Irwin Newsletter - January
January 01, 2020
The Right Time to do a Full Ironman
By Elliot Bach
One of the more commonly asked questions among triathletes concerns the right time to do a Full Ironman. Endurance athletes are a strange breed of people who are always looking for that next hard thing to do and accomplish. As a coach, athletes come to me all the time saying they want to do an Ironman and check it off their bucket list. While I am always eager to help with this request, several factors play into the what constitutes the right timing - things such as work, family, and time available for training. For a beginner athlete or someone who is fairly new to the sport of triathlon, the before mentioned factors play a huge role. I would ask such things as: "Do you work in a field or environment that allows you to train on the weekends as well as before or after work; and how supportive is your family?" Ironman training can be hard and taxing on a family with all the time spent training and away from home, including many weekends. One has to be realistic about how much time is available for training. A good rule of thumb is to take whatever total hours you are available to train each week and then subtract about 25% from that.
Once the basic fundamentals are checked off, it's time to start the process! Athletes who come to me for Ironman coaching want to know first of all, where do we start? I have found the most success with athletes by taking an entire calendar year to properly train, by completing other distances and working up to the full distance. A trainee would race roughly each quarter beginning with sprint distance, followed by an olympic distance, and then onto a half ironman. At the end of the year in the fourth quarter, the athlete would complete a full Ironman. An important thing is to decide first on the Ironman that one is going to do and then work a year back from there to add in the other distances. If you wanted to race Ironman Texas for example in May, the following is what a typical race season might look like leading up to the Ironman. Your sprint distance would be done sometime in June or July and this could be a local race, nothing big, followed by a local olympic distance in late October. Next a great 70.3 to do do would be either 70.3 Pucon in mid January or, Taiwan 70.3 or Campeche 70.3 with both fall in the beginning of March which also both work great for your Ironman that is at the end of April. Having the ability to follow this linear approach allows for proper fitness testing, building a strong base and foundation, and fine tuning a nutrition plan for race day. The athlete needs to have a long training phase which builds up endurance as well as mileage. I highly encourage athletes to not rush this process, because more times than not, trying to rush or take shortcuts can lead lead to injury and therefore lengthening the time before the big race. Devoting an entire year can seem somewhat daunting and long, but this will result in a much better return on the investment. My goal is to show up to the Ironman fit, confidant, and ready to go. As one who has been in the sport of triathlon for over ten years, these are just a few of the things I have learned through personal experience and coaching numerous ironman athletes. Long distance racing is not only fun on race day, but the process of training and leading up to it is an amazing experience.
Breakaway Cycling - a grassroots effort
September 22, 2019
One of the missions of Speed Hound is to come alongside and support groups whose mission it is to give back to their community. Today, we are highlighting Breakaway Cycling Team, a non profit 501 (C)3, based out of Fayetteville, Arkansas. Their name belies what they really are however. They are a competitive team, yes. But they are a team that grew out of mother’s quest to help her son achieve a goal, which has turned into a mission to create a life-long learning environment for kids and women through the sport of cycling.
The seed for Breakaway Cycling was planted nine years ago after Tiffany Dixon's son, Austin, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 11. Austin read Not Dead Yet about pro cyclist, Phil Sutherland, who survived and thrived despite having the challenging disease and decided that he wanted to be a cyclist like Phil. Over time, he didn't shake the bug that had been planted in his brain, and so his mom, Tiffany, went and purchased him a road bike. From there, she looked for a place in which he could ride, learn, and grow in the sport. She soon found that there wasn't really a place for a junior cyclist to thrive in her area. So, she decided to create an environment for him where he can learn, experiment, and be with his peers with similar interests. Tiffany learned all about the sport and got to know every team, bike store, and riding group in the area. She found individuals who would help, she learned about bikes, she encouraged other kids, and soon found herself with a new side gig.
Over time, she expanded her reach and the group became a more formal organization. The juniors grew in the sport, and started to become competitive. They traveled to races. She made sure they had kits, gear, bikes, and coaches by having the more experienced riders coach the new ones. They recruited a woman's team and therefore they then had more mentors for the junior females who had joined. Following that, there was an outreach to get more women in cycling, even as just a casual rider. They put on skills clinics, basic maintenance clinics, and even taught the juniors (and their parents) how to do a complete bike build!
