Friday, May 28, 2010

Harryman Olympic Triathlon - Race Review

by Lindsay

Last Saturday Ton and I (and our trusty driver and superfan Rob) headed up to Harriman State Park to compete in the Genesis Adventures Harryman "Olympic" distance triathlon.  I say "Olympic" because it was actually quite a bit shorter than that, but more on that later.  Unlike the previous years, the weather is gorgeous for the race.  Mid-60s, going up to the 70s, and sunny.  The weather had been even warmer the week before so the water had warmed up a bit from its usual low 50s to close to 60!  That's very warm for Lake Welch in mid May!  Unfortunately, the notorious hills are still there.

The race had a very humane start time of 10:30 am so we left NYC at 8am, armed with Thai bagels spread with peanut butter and Nutella.  Arrived just before 9, checked in, and racked our bikes (first come, first served!).  We were both in the 2nd wave, only because we had signed up later than 1/2 of the participants.  The waves were not by age or gender, as is customary.  This is a bit annoying because people you may be competing against in your age group could start 3 minutes ahead or behind you, so it's hard to know out on the course who is really ahead.

The race was small so there weren't as many logistical things to do and we ended up killing time until 10:10, when we got our wetsuits and made our way down to the lake for a warm up swim.  I take my first Gu Roctane.  At 10:15 we hear rumors that the swim has been canceled.  Huh?  Prior to our race there was a Half Iron distance race that went off without incident and the weather is still beautiful so this comes as a (late) surprise. We go back to transition and hear rumors that not enough lifeguards showed up and had they realized this earlier the Half participants wouldn't have been allowed to go off (oops).  So we're running 1 mile instead.  Instantly worried that this will be fast and make me hot and tired before the bike even starts, not to mention make the bike course that much more crowded with everyone starting within 5 min of each other, I start warming up.  At 10:30 we are lined up at the race start for our one mile run when another announcement is made that there will now be a modified swim (800m out and back), and the race will start at 11.

WTF!  I had finally gotten my mind wrapped around running a duathlon, now I have to switch gears again. And I wasted a Gu  :)  At the suggestion of a participant, they decided to make the swim and out and back (rather than triangle) so they didn't need as many lifeguards to watch everyone.  Go back to transition, get the wetsuit, and start over.  This time they mean it, and at 11:03am I am in the water.  I get off to a terrible start and end up 3 back from the starting line.  I'm not the world's greatest swimmer, but by triathlon standards I do alright and this is not the positioning I want to be in.  I struggle to find good feet and draft and feel like I am in a fishbowl the entire 800m, it just never clears up.  Frustrated, I get out of the water only about 20 seconds ahead of Ton.

Ah, Bodyglide.  How I missed thee.  I ran out and forgot to get more before the race.  Big mistake.  I could not get my wetsuit off for the life of me.  I had to sit on the ground and struggle with the legs, Rob gleefully taking sequential pictures.  Not funny.  Ton beats me out of transition by about 10 seconds.  Losing 30 seconds to someone in transition is just unacceptable!  But I move on.

I hope on the bike and quickly catch Ton and Cameron, a friend from the Columbia tri team.  We take the long, fast descent in a line, not really able to advance or fall back.  I take another Roctane.  We hit the u-turn at the bottom, which I was prepared for but the girl I was passing was not.  She slams on the breaks and goes hard left, forcing me off the road.  Great, I'm clipped out, at the bottom of a steep hill, with racers going by so I can't get in.  Finally find a break, get on the bike, and get into the proper gearing for the mile plus climb.  Climbing is my relative strength so I am annoyed to have gotten such a lousy start.  Ton and Cameron are long gone at this point.

