“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Vince Lombardi
Seeking opportunities…that’s really where I started when I began to plan out my 2016 season. The details in this sport matter so much, and there is much to be gained from boiling the whole athletic performance down to its essential parts and seeking to improve each one. My team and I asked the question, “How can we change the game this year – what opportunities exist that may advance us forward?” We want to work hard, yes, but more importantly, we want to work smart. Can we think about triathlon more like a software engineer would, rewriting the code to improve performance at every turn? Yes, as Dave Brailsford (previous general manager of Team Sky) puts it, success results from “performance by the aggregation of marginal gains.” It’s in the details, so rather than seeking one earth-shattering change, how can we instead optimize opportunities for small advantages, then stack those on top of each other to then create a bigger gap between us and the competition? The perfect race may never happen, but it’s through the pursuit of that which leads to executing an excellent one.
For me it was about these opportunities. I saw an opportunity in my swim performance so I spent time in The Woodlands swimming two-a-days for two weeks in January under Tim Floyd (Blog recap here). I saw an opportunity to gain free speed on my bike, so we have been tweaking things as we build up the new ride for 2016. I saw an opportunity to train differently, to add in more excitement and efficiency while dialing in my indoor training experience, so we overhauled our indoor gym. There was another opportunity too – let’s make racing and training travel a better, less stressful experience. So I did my research, contacted a company that could help me out in this arena, and made the necessary adjustments to my travel resources from there.
Not any one thing is going to propel me to new level over night. But careful, meticulous adjustment and refinement will make a difference. Because the sum of good equals great. Millimeters matter. Grams add up. Seconds can be the difference between 1st and 2nd (as it was for me on several occasions last year). Individually, it’s hard to see why such small measures mean so much, but as they stack up on top of each other again and again, it becomes a lot more obvious. So here are my 2016 game changers:
Felt IA FRD: Equipment choices are among the most important to me, across the board, for swim – bike – and run. I do a lot of testing before committing, and a lot of homework when it comes to determining the best brands and resources for me. I rode Felt last year and truly experienced the difference. I had the fastest bike split at most of the races I did, and that’s a testament to being on the right bike. It’s definitely exciting to be partnering this year, officially, with the company and we’ve done our due diligence to outfit it with the best components:
SRAM: eTap is something amazing. Smooth shifting and easy to charge.
Zipp: Lightening fast wheels. I will ride the 404/808 front and the Super-9 Carbon Clincher Disc.
Quarq: The Quarq Red Powermeter helps me get specific in my training and racing. Knowing the numbers is a huge advantage and I use the Garmin 520 to read all of my data.
Cobb Cycling Saddle: I have been on the V Flow for years and love it, but am changing over to the Gen 2 this year. With some recent bike fit changes, we found this saddle to be a bit more comfortable for me in a very aggressive bike position. Yes, you CAN be comfortable on your bike! It often comes down to the saddle.
Zipp Ski Tip bars (vs. S-Bend like last year): I found that I had a bad habit of clasping my hands together on the s-bend aero bars, creating drag. The with ski tip bars, I am much more comfortable and don’t shift around as much. It’s more aerodynamic for me, and it feels much more natural. Much thanks to TriShop for helping me with the build up, it’s comfortable and FAST.
(Note the party foul in picture below!)
Wahoo Fitness KICKR: The design replicates a more realistic, road-like feel and with this smart trainer comes a plethora of software training options. We now have the KICKR smart trainers set up in our home gym and I’ve enabled TrainerRoad, which hosts hundreds of workouts and allows for complete customization of your own agenda too. A few of my favorite TrainerRoad workouts are:
- -Carpathian Peak +1
- -The Buckhorn variations
- -Antelope +1
- -Izaak Walton
- -Baird Peak is also pretty challenging!