Throughout all of this, Tiffany's goal has been to advocate, educate and stress the importance of teamwork. They advocate for their team, each other, for females, and for cyclists in general. They educate through their clinics and through outreach in their area. Finally, and most importantly, they stress teamwork. Working for and with each other for the greater good of the team, and as a result, becoming better people through that. Tiffany hopes that what the juniors, especially, get out of this is that they can succeed in anything. Powering up a tough hill requires the same mental fortitude as passing that challenging math course. The team believes in building inner confidence that these team members can apply to all aspects of their life.
Over the last few years, Tiffany and the Breakaway Cycling organization have been steadily building towards a vision of putting more kids and women on bikes, ensuring that they have the right environment and support to thrive in the support and in life. Breakaway Cycling Team is always looking for partners and sponsors to help them as they continue to grow their team's mission. Costs such as transportation to races, gear, and even food are always present. Tiffany also puts on the Pastry Tour, a bike rally in Fayetteville, Alabama that offers 3 distances for all levels of cyclists. All proceeds go to support Breakaway Cycling, but as a non profit, donations and monetary support is always needed and welcomed. If you'd like to help them in their mission, please contact Tiffany Dixon at email@example.com or go to www.breakawaycyclingteam.org to learn more.
Ironman Texas Race Review
September 21, 2019
A very good beginner's race or a race for someone looking to PR. Bike is flat and fast but lacking scenery. The three looped mostly flat run has incredible, lively course support and is a true highlight of the race. Great for spectating and for families. Weather can be hot, humid, and windy, but is variable. That is the same with water temps in terms of being borderline wetsuit legal each year.
This race (formerly the North American Championships) usually doesn’t sell out until late Fall. You definitely want to train for the heat, humidity, and wind, and then perhaps be pleasantly surprised if you get something other than that. It is a Saturday race, and some people find that to be a positive.
IMTX is located in The Woodlands, a northern suburb of Houston. It is a lovely tree-lined city that has anything you need within 1 mile of most of the hotels racers would stay in. Ironman Village is located right off a main thoroughfare, tucked behind some restaurants and a Nestle ice cream store, which myself and my family visited daily during our time there. Ideally, you want to stay at the Marriott, the host hotel, as you are spitting distance from everything and it takes away the stress of parking and walking with all of your stuff. They have very strict parking rules there, and with having the swim start a mile from transition, it takes a lot of walking and driving back and forth if you do the practice swim the day before. Should I do this race again, my family has all decided that the $400 a night minimum it will cost to stay at the Marriott is worth it. They're the ones sitting around waiting for me for 12 hours, so who am I to argue with them?
Expect heat, humidity, and wind, but it's Texas, so it is always a surprise! I've been sort of lucky on my two IMTX race days. In 2017, it started out nice, but then a cold front came through around noon, dropped a few raindrops, and then it became very windy (this is a prevailing theme here at IMTX). But, the run, which can be hot and humid wound up being like 65 degrees. That was nice. However, the headwind coming back on the Hardy Toll road was tough. Fortunately, I was on my last loop so I only had to deal with it for 25 miles. In 2019, there was low humidity (a RARE occurrence) but there was a headwind going out on the toll road. I would estimate it was steady about 12 mph, but was definitely gusting up towards 20. That was tough, especially if you don't live and train in a windy environment. The run was very warm. The sun is strong in Texas and you could feel it. However, there are a lot of portions of the run that are in shade, which offers a nice respite.
Swim: 3/5 Likely wetsuit legal
Wetsuit legal? Yes in 2018 and 2019, no in 2017. They have a self-seeded rolling start. 2017 was more of a free-for-all and the start was challenging. In 2019, it was controlled very well and I felt like there was a lot of space to just swim. The buoys are placed well, and there was a lot of kayak support. It has never been super choppy either. You head straight out and then once you do the first two turns (a left and a left), you'll be heading towards the sun and that can be challenging. About ¾ of the way going back towards the start, you'll make a right turn into a narrow canal. In 2017, it felt like a washing machine in there. But, in 2019, it felt like I was just being pulled along in a current. The water is a little murky and maybe not the cleanest. There are also submerged plants which, for the faint of heart, can be startling, The swim exit is a quick left turn and they pull you up and out and have wetsuit strippers.
