Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Friday, December 27, 2013

Top Posts for 2013

This year, Austin Tri-Cyclist's correspondents have reported on triathlons and crits, reviewed bikes and helmets, interviewed top endurance athletes and pros, compiled lists of Austin's cycling and swimming hotspots, and a little bit of everything between. Below are some of our most popular posts from 2013.

Happy holidays from everyone at ATC!

Friday, December 20, 2013

How to Stay Warm on the Bike

In Austin, the temperature doesn’t prevent you from riding outside; your wardrobe does.

There are a lot of ways to go wrong. Baggy clothing. Bulky clothing. Materials that don’t block the wind or that soak up moisture and leave you marinating in your own sweat, which can make you even colder. If you’re planning on braving the elements, bike-specific winter gear is well worth the investment.

If you dissect a bundled-up Austin bike racer from the top down, this is what you’re likely to find.

The ears catch a lot of wind. Even when you’re riding hard and the rest of your body feels comfortable, they can still be quite cold.

A headband is a good choice for in-between weather or for cyclists who tend to overheat. A skull cap that covers your whole head is best for really cold days.

What everyone says about heat escaping through your head—well, it’s true. A hat can make a surprising amount of difference in overall comfort. Headbands and hats are also easy to remove and put in your pocket if the weather warms up. Try a balaclava if you’re going out in truly arctic conditions.

Base layer 
It doesn’t seem to make sense that one thin layer of fabric can make you so much warmer...and yet, it does. A base layer, designed to shield you from the wind, should fit fairly tight and be made of a sweat-wicking material. Some options, like the lightweight Louis Garneau SF-2 Plastron, offer a wind-breaking surface in the front and a breathable material at the back.

A good base layer is essential for winter cycling. You can go with a long-sleeved base layer or sleeveless base layer, or wear both on especially cold days.

Typically, a long-sleeved or short-sleeved jersey is worn over the base layer, giving you another layer of warmth as well as easily accessible pockets.

Some riders like to wear a vest over a jersey or over a jersey and base layer. This offers extra wind protection and warmth for your core, and it can easily be removed and carried in a pocket. Clear vests eliminate the (pressing, we know) worry of color coordination and keep your jersey and race numbers visible.

A thin, long-sleeved windbreaker can be good for really cold days, but you’ll want one that fits snugly—not only does a baggy jacket feel like a parachute and make an annoying flapping sound, but it also can create a constant ballooning of cold air around your core. Many cycling jackets also help protect against rain.

Cycling-specific jackets typically have a tailored fit, good ventilation, and pockets. Convertible jackets with removable sleeves are practical for Texas weather; the Cannondale Morphis, with sleeves that attach with magnets, is popular.

Arm warmers
Arm warmers are especially nice when it’s just a little cold out or when you expect it to warm up significantly. If you get too hot, you can roll them down onto your wrists or stuff them in your pockets without getting off the bike.

In combination with a sleeveless base layer and jersey, arm warmers cover up all the exposed skin on your arms but let your armpits breathe. Worn over the top of a long-sleeved base layer, they offer another non-bulky, easily removable layer of warmth and wind protection.

Frozen fingers can make shifting difficult and turn an otherwise pleasant ride into a death march. Wool gloves (try the DeFeet Wool DuraGloves on for size) keep your hands warm while also letting your skin breathe. You might also want heavier-duty gloves, such as the Louis Garneau Gel Ex, on standby for very cold days. Some cyclists swear by “lobster gloves,” which sandwich your fingers together rather than separating them individually, allowing your body to do some of the work in conserving heat. The Louis Garneau Super Prestige or Cannondale 3 Season Plus are great choices, with removable “lobster” pockets that can be tucked away when not needed.

Pants/Knee warmers/Leg warmers
Leg warmers vs. knee warmers
You have a lot of options when it comes to covering up your bottom half. Not as important as your core in staying warm, your legs and butt don’t require as much layering. For extra cold days, go with long tights or knickers (3/4 tights). For chilly weather, try knee warmers or leg warmers, which can both be easily removed.

Some tights have a built-in chamois, but you can also layer your regular shorts under or over long tights or knickers without a built-in chamois. ATC has a big selection of 2XU compression tights, which work great for this type of layering.

Wool is the secret. Also, don’t go too thick—you don’t want to impair blood circulation in your feet, so often a thin(ish) wool sock will do the trick better.

Shoe Booties
Shoe booties are nothing short of miraculous. Not only do you avoid the feeling of feet frozen solid, but your whole body feels warmer. They largely serve to protect your feet from the wind, so they don’t tend to cause you to overheat. Booties also work very well in the rain. However, you can also go with toe covers, which are effective against the cold and wind, though less so.

Finding the right combination
You’ll want to mix and match the above items according to the conditions and the effort. Generally, the less you can wear and be comfortable, the better. Being way too hot seems to negatively affect performance more than being a little cold. It’s also no fun to lug around bulky gear in your jersey pocket for most of the ride.

In chilly weather, if your core and your extremities are warm, you can afford to show some skin. A good rule of thumb—if you’re going to want to take off an item of clothing 15 or 20 minutes into the ride, it’s probably not worth putting it on. Start out a little cold and pedal hard to warm up!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gift Ideas for Endurance Athletes
Buy Local!

Endurance athletes can be hard to buy for. Their wardrobe consists primarily of race T-shirts. They don’t spend enough time on the couch for a Snuggie or slippers. It’s unlikely they’ll appreciate an electronic singing fish or iguana (Does anyone?). And cookies and sweets are out because you never know when they’re on a gluten-free, lactose-free, vegetarian diet of raw beets and organic kale.  

Fortunately, ATC has a variety of goods that are as appealing as they are utilitarian, making even the most unusual and extreme partisans of the endurance persuasion happy on Christmas morning.

