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Zane Grey 50K: Lessons Learned
April 30, 2008

Everything seemed great. The air was cool, the trail clear. So, with a yelp from someone at the front, the 2008 Zane Grey 50K was off and running up the Highline Trail in the Tonto National Forest north of Payson. As with so many stories that start out that way, things quickly got, well, a little off track.

I remember seeing the sign. I remember the sage words of Karsten Solheim, who was one of the first to take on the entire trail, the night before. And then I quickly dismissed his advice to stop and look at every sign. You see, I was in a pack of four people a short distance behind a group of the leaders. Everyone was going up Trail 26. That, of course, made everyone wrong. I realized this 20 minutes up the trail and after climbing a hill into the heavens. But in an event of 32 miles, what's wrong with adding another 3 for sport?

Back on track, the thoughts of lessons immediately learned ran wild.

  • Lesson 1: Never assume fast people in front know where they are going.
  • Lesson 2: Bring a map.
  • Lesson 3: Listen to words of advice, especially from people who have run the event 15 times.
  • Lesson 4: An event with the word "toughest" in the title, tagline or description is to be feared.
  • Lesson 5: So is one with 8,000 feet of elevation gain.
  • Lesson 6: Zane Grey is for goats and pack mules.

It wasn't long before I was making up ground. My lungs were pumping in oxygen with surprising efficiency given my location around 5,200 feet. The greater challenge was the terrain. Zane Grey is a rocky, debris-laden trail in many places. The trail can be tough to find and often is heading up. It's like Camelback Mountain's Cholla Trail, but with more rocks and a lot less use. Beautiful views are barely noticed because the only thing you're eyeballing is the trail and your feet. Perhaps that is why it seemed like it took so long to get to the first aid station at about 8 miles.

There was relief when I finally spotted Kara at the aid station. She had heard a group of us got off track and expected a slower time than the 1:40 I had predicted. But at 2:31, I was way behind schedule and in a hurry to get back on the trail. I downed some gels, a ton of water and Nuun and grabbed a Amphipod bottle to go with my 4-bottle Fuel Belt Helium. Truth is I was worked up and headed out fast. I needed to make up time if I was going to make it to the next aid station at 17 miles before the noon deadline.

It quickly became apparent that the Highline Trail was no place to make up lost time. My legs burned with each upward step. It wasn't long before stumbling and shuffling replaced jogging. Water was going quick as were calories, but I was avoiding taking any gels for fear of using too much water. That was wrong. Soon enough, I was out of gas. I tried to stick with the trail as it wound under downed trees, in rugged stream-cut ravines and up, up, up. That was it. I planned to quit if things didn't dramatically improve. And they didn't.

In some races, especially long ones such as Ironman, time seems to slip away. It doesn't really exist. Well, on this day, every second existed. They pounded their way through my head and down to my legs. Someone spotted an elk. Another woman spotted a bear. I was oblivious. I wouldn't have known a bear was near the trail if the thing was tearing off my arm. I was done, cooked. I just had to make it the mile that a sign indicated the second aid station was. Easy right? Wrong. It took another 45 minutes of mostly ups but a few downs to get there. It was the longest mile of my life.

As I rounded a corner and saw Kara, I wanted to give the event another chance. I didn't just want to quit and go home, but rather I wanted to rest a bit, hydrate and see if the desire to head back out was somewhere in my being. It took about 3 seconds after coming off the trail to pull the plug. Zane grey and the Highline trail had won this battle after a fight of 5 hours, 14 minutes, 42 seconds.

Odds + Ends: SaltStick, Energy Chews, IM China ...
April 25, 2008

A day or so before Ironman Arizona, a bespectacled man by the name of Jonathan Toker paid us a visit. He carried With him SaltStick Electrolyte Capsules, an electrolyte replacement that he had developed. Of all the electrolyte replacement products on the market, he said, none actually put back in what sweat dragged out during training and racing sessions. None, that is, except for SaltStick. Made sense to us. So, now we carry SaltStick Electrolyte Capsules. Take them for a spin this summer and see what you think.

The latest edition to the crowded nutrition world comes from PowerBar. They call them Gel Blasts and they should arrive late next month or in early June. Though they and others would cringe, the concept of these Blasts is similar to Clif Bloks, Sport Beans, etc. They deliver electrolytes and calories in a chewable form and work particularly well for the folks out there who find the consistency of energy gels tough to swallow. There is a "liquid" center, which seems kind of strange. But let's see how they do. To be available in cola and lemon flavors, Gel Blasts will provide 30mg of sodium and 190 calories per six pieces.

PowerBar has been going gangbusters with the electrolyte products of late. Last month they introduced Electrolyte Sticks. these individually wrapped packets make for easy electrolyte travel and offer a great taste. Not to sound like their PR department, but they do really taste good and seem to work well. There is a little sugar, making it a little sweet when added to the amount of water suggested. But dilution dulls it down. They come in Berry and Lemon.

