was riding near Bob Jones, Tony Prado, and Bob Brown (who’s in a division up but seems to be in our mix). These guys were seesawing back and forth and went into transition about a minute ahead of me.

I started the second run feeling good, and I was hoping I could make up a couple of positions, but as I made my way through the U-turns I could see Bob was doing really well and Matt Kellman, who I’d gained on some on the bike, seemed to be running strong. On lap two I managed to pass Bob Brown, and though he wasn’t in my division, it felt like it, and I had Tony Prado in my sights. Tony seem to be slowing and by closing hard I managed to finish nine seconds behind him, finishing 12th. The 12th place finish was my third consecutive 12th place finish in three years.

Tony and I are always so close at the finish, but I have yet to beat him. He is a great person, and I’m happy to compete with him. I will see him in Florida in December for Powerman National Championships for long distance, and I am sure it will prove to be a close competition between us.

The 12th place finish qualified me for Team USA for the 2016 Duathlon World Championships in Aviles, Spain. This will be my third World Championship with Team USA. I will also go to Adelaide, Australia, in October for the 2015 Duathlon World Championships later this year. I feel blessed for the people I have met and to be able compete at this level. My coach Gray Skinner of Enlightened Performance, who I have been coached by for over two years, has brought me to a level I used to only imagine. He has transformed me both mentally and physically for the goals we have achieved and the goals ahead. Learning from him I have also coached a few athletes to division wins in their first races ever, and it’s an amazing feeling to watch them grow. So this one is in the books, and just to top it off, at the awards ceremony 87-year-old Ed Maruna went up to receive his award, presented to him by his son Dean. This is just an example of some of the amazing people in this sport, and I hope that I am blessed to be able to compete as long as Ed has.

Friday, June 12, 2015

One & Done?

By Kat Hunter

My first tri (which became a du for water conditions),
March 2009
The completitor, the bucketlister—these are a few of the derogatory terms used for someone "serious" athletes would describe as a tourist, a wannabe, a one-and-done visitor to a sport. Nothing riles up the elites more than when a completitor claims to have conquered the beast in a few short days or months of competition, ignoring the years of hard work it takes to really get to know it.

I used to look down on people who seemed like they were merely ticking accomplishments—marathons, triathlons, ironmans—off of a bulleted list, regardless of finish time, or whether they walked all or a portion of it. You’re not "really" doing a sport unless you’re doing it well, right?

But maybe all those naysayers, including me, were wrong. By now I’ve logged enough hours and won enough (bike) races to count myself among the faster, more serious set. I’m also experienced enough to look back and see where I missed what was truly important. You’re good at a sport? Great. You have the time and the money to do it? Fantastic. Now ask yourself whether you love it, and figure out how to keep loving it. Unless you’re making a very healthy salary being an athlete or winning gold medals, those are the only two things that matter. In some ways the one-and-doner gets more at the heart of amateur athletic competition than the veteran athlete does—participation may be short-lived, but it's always fun.

Human life, at some very fundamental level, is about learning. It’s what we were built for. We like to touch and see and taste new things. We like to take those things apart and put them back together again. We enjoy testing ourselves and finding out what we’re made of. And that’s why sport exists. It’s an expression of our humanity, a catchall for emotions and energy, a celebration of what makes us tick, physically and mentally. Yes, there’s honor in hard work and focus, but there’s also a great deal to be said for experimentation. It takes courage to try something new, especially if you suspect (or know) that you’re not particularly talented at it.

2015 TT nationals, photo by Ali Whittier
There’s also reality. Not everyone has the budget or the time to focus on a sport day in and day out, but they might be able to give it the six months or so it takes to accomplish that one race or goal. The experience of getting from point A to point B, whether you’re talking about the preceding training or race day itself, is a beautiful thing. Let those who seek that, have it. And not only that, enjoy it yourself if you’re one of those select mega-achieving athletes. Venture into something new—attempt kayaking, mountain biking, adventure racing, extreme Frisbee golf. Break up the road or tri season with cross training that keeps you excited about your principal sport and fitness in general.

Every echelon of endurance sport has something to learn from the others: The elites should recognize that their sport’s bread and butter is the masses. In bike races and multi-sport events, there’s only one winner for every 100 participants or so – the money that keeps the wheels turning is coming from the people who are doing it for the good times and the good stories. As an elite, you should respect their very important part in what you do. And at the opposite end of the spectrum, beginners should acknowledge that their investment and understanding do not necessarily equal that of an athlete who’s devoted body and soul to the sport. Consider experienced athletes an easy resource.

Most of us started from the same place, even if we no longer care to admit it. We saw a challenge and we thought, "hey, that would be cool." We went into it blundering and clueless, and somewhere along the way we found our feet. Wherever you’re at on that timeline and no matter how short it may be, hold on to the joy that was its reason for being and share it with others.