For stocking stuffers
With a quick stroll through ATC you can find enough small and inexpensive paraphernalia to fill a stocking to the bursting point. Some of our favorites: tubes; tires; nutrition like Clif Shot Blocks and Gels, Hammer Gels, Honey Stinger waffles, salt tablets, and Beet Elite; flat kits and CO2 cartridges; socks; saddle bags; auto emblems that tell the world you've tallied up everything from 13.1 to 70.3 miles; and $1, individual packets of chamois cream.

For laughs
A bike toothbrush, Chamois Butt’r, or “The King of Lubes” (chain lubes, that is)...some bike goods make excellent conversation starters. And how cool is it to buy someone a crack pipe for Christmas? (No one in the history of the world has ever really called it a “disc wheel adapter.”)

For the ATCer
Nothing says fast and fashionable better than a scaly little armadillo. Find the ATC dillo on all types of gear, from hats, saddle bags, and jerseys to water bottles and tri suits. Our favorite is the dillo bar tape (available in white and red).

For kids
Girls' Zoot tri suit
Everyone knows the cutest stuff comes pint sized. The ATC 360 store in Westlake carries kids’ bikes in stock. At both stores you can find kids’ tri suits and other apparel, including swim gear.   

For any brand of bike lover
Find the perfect gift for cyclists of all stripes. ATC has a wide selection of bike pumps, tri and road helmets, bike lights (check out the new Light & Motion lights), bike locks, bike tools, bike shorts and other apparel, and of course Cannondale, BMC, Cervelo, Boardman, Litespeed, Fuji, Quintana Roo, and Focus bikes.

The Garmin Edge 510 ($329) makes an excellent holiday gift; it functions as a GPS device, providing distance and speed, as well as a head unit for power meters, heart rate monitors, and other ANT+ devices. Stravaholics can upload their workouts in real time.
2XU compression pants

For a creative gift, consider surprising your cyclist with coaching or a bike fit from Rothe Training.

For the all-weather cyclist
Tis the season of cold and miserable weather conditions. Easy to size without exact personal measurements, arm warmers, knee warmers, leg warmers, gloves, compression pants, shoe covers, and hats make great gifts.

A cyclist can never really have too much warm clothing, especially since arm warmers and leg warmers tend to fall into the same black hole as missing socks. Check back later this week for a full post on winter cycling apparel.   

For the aero-obsessed
Go all out and all aero with specialty water bottles, chainrings, bottle cages, or helmets like the LG Course and Giro Air Attack. Read our Aero Tune-Up post for more tips and ideas.

For runners
Visit the ATC 360 store in Westlake for the latest and greatest in running shoes (check out our shoe post on brands in stock). ATC also has a treasure trove of compression socks, sunglasses, fuel belts, and other gear to get you by on foot.

For swimmers
ATC’s recent renovations are worth seeing, especially the new swim center. You’ll find a robust collection of swim accessories like swim caps, goggles, flippers, training boards, pull buoys, hand paddles, and more, as well as ATC’s famously awesome selection of wetsuits. 

For triathletes
See above. ATC also carries a variety of tri-specific brands in apparel, bike shoes, and other gear.

To really impress
If you want to go all out this holiday season, ATC has plenty of high-end options. Get your cyclist a Garmin Vector ($1,695), the pedal-based power meter that’s making waves. The Zipp Super 9 Carbon Clincher disc wheel ($2,374.99) also makes a very exciting present beneath the tree. A new bike, however, is probably the ultimate gift—buy a big red bow and put it on one of ATC’s many top-of-the-line road, time trial, mountain, or cyclocross bikes.

For easy shopping
Gift certificates, always simple and always appreciated, can be used for anything in the shop. Available online and in store.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Ironman Cozumel Race Report
December 1, 2013

By Gray Skinner

Last week my wife, Leah, and I traveled to Cozumel to compete in my first full iron distance race. After completing a dress rehearsal at Leadman in September, the sole focus of the rest of the year turned to getting ready for my main goals for 2013—completing a full ironman and securing a Kona slot for 2014.

Pre Race
Leah and I arrived the Monday before the race and spent a couple of days exploring the town of Tulum before taking the ferry over to the beautiful island of Cozumel, which is just off the coast of Cancun, on Wednesday evening. We spent the next few days checking out the course, exploring the island, catching up with other competitors, and enjoying some great food. On Saturday, I was relieved to finally check in bikes and gear bags and get this thing underway. I was experimenting with a three-week taper and was very anxious to feel some sensation in the legs.

Fellow Austin triathletes, Tres Mikes (Minardi, Bruff, and Pearson), were gracious enough to open the basement of their palatial island home to Leah and me on race eve.  After a gourmet in-house meal from their personal chef, we got to sleep at a reasonable hour, just a few hundred yards from the swim start. We slept well and awoke at 4 a.m. for a pre-race breakfast of coffee, tortillas, eggs, avocado, Nutella + banana, and a Clif Bar.

On the short bus ride to the new swim start, I had another Clif Bar and my new secret weapon, BeetElite. We unloaded from the buses and made our way to the beach for the swim start. We’d received word the night before that because of strong currents, the swim course would be slightly shortened from 3.8 kilometers to 3.1 kilometers and would not require us to swim against the current. I was not terribly disappointed by this news, and was really glad to have my ROKA Viper Pro swim skin since the swim would now be even faster!

We started in the water. After an anxious 15 minutes of treading water and trying to make sure I was as close to the front line as possible, the race was under way. Nothing can prepare you for the melee that is a mass start Ironman swim—2500 nervous, tapered, full of energy people thrashing about wildly as the swim begins.

After 400m, the herd had thinned significantly, and I got about the business of proper swimming. After my sub par performance at Leadman in September, I realized that I needed to finally come to terms with the fact that there are actually three sports in triathlon, not just two! For the first time since I began racing long-distance triathlon 18 months ago, I started swimming with a group and enlisted the help of local experts James Davison, Peter Mallet, and Andrea Fisher. The improvement was swift, and after a six-week, 100-kilometer block of swimming, my times dropped significantly and my confidence in swimming grew. At Cozumel, I came out of the water in around 40 minutes for the abbreviated swim, but, more importantly, I was exactly where I wanted to be. Leah yelled that I was only five minutes down on the first amateur and around 100th overall. Coming out of the water in the top 100 out of 2500+ was a huge accomplishment for me and started me out in a good spot.

