Sunday, June 13, 2010

A new home

To all readers of the sweataddict:

I have transferred to a new domain and this blogsite will not be updated anymore. Please check the new site out at

Thank you very much.

Deo P.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Top 10 Things I learned in Racing a Triathlon

I consider myself a beginner in triathlon. I try to absorb all the tips that the veterans shared with me and was able to successfully follow some, but frustratingly failed in most. I realized that athletes have varying levels of endurance and with me being a noob, I am at the bottom part of the “endurance” category.

When I was starting, I thought that I could be better than most triathletes in my age-group. I have been indulging in sports most of my life: varsity basketball, badminton, golf, gym.

But that wasn’t what happened. Instead, I would always be in the middle, either lower middle or a bit on the upper middle of the finisher’s list. Though I have breached the top 40% of my age-group in a race once, that was an exception rather than a norm.

What’s the point of this blog entry?

In a beginner’s perspective, I am writing down the 10 things that I have learned or realized in racing a triathlon. I’ve done 4 of these races ( more than 4 and I won’t be a newbie anymore, right? ) already and I guess its high time that I share these things and hopefully, some people who want to experience tri-ing can pick up a thing or two.

1. Train months ahead of a race

This shouldn’t be brushed off, no matter what your physical condition is. Training properly is your key to finishing a triathlon. Don’t rush your training as you will be prone to injuries. Have you read my Condura 42K 2010 account? That’s a good example of what not to do.

Training way ahead of a race gives you confidence, a much-needed mental trait at the start of the race.

2. Swim more than the race distance

Swimming in pools alone is very, very different from swimming in a pool or sea or lake with hundreds of other swimmers. I learned how to swim properly a month before I joined my first triathlon, a mini-sprint. I told myself that if I was able to complete a 50-meter lap, then there shouldn’t be any problem finishing 350 meters of swimming in a congested pool….NOT!

I sprinted at the start of the race, then slowly faded on the 4th lap. Then, as if fate was punishing me, a splash of water ended in my mouth and choked me. I thought I was going to drown and panicked big time, and hung on to the lane divider for dear life. I wasn’t equipped with the necessary skills to manage such situations and got off the water among the last ones, with a very, very humiliating 12++ mins swim split.

This would happen again in Camsur 70.3. Before this race, I was doing 2K swims in pools in less than an hour, so I thought I’d have a swim split of about the same time come race day….again…NOT!

Open water swimming disables you from kick-starting every 50 meters, so you’re slower. There are no sea or lake floor markers which you can use as reference if you’re swimming straight or straying away from the course.

Include sighting practice in your swim workout. Don't do this and swim 100++meters more during the race.

My swim split was 1 hour 14 mins, 4 minutes beyond the 1:10 swim cut-off, which, thankfully, was not enforced.

As a suggestion, swim more than the distance you are racing in a pool and try to do it within the target time you plan on completing the swim portion. Also, try to mimic open sea or lake swimming by not touching the lap-ends in the pool, instead, turn around swimming, not stopping.

Also, practice “emergency” swimming or what to do if you panic. Doing this regularly will give you the confidence in the water. Try swimming backstroke or floating, strengthen your breaststroke too which you can use for “sighting” in open waters.

3. Relax in the swim

During the race, if you’re a slow swimmer like me, start at the back of the pack. Enter the water around 1 minute later than the stronger ones to avoid getting kicked, punched or swam over. Relax, and think of happy thoughts while swimming, and don’t mind the depth of the water. Swimming in 50 feet and 8 feet deep waters is the same, your feet won’t touch the bottom if you stand.

Just survive the swim if you're a slow swimmer like me. Finishing it within the cut-off is okay, just give them hell on the bike. :-)

Now, if you’re really nervous about the swim and suffer from panic attacks every 2 minutes, swim near the buoy and hold on to the ropes to recover. Breath-in until you’ve calmed down and swim again. Repeat this if necessary. Better be slow than drown, okay?

4. Transition Fast

To get back some time, practice transitioning fast. In order to do this, make sure that your bike has everything you need: helmet, sunglasses, shoes, gloves, etc. Just wipe the water off you and wear your cycling gear. Helmet first, then sunglasses, then race number then shoes and off you go. Keep the sequence in mind: top to bottom. Your number one enemy at T1 is confusion on what to wear first.