This is the worst part of the bike course because racers are still coming down the other side of the road that we are going up.  At the same time, cars in both directions are trying to get by, leading to general chaos.  I just push through, and attempt to get up this thing as fast as possible, saving my legs be damned.  I pass as many people as I can, and catch Ton and Cameron.  This is where I wanted to make up most of the time, and I think it worked.  Just push through, I can recover on the flats.  All the while I am sipping Accelerade out of the one bottle I brought for the course (wanted to minimize weight and risk of overdrinking).  I often get a sloshy stomach on the run so I wanted to drink as much of my water bottle in the first half of the bike leg, to let it digest a bit.  The rest of the bike I took hard- an Olympic should be pretty close to all out effort.  Don't save yourself for the run, just hang on!  I leapfrogged with a lot of participants, including Cameron who I eventually lost in the last few miles.  I saw Mike on his New York Cycle Club SIG Graduation ride, which was fun.  The course was rolling, but shady and a bit confusing even though on the map it looked like a straight out and back.  I came back into transition at 1:04, for about a 19-20mph pace.  My goal is always to have the fastest female bike split- which I didn't but was close.

At this point I can't tell exactly where I am in the race, but there weren't many bikes in transition so I know I wasn't too far back (plus I started in the later waves).  I grab my final Roctane and some Endurolytes (just in case as the sun was high over head) as I head out on the run and after about a half mile or so I feel good.  No sloshy stomach- this is probably the best I have managed my nutrition!  The run is not flat and the varying mile times prove that.  I pass one woman but otherwise just see a few guys.  I do like the modified course, it's mostly on back roads, shady, and scenic.  I feel good but decide not to push it until I'm at least at the half way point.  It was an out and back so I can see the leaders and everyone ahead of me.  I could one woman, then another not too far back.  That's it!  I'm in 3rd.  I passed #4 and she was slowing so I felt safe in my positioning and honestly eased up a bit, what was the point of blowing myself up?  Not the best racing strategy, but given that I was secured a podium spot it didn't really matter.

Finished the run now int he heat of the day, for a final time of 2:13.  Good enough for first in my age group and 3rd overall.  Some controversy over the 2nd place female as she appeared to have messed up the bike course and ended up doing the big hill again (and still managed to come in 2nd?  hmm....) but no one can prove anything so it's done.  I'm happy with my performance on an early season, tough course!  Lots of kinks to be worked out, but the race course was good- I'd just prefer they reverse the bike course so we aren't all bunched on the downhill then uphill.  And I thought my minimal nutrition worked great, so happy to not have any issues there.

Best part- a woman yelling out "I want your abs!" while I was finishing.  Ha!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gu Brew Review

by Lindsay

Very recently I ran out of Accelerade, my go-to sports drink, and switched to Gu Energy's Electrolyte Brew.  Formerly known at Gu2O, Gu Brew is an up-and-coming sports drink looking to compete against Accelerade and Hammer Nutrition Heed.  I've used Heed in the past and while I think it is a very good drink with no artificial flavors or sugar, I find the taste to be a bit lacking.  Gu Brew, on the other hand, I found to be GREAT tasting!  For a powder mixed with water, you know how unusual this is.  I've been drinking the Lemon Lime flavor and it is ultra-light, yet still sweet enough to be tasty.  The directions say use 2 scoops per 16 oz of water (about a regular sized water bottle), but if I were going by taste alone I would have easily put in 3-4 scoops, it's that light.  This is great for people who gag at Gatorade, Accelerade, or other more strongly flavored drinks, and stays refreshing even when your water bottles get hot during a long day.

However, the best thing about Gu Brew isn't it's taste, but what's in it (or not).  It has far less sugar than Accelerade, Cytomax, Gatorade, or Clif Shot.  Only Heed has less among the major electrolyte replacement drinks.  It has a healthy 250mg of sodium per 100 calories, for ease in digestion and dehydration prevention.  If you are looking for even more sodium, perhaps for an exceptionally long or hot day, try the Blueberry Pomegranate flavor which has twice the amount.  Gu Brew also contains potassium and carbs for fuel.  It does not contain protein, which differentiates it from Accelerade or Perpetuem. For some, this may be a negative.  It depends on what your stomach is used to and what your workout calls for that day.