From there I made my way through the showers, picked up my race bag from the rack, went into the changing tent, and then finally moved on into the maze of bike racks. I’m not sure how my T1 was, since I didn’t get a time coming out, but I estimate it to be around three to four minutes, as I was in the hinterlands of the bike racks and had to run more than 400 meters with my bike.

Relieved to be out of the water, I set about the business of the day. The bike course is three loops around the island of Cozumel. The course is very exposed in places, and the winds picked up significantly throughout the day. The opening stretch was very fast, with a cross tailwind as we headed south to the tip of the island.

I was passing people from the very beginning, and fifteen minutes into the bike, I got a split that there were now only 58 people in front of me. I settled into the long ride and tried to control my early efforts. By the time I got to the end of the first lap, things started to bunch up a bit at the pointy end of the race. Coming through town, I got a split from Leah that I was around 30th overall after the first lap. Good news.

As we exited town, I looked back and noticed that several riders had queued up behind and that I was catching a group of several riders. Within a few minutes, I found myself in the middle of a group of about 12 strong riders. I started looking at my numbers; back in the tailwind section, we were going 24 to 28mph, and guys were sitting up even freewheeling at times. Myself and a few others tried a few times to go to the front and pass, but with the tailwind, the entire group would surge at once, and anytime I moved to the left to pass, everyone behind followed! I felt like I was in a bike race. It was becoming clear that a rider would have to go 28+mph to get away from these guys. With 30 guys up the road and having passed a few penalty tents with riders in them, I knew that there was probably an even faster peloton farther up the road. I could either sit here with these jokers and save my legs, or put in an extra effort to lose them.

Once the headwind section started again at mile 56, I made my move, “attacking” the group from the back through an aid station and settling into ~300 watts for 15 to 20 minutes. This was a big risk to deviate from my pacing so much, but I knew it was time to roll the dice and use my strength to try to move up through the field before the run. After 10 minutes, I looked back and saw open road; the gamble had paid off, and I was free of the wheel suckers.

Coming through town the second time, I got another split that I was now in the top 20. I kept on the pace for the third lap and was feeling great on the bike, picking guys off one by one, complicated by the fact that I was lapping other athletes in droves. I kept the pressure on, and with 10 miles to go, I came in off the bike with two other guys, Dan Morwood of Canada (second overall amateur) and Tony from Brazil (Antonio Ferreira, third overall amateur and friend of ATC), very excited to be at the front of the race top five off the bike.

The entire amateur race was now within sight, and the legs felt fast and light coming off the bike. Caught up in the excitement of the race and fueled by adrenaline, I proceeded to deviate from my race plan on running a conservative 3:15 marathon (7:27/mile) and decided to roll the dice and stay in the top three to five as long as I could. This was a big gamble, and it was paying off through mile 11 to 12 of the run. First mile was 6:50, next 7, 7, etc. I was maintaining my position and moved into top four overall.

Around mile 13, the wheels started to fall off. With the afternoon sun blazing down, the pace began to slow, slightly at first, but then I started to see 8 minute miles. I can’t describe how bad the pain in my legs was.  Each step was an effort, my brain telling my body to stop, but I still had a half marathon to go. This battle between brain and body played itself out over the next 13 miles as I held on for dear life and slowed. While I didn’t completely fall apart, my marathon splits ended up something like 1 hour 31 minutes/1 hour 53 minutes.

It’s a strange feeling when the only thing you can do to keep going is to decide how much physical pain you want to endure and at what cost to your body longer term. I discovered some new dark places in my soul during the second half of that run. The funny thing with the race is that it was pretty much effortless until that point. It really comes down to either a) how long you can delay that feeling or b) how much you can endure the pain. During the last two miles, I dug deep and found a couple of faster miles, doing mile 26 in sub 7:30.

Overall, I was very pleased with the effort. There’s so much more to learn and work to do, but I came away uninjured with a Kona slot, my first IM race experience, a marathon PR, and huge confidence in my ability to keep it together when the body starts to rebel. The Ironman experience truly is all that it’s cracked up to be, this coming from a lifelong skeptic!

Huge thanks to my amazing wife, Leah Skinner, for being the best supporter, fan, wife, cheerleader, and coach anyone could ask for! Thanks to ROKA Sports, BeetElite, Enlightened Performance Coaching, Satoshi, Scott and Sol at Austinbikes, Austin Tri Cyclist, Andrea Fisher and JCC Masters, Sam Krieg, James Davison, Jack Mott, Jack Cartwright, Peter Mallet, Ben Muniga, and Stephen Collins. Couldn’t have done it without all of you. My sincere thanks!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Run/Duathlon at the COTA F1 Track

The Circuit of the Americas is one of Austin’s most exciting race venues. The track, opened in 2012, is the first in the U.S. built expressly for F1 racing. It’s not a tame, flat oval, but rather a 20-turn, 3.4-mile undulating circuit with a flare for the dramatic, featuring a 133-foot climb up the first turn. COTA hosts special events like the F1 United States Grand Prix, the ESPN X Games, motorcycle races, live music performances, and the first day of the Tour of Austin, a popular criterium series put on by Holland Racing. On December 14, it will be the site of the HITS Endurance Multi-Sport Event.

HITS offers a series of distances on race day, including 1 mile, 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, and sprint duathlon options. The sprint du is a 2.25-mile run, 14-mile bike, and 2.25-mile run. (The bike portion does not take place on the racetrack.) Military discounts apply, and the marathon has a two-person team option. Great for spectators, most of the races are easy to view, and there will also be a Fitness Expo featuring product samples, clinics, and fitness-related vendors and services.

The HITS Running Festival promises to be an event worth lacing your running shoes up for. Check out the links below for more info.