T1: Helmet first, sunglass, race number then shoes. Wear gear from top to bottom

If you transition 30 seconds faster than the guy who smoked you in the swim, that’s like getting back 25 meters of swim advantage. Substantial? You bet!

5. Know the bike course

Bike is the longest part of a triathlon and it pays to know the course, or at least memorize the map.

I promised myself not to race in Ayala Alabang anymore due to one simple reason: I always get lost in the otso-otso loop.

I raced there twice and got lost in the bike leg in both occasions, resulting to slower times. The map was posted weeks before the race but I was too lazy to even look at it, and I paid for it dearly. The sad thing is, those weren’t the only races I got lost.

It became a habit for me to look at maps and study the courses of a race, whether these are triathlons or duathlons. I have to do this or else, I won’t stop knocking myself on the head.

6. Bike like you’re being chased by a lion

Someone told me to take it easy on the bike and reserve some of my energy for the run. I followed this in this year’s SubIT. My strongest among the three disciplines is the bike, and it is with deep regret that I didn’t give it my all in this race, I could have made up more time.

If cycling is your strength, then by all means, exploit it!

Though I felt good after dismounting, I also faded in the last kilometers of the run leg due to heat and exhaustion. Now I know!

Since running is the last part of a triathlon, it’s the part where the pros and elites are tested. They dig better than you coz, well, they’re pros and elites. Heard about how Craig Alexander caught Chris Lieto in the last 5 miles of Kona 2009? The camera captured all of it. What it didn’t capture were the swarm of age-groupers walking the marathon. Yes, that’s a normal sight in long distance triathlons, people like us walking.

Even if you take it easy on the bike, there’s no stopping the sun from baking you to a limp so better to hack it out on the bike and then survive the run. I’m sure you’ll be in good company.

Chris Lieto is not really known for his running, but for his cycling. If he didn’t register the fastest bike split last year, he would have ended up beyond 5th place.

Attack where you are strong.

7. Eat!

I have a friend who’s a strong runner and swimmer. Bike is his waterloo. Everytime he dismounts and runs, he always fades, almost to the point of bonking. Reason: he doesn’t eat during the bike portion.

Your body burns thousands of calories in a triathlon race, so you need to replenish these burned calories during the race itself, especially if its long distance.

Buy a bike bento box, put gels and powerbars in it, and practice eating while on the bike, together with pulling your water bottle and drinking and putting it back in the cage…and save your race.

In last year’s Camsur 70.3, I had one gel for every 15kms I rode, a total of 5 gels during the bike and a last one before I ran. I wasn’t hungry and had the calories to burn for the run, I just had too much to drink and was bloated. Lesson learned.

8. Wear visors, not caps

I used to wear caps during races, until I discovered how much more convenient it was to wear visors instead. Imagine this: you are approaching a water station, got hold of two cups of water, drank one and threw the cup away, took off your cap to pour water on your head and put your cap back on.

Imagine this now: You are approaching a water station, got hold of two cups of water, drank one and poured one on your head.

Which one is faster and easier to do?

Enough said.

9. Wear socks on the run

Don’t do this and have blisters on your feet. That simple.

10. Smile at the finish line

…and look good in pictures!

Thank the Lord for giving you the strength to finish the race. I read somewhere that there are no atheists in the last kilometers of an Ironman, live it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Triathlete Levels: Where do you fit in?

Every aspiring triathlete's goal is to cross the finish line on his/her first race and earn the title "triathlete" and become a member of a group of endurance junkies currently mushrooming in basically all parts of the globe. No matter what the distances are, for as long as its a race involving swimming, cycling and running all in successive green lights, a triathlete will finish.

In the short span of time I have been joining triathlons, I have observed how triathletes in different skill and endurance levels approach races or trainings. Every triathlete is different from one another in some ways, no two are of the same skill and mentality.

There are also stages in a triathlete's life, or journey into the sport. I could say I am probably past the beginner stage but still a long way from being competitive. How about you?

I have broken down these stages in simple layman's language:

1. Triathlete wannabe a.k.a. "Triathlete in Training"

The stage where the interest in joining a triathlon race is steadily peaking. Always surf the net for articles about triathlons, as well as free training programs. Have probably downloaded the sprint, olympic and half ironman training programs from Have gone to Cartimar or Quiapo for his/her roadbike or probably tri-bike. Currently owns an MTB which he/she plans to use on his/her first race and take it from there.