- -I usually customize my own workouts, which takes only a matter of minutes
I use Zwift sometimes too and am always able to get accurate, consistent, and calibrated power data. The KICKR does everything wirelessly, so I no longer have a junk pile of cords and cables. It operates smoothly and is very easy to set up. Every so often on my previous trainer, my rear tire would blow. Now I never have to worry about this ~ I remove the rear wheel and place it on the KICKR cassette and am ready to roll. No wheel swap necessary at all. Wahoo makes it easy to combine technology and training. It truly has this amazing real-world feel and has seriously enhanced my training because it’s easy to use, true to real-road scenarios, and tech savvy. They even make it easy to purchase with an entire “pain cave bundle” you can order direct from web. I admit, I am definitely a “Wahooligan” as they call it…
Click and follow me on Strava if you to keep up with the fun. Especially the adventures of stickman…
Scicon Bags: I have spent so much time dialing in my bike fit, and every time I traveled with my bike I’d have to remove parts (seat post, aero bars, etc.) then put them back on, and hope they were just about in the right place. Millimeters matter though and I always cringed knowing the build up could be a little bit off. This year, I will be traveling with the Scicon Aerocomfort Triathlon Bike bag so now I don’t have to worry! All I’ll do is remove the wheels, that’s it! Couldn’t be easier. Bike fit stays intact and essentially no tools are required. It saves me so much time and hassle. I am very glad to have Scicon Bags as part of the team now.
Omnium Portable Trainer by Feedback Sports: When it comes to “new toys” I am most excited about, this is one that is at the top of the list. I have traveled around the world to race and there are some places that are NOT conducive to cycling outside leading up to the event. Not only that, but sometimes the weather can be awful (down pouring rain, really really cold, etc.) prior to the race, and you just don’t want to risk riding outdoors. However, a pre-race spin is always a part of my race lead up and is important to do if not just to check the bike and ensure it traveled ok! I can think of so many races over the past couple of years where having this guy would have been SO so helpful. It’s actually a carry-on, and is lightweight and easy to bring with me, so I don’t have to worry about mapping out a ride route in an unfamiliar city now. Or waiting until the rain clears to do my spin. Or driving way out of the way just to get on a quiet part of the course to get in my training. It will keep me safe and remove much of the travel hassle I experienced over the past couple of seasons – no headache just to set this up and hop on for a spin. You can totally do a workout on it; there is no assembly required and it can handle the watts. As you can tell, I was very excited to establish a relationship with Feedback Sports for 2016 – really cool company based in Golden, Colorado. Check them out: https://www.feedbacksports.com
Run Gait Analysis: This might seem a little odd since typically my run has been my strength, but I actually do not have a background in running. So in some ways, I didn’t learn the best techniques when I was growing up. I’ve just become “efficient at being inefficient” so-to-speak! My form is honestly not bad, but I knew there was some benefit in having my gait analyzed to see where some improvements in efficiency could be made. And I’m a visual learner so having the videos of me running are extremely helpful. We are working through one thing at a time so that it doesn’t become overwhelming. This is what we are starting with:
-Arms held too high so SHRUG, then relax the shoulders. That’s where they should be. . .
-Left elbow goes behind the body during the back arm pump. It pulls the torso, twisting it, causing right foot to land too far inside. So keep the arms (elbows) out like you are nudging someone – punch it out.
I have to give Ben Drezek in Dallas a shout out for helping with the filming/analysis. He provided a plethora of drills and exercises to do that are specific to my needs based on my gait. We are doing a lot of hip and glute strengthening as well. You might try having a trainer video you on the treadmill as well just so you can see your form – you can see where some breakdown might be occurring and then take the steps to correct it from there. You can probably see a lot of the imbalances yourself, but if you have access to a run coach, they could also provide feedback for you. Here is Ben’s website: http://kmfperformance.com
Garmin Varia: Brandon got me this radar system (through TriShop) that hooks on the back of my bike so that while I’m out training I can be aware of traffic around me. It’s SO awesome. It syncs with the Garmin 520 and alerts me when a car is approaching, giving a huge heads up. It shows the car approaching with a tiny dot, and I don’t have to switch screens to track it. It lights up red when a car is on-coming and changes to green when you’re again in the clear. It’s so awesome to have since I do much of my training solo. I feel so much safer. Further, it alerts the car that YOU are there with unique flashing lights on the back of the bike. Pretty awesome! (Nope, not sponsored, just want to share good tips when I get them!) It helps me to really zone in on my training and worry less about safety.
As with the marginal gains philosophy, I would encourage you to look at every single aspect of what you do so you can try and improve it. Because the “medals are in the details.”