2012 HITS Marble Falls Tri

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Well-Heeled Dillo:
ATC's Run Shoes

The winds of change have blown through Austin Tri-Cyclist this year, carrying with them many good things. Along with the ATC 360 location and the renovations to the downtown store, you’ll find an important new addition to the dillo’s workout ensemble—a primo selection of road and trail running shoes!

ATC carries Zoot, Asics, Newton, Altra Running, Pearl Izumi, and Hoka shoes. Currently available at the ATC 360 store, they’ll also be in stock upstairs at the downtown location when the remodel is complete.

Zoot – Tri-specific, this brand was born in Kona in 1983. “Swim, bike, then say goodbye to the competition”...
Asics – A classic, Asics have been a staple of runners since 1977. ATC has 8 models in stock, including the Gel-Nimbus 15 and Gel-Kayano 20.  
Hoka – The new rage, Hoka shoes make an unmistakeable fashion statement. Despite the platform look, however, fans say they’re unbelievably comfortable and lightweight. Their unique midsole, with its rolling rocker design and “oversized, increased forgiveness,” is great for recovery runs.
Newton – Newton shoes are designed to encourage a natural running motion. A more level-to-the-ground platform with minimal drop helps you find the right position as you run. Many runners swear by them.

Altra Running – Like Newton, this company is based in Boulder. Altra Running shoes are known for their cushioned “zero drop,” which places the heel and forefoot the same distance from the ground. The design is said to reduce aches and pains like shin splints, runner’s knee, and IT band pain.
Pearl Izumi – ATC stocks two of Pear Izumi’s tri-specific shoes, the women’s EM Tri N1 and the men’s EM Tri N2. These lightweight tri flats provide a supportive, sock-like fit with built-in quick laces. Pearl Izumi's trail-running shoes will also be arriving soon.

ATC also carries run accessories like long-sleeved run tops, visors, and running gloves.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cannondale Demo Days

Tristan Uhl on the Scalpel
You might not have the wheelie-popping skills of Peter Sagan. Or the racing prowess of ATC's own local legends, Tristan Uhl and Brandon Smith. But who says you can't have the bike? 

Take top-of-the-line mountain bikes and road bikes like the Scalpel 29, Trigger 29, Supersix Evo, or new Synapse Carbon out for a test ride at Cannondale's Demo Days. The events will be held today at ATC's Westlake location, and on Sunday at ATC's downtown location.

ATC 360, Nov. 14, noon-7pm 
ATC Barton Springs, Nov. 17, noon-5pm 

Brandon Smith on the CAAD10
What to expect: 

During the Demo Days, the bikes will be on hand for you to test ride, or you can reserve a particular model and time slot here. Depending on availability, you can take the bike out on the road or the trails for up to one hour. (Trail transport is not provided, so bring a car equipped with a bike rack or space in the backseat.) 

The bikes will be completely tuned up and ready to go, and staff will help you get set up. Just remember to bring your riding clothes, helmet, shoes, and pedals, as well as a driver's license and credit card for security reasons. 

At ATC's 360 location, park behind the store. From the main parking lot, take one of the roads that cut through the Davenport Village stores to park at the top of the hill.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Bike Lights
Light & Motion

One thing all commuters, elite cyclists, and casual riders have in common is the need to see and be seen. Winter is a time of year when it’s hard to avoid low-light or no-light conditions while riding. A high-quality bike light is essential for safety, allowing you to see potential obstacles in the road and, perhaps even more importantly, allowing the four-wheeled, multi-ton variety of those obstacles to see you.

Good lights are an important investment. When choosing the brand and model, here are some factors to consider:

Light & Motion's VIS 360+
  • You’ll want a white light for the front and a red for the rear. 
  • Flashing lights are a plus for riding in traffic and usually prolong battery life. Many lights allow you to switch between a dim, bright, and flash setting. 
  • The brighter, the better. Brightness is measured in lumens. 
  • How large of a beam does it cast? (Light & Motion's website has a handy Beam Test feature for their models.) 
  • Where do the lights attach? And how secure is that type of attachment? Depending on your typical type of ride – trail vs. road, for example – you may want to make this your chief consideration. Which is more convenient for you – lights that stay put, or those that you can move on and off your equipment between rides?   
  • Helmet-mounted lights have the added bonus of pointing wherever you look. Lights that attach to your bike may be more convenient to leave on the frame permanently. 
  • How are the lights powered? Do they charge by battery or USB? What is their run time? 
  • Is the design durable? Simple? Attractive enough to attach to your daily ride? 
  • Common-sense tip: Ask another rider if he/she can see you easily. If your typical position and/or commuter gear on the bike obscures your lights, consider attaching them in a different place or trying a different model. 

ATC recently began carrying the Light & Motion commuter brand, rechargeable, high-powered lights that pay off ten-fold in the long run. The lights have received, dare we say, “glowing” reviews. Below are the models that ATC currently carries in stock.

VIS 360+
A helmet-mounted, 250-lumen beacon of awesomeness. Attaches and detaches fairly easily to most helmets without tools, so you can use it when you need it (the rear snaps into an unobtrusive mount you can leave on). Micro USB charged. A multi-colored LED indicator lets you know how much battery is left. Side lights provide enhanced visibility. The fit is very secure, and this light is BRIGHT. Run time 3 hours on high, 16 hours on flash mode, with additional settings. $189

VIS 180
50 lumens and super compact, these tail lights offer 180 degrees of visibility. Attaches at the back of your bike (or rack) and the side without tools. Reportedly 10 times the light of most powerful AA tail lights. Micro USB charged. Run time 4 hours high, 6 hours high pulse, with additional settings. $99

A 200-lumen handlebar light billed as the “lightest, brightest, most compact light in its class.” Side lights provide enhanced visibility. Attaches without tools. Micro USB charged. Run time 2.5 hours high, 24 hours on flash mode, with additional settings. $79 

**Other models may be available. Call us to check if what you're looking for is in stock (ATC 360: 512-382-1273 ATC Barton Springs: 512-494-9252). These make great holiday gifts!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In Quest of the BQ
A Race Report from the St. George Marathon

By Jeff Burrus

The first recollection I have of any desire to qualify for the Boston Marathon was early in 2010. I had just completed the Texas Marathon Challenge (any five marathons in Texas within the same year) and the Marathons of Texas (Dallas, Houston, Austin in that order). Coach Al had sent out a list compiled by of the races with the highest percentage of Boston qualifiers. I figured that was a good list to work from in an attempt to establish a new PR at the distance and maybe even improve upon it enough to find myself toeing the line in Hopkinton.