This athlete may also own a high-end tri-bike but hasn't practiced using cleats yet. Or he/she may be a cyclist venturing into triathlon, in which case he/she hasn't got the legs for running yet, or probably still has "hydrophobia" and dreads swimming in deep water.

He/She may probably be a good swimmer with poor bike skills, or a good cyclist with poor swimming skills. He/She huffs and puffs after running for 1 minute and not too sure if he can wear cycling shorts for running.

He tells the world his/her new PRs in training in all three disciplines, even if these are slow compared to others. Every improvement in speed and mileage is reported on his online journal and favorite social networking site.

He/She is bothered whenever asked the question: "are you a triathlete?" and starts looking for answers that will convince the person asking that "hey, I will be in a short while."

If you belong to this stage, just keep on training, we all need to start somewhere.

2. The Beginner

By now, you probably have completed one or even two sprint or olympic distance triathlons. Probably even finished a half-ironman. You are now hooked and eager to race your next. Cost of racing is nothing to you.

"Triathlon is all about finishing"...these phrase goes on and on in your mind. You have felt the pain of joining one, but won't stop. Every race counts and will be good for your resume. Its not about the quality of the race, but the quantity. You want to do more races than the person who started tri-ing the same time you did. You want to be ahead in experience no matter what the cost.

Your mountain bike is not good for your sport, so you seriously consider buying a roadbike...NO, a tri-bike is better, and in all probability, you'd buy one.

You bought a tri-bike which the internet or some smart ass says will fit you perfectly because you're as tall as his friend who has one. You try to squeeze yourself into this bike only to realize 5 rides after that its a teeny weeny bit small for you. You don't trust your own assessment and need others for confirmation.

You are learning the ins and outs of triathlon. You are now friends with other triathletes whom you've raced before. You wake up early to train, but still has a hard time doing so most days.

A noob in the sport: gloves worn during the 1st run of a duathlon, cap instead of visor, knee low resulting to heel strike

You are slowly getting smarter, triathlon-wise and stopped wearing underwear everytime you race. Body glide is your new race best friend.

3. The Intermediate Triathlete

Triathlon is slowly becoming a lifestyle. You ride your bike even without a race.

You wake up at 4:00 a.m. to run or swim in a nearby pool before you report for work. You only join races that matter, so as to save on registration fees and spend the money instead in upgrading your bike, or in purchasing a new pair of shoes, probably Zoot or Newton.

You don't only join races to finish, instead, you want to finish it ahead of the others and your PR. You are more confident now in all the three disciplines of the sport. You may still start at the back of the pack during the swim, but the washing machine is becoming less and less scary.

You now upgrade your bike based on what you need. You have replaced your Vision aerobar with a Profile Design T2 because the latter offers more flexibility on the elbow position. You know what you need based on experience and not by what others say.

If you're the sharing type, this is the point where you mentor others without knowing it. You share experiences and try to let others learn from it. You are confident in sharing because these are all based on experiences, not books or the internet.

4. The Competitive Triathlete

"I'll start from the leftmost and slowly work myself at the turn around to be ahead".

You draft strategies days before the race and execute these almost perfectly. You are oozing with confidence in all facets of the sport. You need to be in the top 10% of your age group, otherwise, its a bad race. You are a lot stronger now, physically and mentally. You don't get intimidated like before. You have fire in your eyes at the starting line.

You study the splits of your nearest competitor, time-wise, and try to look for weaknesses which you can exploit. You are the wolf who pounces on victims when they least expect it.

Others look up to you. You are a hunter, as well as a target.

A newbie and a very competitive triathlete. Javy's bike seem to be a perfect fit for him while mine looks small for me.

Your position in the bike is more aggressive now. Little adjustments mean a know that now.

You can dig deeper on crucial moments. You are a machine, a well-oiled machine.

5. Elite/ Professional

You live the sport 24/7. Your life revolves around swimming, running and cycling. Your body is striped due to training, and sunburns keep peeling off dead skin, but its all part of the sport.

You are approached by sponsors and look for sponsors as well. That's your source of income.