I'm a big fan of Gu products and use Gu gel during all of my longer workouts (and Roctane for races).  I've tried the Recovery Brew and was a fan of its more carbs, less protein than other drinks.  Gu Electrolyte Brew, meant to accompany Gu gel before and during your workouts (saving the Recovery Brew for post-workout), lives up to the Gu Energy standards.  If you are looking for something very light tasting but sweeter and generally more palatable than Heed, I strongly encourage you to give Gu Brew a try.  And at only $0.42/serving it's very cost-effective!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pier Duathlon- a day of firsts

Team Sports Bistro traveled down to Long Branch, NJ for the Pier Duathlon (a 2 mile run, 9.5 mile bike, then a 3 mile run).  Rob, Lindsay, Mike, and Ton spent the night nearby in NJ and woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5am to make it for the 7:30 start.  No trip to Jersey is complete without a WaWa's pit stop, but after that we were on our way.

The race was decent sized, about 350 competitors, but it felt very local and friendly, from packet pickup right before the race to an easy transition area (first come, first served!).  Rob saw his friendly competition from the office, and learned he came from a competitive track & field background.  Gulp.  We got our chips, racked our bikes, and barely had time for a 100m warmup before the start.  It was a mass start with no starting chip mat--hen the gun went off that was when your race began!

We lined up in the second row of competitors, about as close to the start as we felt comfortable.  Ton took a Hammer Gel, Rob popped a Gu, and Lindsay took her Gu Roctane (it's race time!).  As the gun went off, Mike took off, with Ton and Lindsay letting him go but keeping him in their sights. The out and back allowed everyone to see their position relative to everyone else. Mike's 12:33 set the new Team Sports Bistro pace record (6:16), albeit for only 2 miles.  Lindsay and Ton finished in a 6:40 pace and Rob ran into T2 at the 17 min mark.  The race was on!

Mike fumbled in T1 (transition from the run to the bike) as he chose to go without race laces and forgot to unpack his cycling shoes (oops!), but he was still the first team member on the bike.  Ton showed off his transition prowess by beating Lindsay out of T1 by more than a few seconds (even though they entered together) and it took her almost 2 miles to catch up on the bike.  It was Rob's first multisport race and he learned just how frantic transitions can be!

The bike course was 1 loop with a lot of 90 degree turns.  Clearly more practice is needed in cornering and powering through!  Mike started strong but around mile 3 felt a familiar stiffness in right hip and leg which made moving difficult.  Unfortunately these symptoms just started yesterday on his brutal 80 mile bike ride (no tapering here!) and had not abated.  It was clear injury was not too far away and he decided to do the smart thing and stop racing, soft pedal the rest of the course, and bow out of the race.  Unfortunate, as this was Mike's first DNF, but with bigger races coming up the risk was not worth any reward.  Even still, it took until miles 7-8 for Lindsay and Ton to catch up!  Mike is one to watch this season!

Lindsay caught and passed Ton around mile 2, but Ton kept her in his sights.  The roads weren't closed so there were occasional cars to deal with, but the course was flat and otherwise flat (except when facing the strong Jersey shore headwind!).  Lindsay passed 3 women on the bike and moved into 4th place.  The bike is her strongest leg and she was determined not to disappoint.  And props to Rob for completing his first ever bike race, after starting riding only a few weeks prior!  And for beating the co-worker on the bike! The nutrition for the Team was half-filled water bottles of Gu Brew, just enough to stay hydrated on the short race.

The second run was the same out and back as the first, just longer.  It was flat and fast, right along the beach on the pier.  People were much more spread out now.  1 guy had the victory locked up at this point and 2 women were battling it out for their first place (and $500!).  Lindsay was in 4th place for the women, but another woman was only about a minute behind her and gaining.  This was the last place guaranteed to take home prize money, so she wouldn't give up, running just under a 7 minute pace to pull out a 30 second victory over the 5th woman.  Ton was fast gaining on Lindsay too, but couldn't close the gap and finished about 40 seconds back.  Rob realized the difficulty of running off the bike, and the importance of brick workouts, and struggled to find his running legs.  A very familiar feeling to every multisporter.  Alas his co-worker passed him around mile 2 and ultimately claimed victory for the office, but Rob was happy to have taken the bike leg!