Pre-race carb loading
The standard at the time for a male 40 to 44 years old (I was 42 way back then) was 3:20:59. My PR was a 3:39:42. I figured it would take a year or more to build up a large aerobic base, burn off 50 or so pounds of fat, and find the right combination of course and weather to make it happen. I was running a lot of sub 4 hour marathons and occasionally dropping closer to 3:50, but there is a whole lot of road between 3:50 and 3:20:59. I really figured that my best bet would be to make incremental improvements and ultimately use the fact that my time standard would relax a little when I turned 44 (Boston lets you use your age on their race day for the purposes of qualifying even if you’re technically a year younger when you ran your qualifying race). The time standard for a 45 to 49 year old in 2010 was 3:30:59.

By late 2011, a year and a half and 11 marathons later, I had neither PR’d nor BQ’d. It seemed like when I found a good course, the weather was uncooperative. When the course and weather were good, my training was poor. I never could get it all to come together.

Then something else happened. Boston changed the time standards, making it tougher to get in. The net effect on me was that turning 45 would not give me an additional 10 minutes; it only gave me another 4 minutes and 1 second (instead of increasing to 3:30:59, it only increased to 3:25:00…costing me 5:59).

2012 came and went without me running a single marathon. I realized about a third of the way through 2012 what was happening and began to do some serious personal evaluation. There is not a tremendous amount of quit in me, but I definitely saw myself on an unfamiliar path towards just that. I needed to switch gears, again.

After years of “running by the seat of pants,” I hired a coach. My running group dubbed her “top secret,” but her real name is Leah Skinner.

A few weeks after I bought my bike (May 2012), I was reading through the Austin Tri-Cyclist blog when I came across this article. Something clicked, and I reached out to her. We met for coffee, and I told her what I was wanting to accomplish. When I told her what I’d tried so far in pursuit of said goal, she very frankly told me “we” wouldn’t be doing it that way moving forward, and I hired her on the spot.

I control, or at least attempt to control, pretty much everything around me. In general, I find that life is better when I’m in charge. Better for me and better for you too. The thought of giving up control of my running was daunting. It took a while to embrace my new routine (integrating my new workout regimen into my existing commitments like toting the water for the Ship), but I was able to do it seamlessly, for the most part, after a month or so.

By the end of 2012 I was ready to run my first marathon in over a year. I ran Louisiana in 3:50:17. Not a 3:25:00, but 37 minutes faster than the last one I had done in October of 2011. Through February and March my paces on just about every run I did were coming down, way down. At the same time, my heart rate was coming down as well. The better I ran, the more I bought in. Even a control freak has a hard time arguing with the kind of results I was seeing.

At the very beginning of April, as I finished a short/fast run, my back was a little tight. The next morning I could barely get out of bed. When I was finally able to get up, I had the oddest pain radiating through my hip, over to my groin, and then cascading down my right quad. I could only tolerate the pain for a few seconds. The only way to relieve it was to lay flat again or to lean against something that allowed me to get my weight off my legs and onto my arms. I couldn’t put on my own socks or shoes. I struggled with it for a few days (popping eight Advil a day just to keep the edge off) and attempted to wait it out while it healed itself. Not a good plan. Oddly, I could run…but everything else was problematic. When I finally extracted myself from denial long enough to schedule an appointment with a doctor, I learned that I had herniated the disc between L2/L3. I took an oral steroid, which helped, but it quickly wore off as soon as I ran out of pills. I went to see Dr. Higginbotham and he suggested an epidural steroid injection (along with about a week to ten days of rest). The shot worked wonders, and I took the following week off.

My first run back sucked. I ran three miles at a fairly slow/easy pace, but my heart rate was elevated. I had been telling myself that being in as good of shape as I was in the time off would have little to no impact. Wrong. I had undone months of training…months and months. Tunnel was around two months away, and I was far, far from ready. I pressed. I tried to go back to what I was running and who I was running with, and it didn’t go well. I tried to run 20 with Jerie one Saturday morning and ended up quitting on her around Far West, walking to a convenience store, and calling Kel to come pick me up.

I decided to go dark. I would dial back and run what I could at the speed I could and see what happened. I started running either alone or by myself. What’s the difference? Alone = showing up somewhere where no one else was likely to be and running. By myself = meeting other people for a run but doing my own thing (i.e., not pushing or being pushed). It took several weeks for it to stop sucking. It took a couple of months for it to get fun again. By then it was Tunnel time. I knew I wouldn’t qualify there, so I decided to run exactly what it took to PR, and I did.

I immediately turned my attention to St. George. I had exactly 13 weeks, was feeling much better, and was running pretty well. There were originally 12 of us who got into St. George via lottery, but 7 dropped out for various reasons. There was another decent-sized group that either didn’t get in to St. George or wanted to run Twin Cities that same weekend, so there was a whole lot of marathon training going on within the group. Jerie, Amber, Michelle, and I ended up doing a lot of our runs together, many very early mornings both during the week and on weekends. We covered a ton of miles in some tough conditions (routinely 80 degrees and 90% humidity). I don’t recall a lot of rah rah motivating of each other, but there was an immense amount of quiet commiseration.