Transition areas: 5/5
Well organized. You lay out your bags the day before and they have plenty of people helping you find yours. The tent helpers were good both times and they had plenty of people offering sun screen – PUT ON THE SUNSCREEN!! There were a lot of port-a-potties too. The bike out is great and full of people cheering you on. It was so loud that the first year, I didn't even hear my family and they were like 20 feet from me.
Bike: 3/5 Flat
The bike is very hard to give a score to. On the one hand, it is a fast and flat course– except for the overpasses! But, it is BORING. You spent 80 miles on a toll road – two loops. There is little scenery, few people except for the aid stations, and no shade. You are out in the elements with zero protection from the wind. On the plus side, the road condition is spectacular, no pot holes, very little debris, and no chip seal! The other 31 miles of the course are basically through the streets of the The Woodlands and surrounding cities. Those are very nice and traffic is well controlled. There is a 20 yard section going out and back on a frontage road that is a horrifically bad road. Slow down and you'll be fine and off of it in two minutes. Just watch for all the water bottles that have fallen out of other people's bikes. Other than that, there are no other “danger” zones or no pass zones.
Run: 5/5 Flat with some mild rollers
I would give this 6 out of 5 if I could. This run was the only reason I came back to Texas. It feels like the entire city is out there cheering you on. It is a three loop course with a couple minor uphills and false flats. But, with the uphills, comes the down hills. All of them are minimal grade. There are tons of aid stations with everything you could want to ingest. But I will reiterate, the support is incredible and all over the place. Sometimes, it is almost too much, but boy does it help you keep going.
You're an Ironman now. All of the finishes are 5/5!
Family friendliness: 4/5
There are plenty of things to do to keep them busy. You are within ¾ of a mile of a mall, and there is a movie theater right across the street from the finish line. There are also a lot of restaurants, including the aforementioned Nestle ice cream store. There are shady places to sit. There are always good sight lines and it is easy to get around. I was able to see my family 6 times on the run and all they really had to do was walk across a pedestrian bridge. The best place to sit on the run is on the grassy areas around the Waterway path. For the swim, there is a sidewalk all along the first section of the swim where you can see the entry as well as the first leg. The one drawback is the walk to and from the swim back to Transition for the spectators. That is an extra 2 miles of walking on an already tiring day. We decided that my husband and kids would just skip the swim start entirely at my second race. For the bike, any spot at the entrance and exit is really your only shot to see anything on the bike. For any last minute race needs, there are a few bike stores in the area, including Bicycle World and Bike Land.
The Skinny V4
May 22, 2018
Workout: 60 Minutes Bike Power & Efficiency
April 17, 2018
Announcing: Our support of The Wingman Foundation (TWF)! #missionpossible
April 06, 2018
Getting started with a power meter
April 01, 2018
The Skinny v3
March 06, 2018
Hi all, happy National Dentist's Day! Yes, there's such a thing. What's the tie to triathlons? Frankly, not much. The only thing I can think of is my teeth-chattering 112 bike leg in the 2015 Ironman Arizona race where the temperature was in the low 40's and it poured for most of the ride. My transition turned into a huddle next to the heater for 15 minutes to thaw out. Alright, on to this week's Skinny...
1/ Podium Girls
Wait, don't get offended, it's not that kind of post! Well, hopefully this is the last time you'll be seeing this kind of photo, at least at the Tour de France. TdF officially announced that they will be doing away with Podium Girls. Podium girls, aka "hostesses", have been a long standing tradition in cycling. The signature pose in Pro Cycling is a photo of two attractive ladies kissing the winner on the cheek. (Don't tell my son Elliott - he has this thing about kissing other people on the lips that we're trying to discourage.) Yeah, I know. One can argue "tradition" is a great excuse. As in many sports (and otherwise), women's participation has been growing rapidly and now FINALLY, this type of tradition is now being challenged as sexist. I'm not here to pick a fight or anything but we should respect men and women alike without objectifying anyone or accessorizing the podium in that way. There's just something wrong about the male winner holding a trophy with women next to it. What's even worse is the unfair number of Kona slots for men vs women. BTW, if you want to share your POV, there's a lot of people doing that on Slowtwitch.