This was a race of firsts for Team Sports Bistro, The first duathlon for all, the first multisport/bike race for Rob, unfortunately the first DNF for Mike.  There were reason to celebrate too: Lindsay took 4th woman overall (and $100!) and Ton earned his first ever trip to the podium for 3rd in his age group and a nifty trophy.  Congrats Team Sports Bistro and all Pier Du competitors- we'll be back!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Team Sports Bistro to battle at Pier Duathlon

Finally, tomorrow will be the first race in 2010 where Team Sports Bistro (East Coast division) will have some friendly intra-team competition!  Just this week, Rob from NJ found us the Pier Duathlon in Long Branch, NJ.  Put on by the Sandy Hookers Tri Team, this flat course features a 2 mile run, 9.5 mile bike, and 3 mile run along the Jersey Shore.  Even shorter than our normal sprint triathlons, this race will be a "balls to the wall" all-out effort.  We've mostly been training for long distance races (Half Ironman Triathlon, Half and Full Marathons, 100 mile bike rides) so this speed won't come easy. The kicker is that none of us have done a duathlon before so pacing and strategy will be made up on the fly.  And in a race this short, the winner is usually whoever screws up the least! 

Look for Mike to set a new Team Sports Bistro running pace PR, Ton to show off his blazing fast transitions, Rob to beat his buddies from the office, and Lindsay to compete for some women's prize money.  Good luck Team Sports Bistro!  Be sure to check back tomorrow to see how it all goes down...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Energy Chew Review

Reposted from
By Michael Donikian, USA Triathlon Certified Coach, NASM-CPT

It seems like energy chews are all the rage for sports nutrition these days.  They are a welcome alternative to energy gels, especially for those who don’t like the consistency of the gels but still want something easily digestible (i.e. not bars) for workout and race nutrition.  In terms of effectiveness / performance there really isn’t much of a difference between the two – personal preference for taste and consistency are the primary differences.

That being said, energy chews have some benefits in terms of “convenience.”  Firstly, the semi-solid chews prevent the messy “goopy” packet problem of regular gels.  Secondly, the small bite size servings (usually 20-33 calories each) give you finer control over your nutrition intake.

The big question now is… which energy chew should you take?  Today I’ll try and provide some insight by reviewing and comparing the three most popular energy chews out there: Gu Chomps, Clif Shot Bloks, and PowerBar Gel Blasts.  In addition I’ll compare it to your standard fare Gu Energy Gel

Gu has four flavors of Chomps out made primarily from Tapioca Syrup, Cane Sugar and Maltodextrin. In addition each serving has a Gu proprietary blend of amino acids similar to Gu Gel.  The Strawberry and Cranberry Apple flavors have caffeine while the Blueberry Pomegranate and Orange flavors do not.  Strawberry is by far our best selling flavor.  Personally I like the Cranberry Apple a little better in taste.  The Blueberry Pomegranate was also quite tasty but I was unhappy it had no caffeine.
Selling points: Amino Acid Blend; 100% Daily Value of Vitamin C & E and good amount of electrolytes (55mg sodium and 40mg potassium) per 30g serving.
Cons:  Not much caffeine per serving (only 20mg per 30g serving).  I would have liked a high caffeine option.

Clif Shot Bloks
Clif has 9 flavors of Shot Bloks out made primarily from Brown Rice Syrup, Cane Juice and Brown Rice Syrup Solids.  The ingredients are largely organic.
Selling points: So many flavors with different combinations of sodium (70 or 210mg) and/or caffeine (0, 25, 50mg) per 30g serving.  Made with organic ingredients too!
Cons:  No amino acids or antioxidants.  Not enough studies out there to say if this is good or bad but it definitely differentiates it from the Gu Chomps.