Those 13 weeks of long runs was like nothing I had ever done (or would have done, or even thought was possible). By that point Leah had coached me through two prior efforts. I thought I knew what to expect, but was sadly, sadly mistaken. As the plan took shape, I reacted with a well divided sense of fear and dread. Starting with Tunnel on 7/14, here is what the long runs looked like:

7/14 – 26.2
7/20 – 10
7/27 – 20
8/3 – 20
8/10 – 22
8/17 – 19
8/24 – 20
8/31 – 22
9/7 – 19
9/14 – 22
9/21 – 19
9/27 – 10
10/5 – 26.2

The buildup for the prior two marathons Leah had coached me through looked nothing like this. I’m still not sure where it came from. I think it developed from how I had responded (or not responded) to the prior routines. I never asked, I just ran. That was the whole point of hiring her in the first place, so I thought that questioning it or varying from it would be counterproductive. A couple of those runs were ugly. The 22 miler on 8/10 was probably the worst. The one on 8/31 was when I felt things starting to come together. By September, the girls and I were running some pretty hilly routes on some pretty brutal days at some pretty decent paces. On 9/14 we did a 22 miler that included both Mt. Bonnell and a 7:19 final mile.

At this point I’m feeling well above average and decide it’s time to take a peek at the weather forecast for race day. For the love of all that’s holy, I could not believe my eyes. Cool, dry, and a little breeze from the north (aka a tailwind). Must. Look. Away. I don’t dare look again until the week of and, lo and behold, it’s stayed the same or gotten a little better.

At this point, I have no excuses. The only thing that hasn’t really gone to plan is my fatness. I managed to get down to 205 pounds, but got very nutritionally lazy at that point. I had calculated that I needed to toe the line at about 190 pounds, but that wasn’t going to happen.

Once the race started, it wasn’t long before I achieved a deep and absolute sense that I would hit my goal of running a sub 3:25:00. By mile 4, I was doing a little mental math to determine what shaving 5 seconds per mile off my goal pace would do to my overall time. By mile 9, I was tamping down the kind of emotion that is typically reserved for the finish line (or mile 25.42 of the Tunnel). I made the very difficult decision to turn everything off and focus on nothing more than running effortlessly to mile 20 and then deciding how I wanted the finish to go. I’ve dreamed about the final 10k of St. George since I ran it in 2010. I even put in my race report back then how nice it would be to run that final section on the perfect day. This was that day.

My Garmin beeped at mile 20, and it was like waking up from the best dream ever. I had just covered 20 miles in 2:35:45 (7:47 pace) and was determined to run it in as fast as I could. So, yeah, like waking up from a kickass dream and then being able to close your eyes and go right back to the point in the dream you just woke up from without missing a beat. I didn’t run hard because I needed to in order to qualify. I ran hard because, as bad as it hurt, it felt so good. Pleasure spiked with pain and all that.

As the miles peeled away, I started thinking about my friends that were out on the course, or maybe already finished, and their goals. They all trained harder than me, and I felt a sense of pride in their accomplishments, knowing that Colin would crush 2:40, that Sean would make 3 hours rue the day(s) it turned him away, and that Amber would be able to put a PR in one of her pockets and a BQ in the other.

Hitting the “one mile to go” marker in St. George, I decided to wring out whatever I had left and was delighted to see 7:24 looking back at me as I passed by the mile 26 marker. I covered the remaining ground somewhat reluctantly…like the final pages of a really good book that you’re enjoying so much you don’t want it to end.

3:23:39. A PR by 15:10. A BQ by a margin of 1:21.

My 30th marathon and still 17th state…and another negative split.

Milling about the finishing area, I was struck by how good I felt. During my years of unsuccessfully trying to qualify for Boston, I had repeatedly visualized what it would be like. I always imagined it as some heroic race day effort where I dug deep and ran outside of myself. Where I not only made the unlikely likely, but the impossible possible. Where I overcame nasty weather, lackluster training, and excess body fat to prevail in some epic way that would be worthy of an urban legend AND a trip to the medical tent. But, no. The truth is that I really qualified on Steck at Shoal Creek, on S. Congress at Ben White, on Scenic, and on 10 Mile Mondays in the months and weeks leading up to this race.

The first half of St. George was about 50 seconds slower than my half marathon PR. The second half of St. George was about a minute and a half faster than my half marathon PR. The final 10k of St. George is faster than my 10k PR. I will run 3M in January and try to find a 10k in order to officially update those distances.

I’ll be in Boston to run the 118th Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014!

Jeff Burrus, originally from Katy, Texas, played football in high school and college. After about eight years of being out of shape, he moved to Austin with his wife, Kelley, and son, Bailey, and began running on the Town Lake Trail. His first race was the Capitol 10k in 1999, and despite the fact that other runners were passing him in costume, skipping rope, and drinking beer, he was hooked, and he signed up for the Austin Marathon the following year. He raced the Austin Marathon five consecutive years from 2000 to 2004, and moved on to compete in national events like the New York, Marine Corps, and St. George Marathons. From his first-marathon goal of finishing without walking, with a time of 4:40, he’s progressed to a 3:23:39 and a much-coveted BQ. Jeff works as a financial advisor at Stifel Nicolaus. Read more about his running adventures on his blog,

Friday, October 25, 2013

Aero Tune-Up
Turn Your Aging Tri Bike into a Super Bike

by Jack Mott

Some of us get attached to our older bikes and, happy in our long-term relationship, see no need to spend thousands of dollars on a newer and more expensive model. One can get very envious, though, of contemporary super bikes like the Fuji Norcom Straight and Cervelo P5their sleek shapes make our tried-and-true race steed look like it's ready to be put out to pasture. The Norcom Straight and P5 can offer up to a second per kilometer of aero savings, boasting beautiful front ends that hide the cables and brakes from the wind. Fortunately, with a bit of cleverness and careful part selection, you can update the bike you know and love to bridge that aerodynamic and aesthetic gap, giving it a new lease on life.

For our test case we used a Cervelo P2 ridden by Kat Hunter, editor of this blog and ATC Racing TT specialist. The P2 is a great bike, with real aerodynamic engineering, good handling, and a good fit for Kat. However, as you can see in this photo below, compared to a modern super bike, the front end presents all kinds of bolts, cables, and surface area to the wind.