A while back we talked about the inaugural Ironman China, which went off without too much trouble last weekend. Australian Belinda Granger and Germany’s Olaf Sabatschus took top honors in humid 90-degree temperatures. But also competing was Clay Blair of Phoenix, who trains with Gage Total Training. He battled a lengthy, hopscotching flight to finish the historic event. Congratulations, Clay.

A Run In The Woods
April 23, 2008

This could be tough. Really tough. For me (Brian), running 32 miles at a stretch is a new endeavor. Running 32 miles with 8,000 feet of elevation gain is a frightening endeavor. But within that promise of terror at this weekend's Zane Grey Highline Trail 50 is the excitement of facing a new challenge.

For years, I've wandered through thoughts of ultra-distance running - the peaceful existence, trees, rocks, bugs and all. There is something primal about ambling for miles and miles on foot. Like Ironman, these events catapult us back in time, to some extent. We become the same early travelers, but with heart rate monitors. It is a desire for simpler existence, without the add-ons, attachments and options. We come to find challenge in the elements, but face them with adiPRENE® and GORE-TEX®. We do this not for survival, but instead for fun.

It is cliche, this notion of escaping modernity in search of some purpose or meaning. But there is some truth in such a thing. Yet, perhaps, it is not a treasure hunt for soul, rather it is one for challenge and success in something new. In the end, I hope to find something - not the least of which is the finish line.

Triathlon: Mother Of Invention
April 18, 2008

What is it about triathletes that seems to bring out the spirit of innovation? Is it a love for the sport? An addiction? Perhaps triathlon overly attracts the creative. Maybe we're all looking for the next Post-it note of the three sports world so we can quit our jobs in order to train and race like the professionals. Or, maybe we just have a problem that requires a solution.

Take, for example, a challenge a friend solved for himself before Ironman. His electrolyte pills were getting soaked in the coin purse in which he carried them. He considered a couple of options: A breath mint tin with a hinged lid, a film canister, small plastic laboratory bags. It turns out, though, that Mentos makes a nifty little pop-top plastic container to hold its product. Salt tabs went in the container and the container into a Ziploc bag. POOF! Instant, waterproof carrying case. It worked great, he said. Within that process, perhaps, the light bulb goes off and companies are born.

How about this one? AquaJoe was created to make it just a little bit easier to get drink powder into water bottles and the like. The plastic container has a scoop-type lid to shovel in drink mix and pour it into a water bottle. Who ever knew we needed such a thing?

Here's another interesting invention: An aero bottle koozie. Tired of his aero bottle heating up in the Arizona sun, one local fellow got to thinking about insulating the thing. He crafted a neoprene sleeve that fit over the top and middle portions of a standard Profile Design aero bottle. It worked, too. The challenge, though, was producing them at an affordable cost. Cool, huh?

Another one comes from someone who must hate plain, old lists or calendars. TRImapper.com offers a visual display of triathlon locations around the world. With Google Maps as a base, TRImapper displays color-coded markers in locations where triathlons are held.

If you're directionally challenged, Multisport Design Works has a solution for you. With the Transition Flag, no longer will you be wandering around aimlessly in transition looking for your bike. And all the while you're helping someone make a living doing something they love.

IM AZ: Kicking Off 30 Years Of Ironman
April 11, 2008

We've all heard the story about John Collins and the origins of Ironman. Fifteen men started the first Ironman that February day in Honolulu, 12 finished, including the first winner Gordon Haller. Lyn Lemaire became the first woman to finish during the second running of Ironman in 1979. Since then, the event has turned into a global brand in addition to one of the most grueling endurance events of our time. With the passing of just two more days, Ironman Arizona will kick start North America's 30th year of Ironman racing and continue a mesmerizing process that has pulled thousands of people into its grip, including a few of us around here.

If you think about it, so much of our lives are spent watching other people do things. We watch seemingly everyday folks summit Mount Everest every May. We watch men and women play football or golf or basketball with such skill they earn hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars. But for some reason, we cannot stop ourselves from just watching people compete and complete Ironman triathlons. One or two or 20 must be done to better ourselves, to test ourselves, to simply see for ourselves. And therein lies the allure.

Why average or otherwise apparently normal people take on great quests is somewhat of a mystery. British climber George Mallory, who could very well have been the first man to summit Mount Everest, famously answered the question about the reasoning behind his endeavor: "Because it's there." For Ironman athletes, reasons vary, but they seem deeper than Mallory's quip. Perhaps it is not because Ironman is there so much as it is that "I am here." We humans, curious beings that we are, share a need to prove ourselves, be it to others or ourselves. So, we climb mountains and race Ironman.

Introducing: Ask Triple Sports
April 9, 2008

When you walk in the door at Triple Sports, it's fairly clear what we do. We sell stuff. We sell stuff related to swimming, cycling, running and triathlon with a little yoga and lifestyle thrown in for good measure. And we answer questions. Lots and lots of questions. We're happy to do it and the service is free. The hope, of course, is that question-askers will buy stuff so we can work at making a living. It's a nice trade-off, we think. But realizing that not everyone can or wants to pay us a visit, we're casting our services into the online sea with a new feature called Ask Triple Sports.