PowerBar Gel Blasts
PowerBar has two flavors of its energy chew (Gel Blasts) and takes a slightly different approach.  They’re a little harder (more chewy) on the outside but have a gooey liquidy center.  They’re made from sugar, glucose syrup from wheat, and invert sugar.
Selling points:  Made with Powerbar’s C2MAX carbohydrate blend (2:1 ratio of glucose to fructose), which may result in higher performance.  They also come in a resealable packet!

Cons:  No amino acids but again there aren’t enough studies to confirm the benefits.
Comparison Table
Energy Chew Comparison Chart


As far as taste goes… no complaints.  I liked all of them especially the weird tasting Margarita Shot Bloks (yum!).  The triple sodium is also a definite plus with that one too.  On the whole, I actually like the taste and convenience of chews a whole lot better than gels but yet I’m still going to stick with gels… why?  This may be weird but I found that I constantly had to burp while taking these, especially the Gu Chomps.  The gels just seem to sit better with me.  Most people seem to have no issues whatsoever though – in fact most seem to have more issues with gels and thus turn to the chews.  Only goes to show that you need to train with these (under race conditions) before you race with them.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Incredible Experience of Escape from Alcatraz

Posted by Ton:

Wow, I'm not quite sure what to say. Other than... THAT WAS ONE INCREDIBLE RACE. Although it was an extremely intense race in that all the elements from the water temperature, varied terrain and multiple surfaces (grass, sand, trail, steps, etc.) culminate to unexpectedly throw people off their game - an explanation to follow in my race report - yielding very humbling average paces.

Alas, the course was so fantastically gorgeous that you sometimes get mesmerized and forget you're racing. This was definitely more about the experience than just the result.

More details to follow. Time to relax in a tub of ice and soak this one in. And yes, if you must know... the medal will be joining me.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Reporting Live from Escape from Alcatraz 2010...

Posted by Ton:

Arrived yesterday in beautiful San Fran, and the weather is amazing. Sunny, high 60's, clear skies. Perfect conditions for this year's Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. Alas, the water temp will be a chilly 55 degrees when all 2000 athletes plunge into the water just off of 'The Rock' at 8am tomorrow. Brrrr! I've got my wetsuit, hoodie, and neoprene socks ready, but I still expect to get hit with an unforgettable jolt.

There's not quite a race like this anywhere in the world. First off, the course itself (1.5mi swim + half mile run to transition + 18mi bike + 8mi run, including a beach run and a 400-step sand ladder) is a little unusual. Not the kind of race where you can necessarily benchmark against your last olympic distance PR! Secondly, as a qualification-only race, the competition is definitely going to be tougher than your normal regional tri. So, while I plan to race hard at a heart-pounding pace, I'm definitely going to remember to soak up the sights -- which includes, as I'm told, rolling onto my back after about 10min into the swim to catch the view of Alcatraz and the Bay Bridge against the rising sun.

I'm also told that the toughest part of this race is the notorious sand ladder, at about mile 5 of the run portion. It's a steep climb from the beach that includes a combo of sand and 400 uneven log steps. Truth is... there's no real way to train for something like this, and in watching the race videos, there are plenty of professional athletes who choose to do a briskly paced walk up this segment while hanging on to the ropes on the side of the trail. Me? I've decided to attempt a Spiderman-inspired fast crawl. We'll see how that goes. :)

Alright, off to the mandatory athlete's meeting to pick up my race number. There's a palpable energy in the air in town right now. Just yesterday, during my run along Marina to the Golden Gate, there were plenty of knowing looks/nods from athletes around the world, each as if to say "I'll see you in the Bay on Sunday". I made it to the end of my run just in time to catch the sunset.

Breathtaking inspiration for Sunday.

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