The most important thing to address here is the aerobar. Aerobars must, first and foremost, support your ideal position. After that, pick one that presents the least frontal area to the wind and that keeps cables internal and tidy. Newer versions of the 3T Aura, pictured above to the left, have improved their cable routing so they stay in the bar all the way to the stem, exiting out the back. Look for bars that keep the mounting hardware as minimal and out of the wind as possible. A great budget option is the older aluminum Vision base bar and clip-ons. They use a very aero shape and a smaller stem clamp diameter for reduced surface area. Fancier options with integrated stems include the 3T Ventus II and the Zipp Vuka Stealth.

For Kat's bike we had to stick with UCI-legal options and went with the HED Corsair, which offers a nice integrated brake lever with built-in return spring. We paired it with Vision clip-ons, which are comfortable for her and present minimal mounting hardware to the wind.

Hiding the cables from the wind offers a fairly small aero advantage, but a huge aesthetic one, and is often easy to do. You can do a pretty thorough job just by putting some thought into your cable routing. Experiment with different routes and find one that keeps the cables hidden from view. Often a zip tie or some electrical tape can work wonders to keep the cables tidy.

We went a step further with Kat's P2 and got out a drill. In standard form the P2 shifter cables enter at the down tube, while most newer bikes have them enter at the top tube. We found this handy tutorial from TriRig on how to modify your P2 to accept top tube cables. The procedure is relatively simple, but be warned that this could void your warranty, and this is in no way officially sanctioned by Cervelo or ATC. The same procedure works on both the older P3 and P2, and may work on other bikes as well.

Another neat trick in lieu of zip ties to keep the cables tidy is the TriRig Sigma stem, which offers some great aero features. It helps route the cables cleanly, exposes no bolts to the wind, and has a small, smooth frontal area. It has an optional bottle cage mount, so you can throw away a few more zip ties if you use a between-the-arms bottle, and, lastly, it offers a cable stop for center pull brakes. The catch is that it is only available in 90mm length and two different rises, and you have to cut your steerer tube to the exact height. You can't put any spacers above the stem, so you can always go lower, but never higher.

Installation is not difficult. You cut the steerer tube of your fork to a few millimeters below the top of the stem, mount it with the included top cap, and run your cables over the top of it. If you have a center pull brake, you run the front brake cable into the cable stop in the middle of the stem, as shown below.

Sigma stem, with cover off

Once the cables are routed, you then squeeze the cables together and bolt the cover on. If you have Di2, you can mount the control box inside the cover, facing up through the slot so you can see and operate it.

Sigma stem, with cover on

On the left we also mounted an additional piece that allows you to bolt a bottle cage directly to the stem. If you won't be doing that, you can leave that piece off. The finished product with bottle cage mounted looks like this:

Tektro Center Pull
Retrofitting the integrated brakes of bikes like the Fuji Norcom Straight onto an older P2 or Slice isn't quite possible, but you can get very nearly the same aero advantage with careful part selection.

Magura Hydraulic
A normal brake up front is only about an 8 second per 40k disadvantage compared to no brake at all, and some of the center pull options get very close to eliminating all of that drag. One option is a standard Tektro or Campy center pull caliper. These mount easily, brake well, and are affordable. You will need to add a cable stop or use the Sigma stem to get them working since you can't run cable housing to them.

Another great option is the Magura hydraulic brake. They have top-notch aerodynamics and better braking power than standard calipers. You may be able to find good deals on these at your local bike shop from people who didn't want to go hydraulic on their P5s and new P3s. If you don't want to go hydraulic either, you can use the TriRig Omega brake. It can accept either cable housing or bare cable, so you don't have to mount a cable stop if you don't want to. The Omega has a wind-tunnel-tested shape that, along with the Magura, makes it one of the most aero brakes you can buy today. TriRig was a sponsor for ATC Racing this past year, so of course we went with the Omega.

A bike's fork is one of the most critical aero parts of the bike. Like the aerobar, it is up front hitting clean air, and it affects how air flows around the bike and front wheel. Over time, many bike companies have tweaked and improved their forks. If you have an older model year P2 or P3, an easy upgrade is the latest Cervelo fork. Cervelo claims this fork is about a 1.5 watt, or 6 seconds per 40k, advantage over the best previous generation forks. In fact, any bike with a standard 1 1/8" head tube could upgrade to this fork. Kat's bike had the previous generation 3T fork, so we swapped it out for the new model. If you sell the old fork, this upgrade isn't even very expensive overall.

Final Result
With modified cable routing and brakes, a trick stem, and the latest fork, we have managed to achieve many of the aesthetic and aerodynamic features of much more expensive bikes with integrated front ends. Kat will put the new setup to the test this weekend at the Austin 70.3 triathlon as she competes in the relay category hoping to set a screaming fast bike split. UPDATE: 56 miles in 2:21:21 on 221 normalized watts. Fastest relay split by 6 minutes. Congrats Kat!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

5 Open Water Swim Locations in Austin

Given the recent deluge, honing your swimming skills might not be such a bad idea, and Sharkfest (Oct. 19) and Longhorn 70.3 (Oct. 27) are still on the horizon. Whether you’re looking to test out your wetsuit before race day or take one last dive before the temperatures do, here's a selection of Austin-area waters ideal for swim practice.