Ask Triple Sports is a simple web form to jot down questions and send them into the Answer-O-Meter. With some smoke, flashing lights and a little rumbling, out pop answers that will be emailed to the questioner and posted within these pages for all to see - minus anything that might identify the person doing the asking. It's that simple and it's free. How about that?

We can't take total and complete credit for Ask Triple Sports. Years ago, Brian's Dad Jerry used to work at a place in Minnesota called Northern States Power, now named Excel Energy or some such thing. He came up with an idea there to help educate people about energy consumption, safety and just about anything else they were wondering about when it concerned power generation and delivery. It was very helpful and popular. We hope Ask Triple Sports will be as well.

It's In The Bag
April 4, 2008

There are many confusing things for the first time Ironman athlete. Wait. There are many confusing things for the Ironman athlete. Even experienced Ironman athletes are tossed for a loop in the days before the Big Event. Here are some things that they might not tell you in the athlete guide.

Checking in before the race is one of the most important things you will do. You will stand in line. You will wait with other nervous athletes. And then you will weigh in. Officials use this weight as a baseline to help determine your condition should you need medical attention.

At registration you receive lots of race numbers, timing chip, transition area bags and valuable instruction from volunteers. Pay attention to them. Be nice. Be patient.

You will receive five colorful bags. One is for your race morning clothes. One is for T1 or the swim to bike transition. One is for T2 or the bike to run transition. One is for special needs on the bike. And one is for special needs on the run. You will affix a sticker with your number to each one. It may seem obvious, but put into them what you think you will need at each stage of the event. Put your helmet, bike shoes and whatever else you'll need on the bike leg in your T1 bag. If you think you will need lots of tubes, stick 'em in your bike special needs bag. A soft-sided cooler can be nice for keeping special treats cool, as well. A fresh pair of socks in your run special needs bag might be more heavenly than just about anything outside of stopping during the event. Just know that you probably will get back most of the things in your transition bags, but you should expect to not get your special needs bags back.

Pre-Race Meal + Meeting
This is mandatory. They won't check to see if you actually showed up or anything, but it is very informative. Plus, the play a silly video that is good for a few laughs. Besides, what's better than hanging out with hundreds of your fellow nervous athletes?

Bike Check
You will place your bike on a rack in the transition area based on your number. Drop-off times are in the athlete guide. Remember: You are just dropping off your bike - not sending your child off to preschool for the first time. You will have access to your bike on race morning. There is no need to stock up your ride with nutrition at drop off. you might consider draping a towel over the bike and releasing a little air from the tires to help avoid a surprise when you show up on race morning.

You have just completed months of training. You likely are in the best shape of your life. Resist the urge to overdo it in the days before the race. The hay is in the barn. You can do yourself no good by fiercely running or riding off that nervous excitement. Stay off your feet during the week as much as possible.

Expect The Unexpected
Dealing with challenges can be difficult. We showed up on race morning one time to a broken bike computer and a lost timing chip. We worked feverishly to fix the computer, but to no avail. Another chip was found, though. Stress was at maximum levels. And, you know what, it did us no good during the race. You must let go. In most cases, no challenge is so bad that it cannot be overcome mentally. Relax and enjoy.

Swimming Sensation
April 1, 2008

It is being banned. It is controversial. Many contend it produces record-breaking results. We're talking about performance enhancing chemicals, right? Wrong. Instead, it's a swimsuit, of all things.

Speedo's Fastskin LZR Racer has been the talk of the town since its debut in mid February. This high-neck suit uses compression technology to reduce the amount of drag a swimmer produces by as much as 5 percent. Stealthy, water-repellent fabric and bonded seams come together to create the most feared and prized piece of high technology swimwear in years. In fact, product engineers from Speedo's Aqualab worked with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) consultants to build this suit. So, what does it all mean. Controversy, in a word.

Since elite athletes first received the LZR Racer, swimmers wearing the suit have been responsible for felling 18 of 19 world records. In fact, the world record for the 50m freestyle - one of the longest standing in swimming - has fallen four times. LZR-adorned swimmers were behind all of those record-breaking performances. The NCAA, which governs collegiate athletics in the United States, has banned the suit from competition until all swimmers are able to get one, which likely will not be until mid or late summer. FINA, swimming's governing body, is taking a look at the suit to determine what, if any, action to take. And aside from availability, the biggest challenge to getting the new LZR Racer might be shelling out the $550 to pay for it.

But there are some other options. There is the Blue Seventy pointzero3, which has turned the triathlon world on its head. Adidas has the TechFit PowerWeb swimsuit and Arena is developing the Powerskin R-EVOLUTION to rival the LZR Racer. As of yet, though, Speedo is swimming away with the race.

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