2/ "Affordable Power"
The number one upgrade that most coaches and cyclists would recommend without disagreement in improving your cycling performance is a power meter. These devices have come a long ways over the last 15 years and have improved in their accuracy, flexibility/versatility, and in their "affordability". Granted, affordability is in the eye of the beholder so I use this in a relative context. Prices for power meters used to be in the multiple thousands but are now under $1000. The main options are hub, crank, or pedal based. Most of the action and innovation targeting the masses are pedal based. The main models to consider are the PowerTap P1 ($799), Garmin Vector 3 ($999), and the new kid on the block Favero Assioma ($519). With Garmin and Favero's late 2017 introductions last year, PowerTap P1 prices dropped from $1200 to now $799. I guess this is what it takes to compete. If you want all the details, check out DCR's detailed post on this. Here's my PowerTap P1...
3/ Strength training
Triathletes are busy people, and training for three different sports doesn't make it any easier. Conceptually, and research have proven, that strength training not only improves your performance but also prevents injury. However, this is one area that many triathletes end up deprioritizing due to time...guilty here! 220 Triathlon has an article that outlines a few key exercises that I've been doing. It only takes 30 minutes of my time if I'm efficient (ie circuit training style). Here's the TLDR version:
- Lat pull-down
- Leg press
- Calf raise
- Tricep press
- Dumbbell step-ups
- Hip flexion
- Dumbell raise
- Bench crunches
Alright ya'll, now get out there and crush it the rest of the week. Be safe out there!
P.S. Feel free to write if you have any feedback on content, format, etc. I love hearing from our athletes!
The Skinny v2
February 13, 2018
The edition is a two-fer announcing Zwift Running and the Milestone Pod (the best running pod for the money). I would sign-up for Zwift Running now and check it out while it's free!
The Skinny v1
February 07, 2018
Looking for a win/win? Check out The Don Kit by Endura, all profits go to help Tim Don recover. Also, the book of all books for age group triathletes who want to go the distance while juggling work, family, etc.
Taking on the LA Marathon
February 28, 2017
My journey from runner to triathlete to entrepreneur
December 31, 2016
My journey in sports started with running in high school that continued in college. But deep down inside, what I’ve always dreamed of doing is triathlons. Yes, as a young athlete, the physical challenge of excelling in three sports and the grueling distances in each discipline piqued my interest. But what captivated me was the focus, passion, discipline, mental toughness, and commitment required. I have been a spectator of the sport for over 30 years now and still remember watching Dave Scott, Mark Allen, and Paula Newby-Fraser battle it out in the Hawaii Ironman. It wasn’t until a few years ago when a stress fracture sidelined me from running and cycling that forced me to pursue something else. Soon after, I cracked open Total Immersion, got a coach, and learned how to swim. After I got my feet wet (pun intended!), I went on to race Sprint to Ironman distance triathlons and loved every minute of it!
This has been a humbling journey that taught me a lot about all the possibilities when you are willing to push beyond self-imposed limits in sport and in life. This breakthrough in my attitude and in my thinking helped breathe new energy into every aspect of my life - my family and the work that I do. This gift I got from the sport is what inspired me to create Speed Hound- to help others breakthrough and live life without limits. I hope you will find this to be a place with inspiration, community, curated knowledge, and products that will help you realize your goals.
Life is just like competing in a race. Some show up to be a part of it and others have the passion and drive to overcome barriers in order to have the race of their life. Bill Bowerman put it best when he said “The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test the limits of the human heart.” Are you ready? Join me in living life at full throttle and in finishing the race strong!
Competing and creating Speed Hound would not be possible without the support, cheering, and nagging from my wife Cindy, and my three kids Sophie, Oliver and Elliott. They are my foundation and the fans of Speed Hound are my inspiration to achieve even more.
I always enjoy hearing other triathlete's story, experience, challenges and learnings. If you have any ideas or suggestions for us, I would love to hear from you! Please get in touch with me below.