Lake Pflugerville
Open year-round to swimmers and closed to all motorized boat traffic, Lake Plugerville is a prime swim spot. The 180-acre reservoir, which supplies drinking water to the city of Pflugerville, is also surrounded by a three-mile granite trail, and there are many bike routes nearby.  A parking lot is located off of Weiss Lane on the eastern side of the lake near the gravel swim beach. The lake is the site of the Lake Pflugerville Triathlon in June.
Temp: 77° F
Location: 20 miles northeast of Austin
Address: 18216 Weiss Lane, Pflugerville, TX 78660

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Walter E. Long Lake (Decker Lake)
This lake, a 1,200-acre power plant cooling reservoir also used for recreational activities like boating and fishing, is the starting point for many area tris, including Longhorn 70.3 and the Couples Triathlon. Area roads are popular with cyclists. Park in the Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park ($8 admission).
Temp:  72-78° F
Location: 12 miles east of downtown
Address: 6614 Blue Bluff Rd., Austin, TX 78724

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Quarry Lake
A private, spring-fed lake operated by Pure Austin, Quarry Lake has an excellent 750-meter swim course. The well-known Splash & Dash series is held here on the third Tuesday of the month from April to September. A Pure Austin membership will get you access to the lake anytime, but short-term memberships and single-day passes ($21.65) are also available. Pro triathlete Colin O’Brady, recently interviewed on our blog, said he’s never seen a better permanent open water swim venue anywhere in the world.
Temp: current temp shown at
Location: North Austin
Address: 4210 West Braker Lane, Austin, TX 78759

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Barton Springs Pool 
Located at the heart of Zilker Park, this historical pool is one of Austin’s most-loved summertime attractions. During the winter or outside of peak hours, the three-acre, spring-fed pool makes for great swim practice. There are no lanes. Wetsuits are allowed, and you might be happy you brought one, because the water feels icy regardless of the temperature outside. Admission fee charged, $3-4 for adults; some times and seasons are free.
Temp: 70° F
Location: Zilker Park
Address: 2201 Barton Springs Rd., Austin, TX 78704

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Deep Eddy Pool
Like Barton Springs, Deep Eddy is an Austin icon. The oldest pool in Texas (built 1915), Deep Eddy is a 600,000-gallon freshwater swimming pool open year-round. The water is not chlorinated, and wetsuits are allowed. Admission fee charged, $3-4 for adults; swim passes and punch cards are also available for purchase.
Temp: 65-75° F
Location: central
Address: 401 Deep Eddy Drive, Austin, TX 78703

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Other swim locations:
Lake Travis
Canyon Lake, New Braunfels
Inks lake State Park, Burnet

Wetsuit Rental

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Life of a Runner Turned Cyclist Turned Triathlete

by Liz Shelton

Runners, just like our equipment, are fairly easy to understand. The only requirements needed to start are a decent pair of shoes, shorts, sports bra (optional for men), and at least a watch to log time or track splits. With runners, what you see is what you get. Depending on distance, we only need water, or at the most, a gel pack of our favorite flavor. And training for a 5K only takes a few weeks. (Well, at least according to every issue of Runner’s World.) We like our sleep. We like food. No, we LOVE food. Heck, sometimes I think my running is just a front so I can order the French toast with whipped cream at my favorite breakfast diner without guilt.

For the most part we get to bed early. Have you ever run 15 miles off of only four hours' sleep? We’ve all done it, but eventually we’ll learn the error of our ways. We like routine: our warm-ups, drills, even the way we tie our shoelaces. Creatures of habit, you could say. There’s not much that ruffles our feathers. We’ll talk to anybody on the trail who breathes, giving a friendly smile and wave of the hand to friends and strangers alike. Runners are a happy people. Our morning high stays long after the last mile ends, and gets us through the daily traffic grind and through endless work meetings. Life is good as a runner.

After my first charity ride, I began to dabble in cycling enough to join local group rides, but I wouldn’t consider myself a cyclist just yet. Cycling takes more effort and planning: load gear and bike in the backseat of the car (I refuse to get a rack), remove gear and bike from car, air up the tires, check fuel and water levels, helmet and shoes on, and then you’re finally ready to ride. I would say the biggest adjustment for me is riding with traffic. Runners can avoid traffic if we choose; winding trails and sidewalks offer some relief, but unless your idea of fun is repetitive loops on the Veloway chasing tricycles, then you have no choice but to ride roads. I will admit that I find myself riding the trainer more than I should during the week just to avoid speeding motorists. While my marathoner's endurance has carried over somewhat to my cycling, the speed from my track days does not. Not. One. Bit. It’s like starting over. But I knew it wouldn’t be easy, so like anything, you have to put in the time and keep at it.

I got into multisport the same way most do. Running…check. Cycling…check. Only one thing was standing between my exploring the triathlon world: swimming. While I practically grew up in my neighborhood pool, I never took formal lessons. I was na├»ve to think I could do my first tri without any. Danskin was a great experience. It was a women-only race, low-key, and I knew both the bike and run course at Decker from my running days. In other words, it was perfect. Except I spent the entire swim on my back, gasping for air and basically acting as a float for other girls to push off. I couldn’t swim more than 200 meters without stopping. I swallowed my pride and signed up for basic stroke and technique classes the very next day. I saw immediate results. Compared to my first tri, the second was smoother, and I bettered my swim by five minutes for the same distance (800m). Was I really that slow before?! Yes. Over time, I steadily improved and gained better overall conditioning. The bike is my weakest link and that will take time. The run leg feels most natural to me, so it’s a matter of staying relaxed, finding a quick rhythm right away, and focusing on turnover. 

Kerrville was my first Half Ironman. It was an amazing experience. While somewhat logistically complicated for a beginner not used to split transitions, the race was run beautifully (kudos to race organizers and sponsors!). I look forward to one day completing my first long-distance tri, but for now, I’ll continue on the journey to try new things and adjust to my new life as a multisport athlete. Life is still good.

Born and raised in Houston, Liz Shelton attended UT Austin on a Cross Country & Track Scholarship. While there, she was a seven-time conference champion and five-time All American in CC, Indoor & Outdoor Track, and she helped UT win four NCAA team titles in a row. Her accolades range from a Big 12 Indoor Athlete of the Year Award in 2000 to winning a title at the prestigious Penn Relays. In the 2000 Olympic trials, she placed seventh in the 800-meter finals. Currently she lives and trains in Austin with her husband, Jeff, and can frequently be spotted on ATC's  Wednesday run.