It is better for you to DNF rather than be beaten by an age-grouper. You'd rather be dead than get caught walking the marathon.

You wear your cycling shoes once you mount your bike and take it off before dismounting. You practice this for faster transition times.

Every second counts. You may have lost the previous race by a mere 2 seconds.

We all start slow and end up stronger every race. No matter what the manner of finishing is, it helps us improve on the next race.

We start as wanna-be's and most peak at intermediate, sometimes competitive.

Where do you fit in?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Road to Camsur: My Steed

With 84 days before the BIG event, most triathletes have, one way or another, started training for this year's edition of Philippine Ironman 70.3 in Camsur. As of my last peek at the event's website, there are 570 individual and 58 team participants already confirmed, up by 161 individuals last year.

With bike being the longest part of this race, I am not taking any chances with my ride. Last year, I was praying throughout the bike leg not to have flats, and God heard me. This year, I upgraded some components of my bike, which, hopefully, would serve me well. No matter how you train for a 70.3 or Ironman, even if you have the best swim time, one trouble with the bike and you can kiss your lead goodbye. For me, its not the lead. I will never, ever be in the lead in races, BUT, I can have a new PR, and that's my objective this year.

With very limited resources, my steed is the best I can afford, and so far it hasn't disappointed me. Let's take a look:

Standing proud. My Kinesis KT610 is ready for action anytime.

Armed with a Profile Design saddle mounted bottle holder, I can carry two extra bottles with me for those long rides.

Another Profile Design component. The Elite Pro carbon crank arm, 175mm. Battle scarred but raring to crank it up when the need arises.

Bianchi chainrings complete the crankset. The 53/39 teeth help me keep at pace with most riders.

An Ultegra SL 10 Front Derailleur ensures smooth shifting on the crankset all the time.

Ultegra SL 10 Rear Derailleur takes care of the gear shifting at the back end of the steed.

700x23C Continental Gatorskin tyres wrap the rims. I super love these tyres! The current pair on my bike has over 3,000 kms on them and hasn't shown any sign of retiring. Tough as nails and roll smoothly with proper air pressure.
The ADAMO Road saddle is one of the best investment I made on my bike. The moment I had it on, I kissed perineum area numbness goodbye. I highly recommend this saddle to anyone who wishes to compete in triathlons, duathlons and time trials and would like to stay on the aero position most of the time. Keep your wife happy after each training or race. :-)

The Cateye Strada Cadence ensures that I get the miles even when training at home. Its rear-wheel mounted magnet and monitor counts your mileage even if the bike is mounted on a trainer. It has a cadence counter so you know how many RPMs you are pedaling. If you want to hammer the pedals like Lance, go get yourself this cyclo-comp.

This Profile Design aero bottle bracket keeps my aero bottle in place even on rough roads.

Small but terrible. The VISION brake levers are one of the tiniest brake levers I've seen. But being small don't make it inferior. It's shaped ergonomically enough to enable you to grasp it with one or two fingers to brake.

Why are Dura-ace components so expensive? It's because they do the job well...errr...excellently! This pair of Dura-ace SL BS79 has never misfired since day 1. Shifts correctly all the time, and very smoothly.

Vision aero bars wrapped with red Look bartapes is my resting place on the front end.

My steed's whole cockpit. All Vision except for the bar end shifters.

Profile Design carbon bottle cage on the downtube ensures easy reach of fluids while on the flly.

Light, durable and affordable. The EXUSTAR EPS-R pedals have not let me down. Power transfer from legs to cranks is ensured without a fortune spent.

American Classic front hub ensure smooth roll of the wheels.

This Profile Design bento box is a life-saver! No more hunger on the least not on the first 100kms.

TNI carbon wrapped 90mm stem may be heavier than other stems. But it does its job.

A pair of 2009 American Classic Aero wheelset connects the bike to the ground with minimal friction. The fastest wheelset I have ever used. They will stay on my bike for as long as I can think of.

The Kinesis logo on the headtube. No, the "K" doesn't stand for King, but probably should have been with the Kinesis KT610's bang for the buck reputation.

At 5'11", the frame fits me perfectly.

What's for snacks during the ride? Choco Mucho ( 150 calories ), GU energy gel ( 100 calories ). This bento box also contains a pair of tire removers and 3 Allen wrenches for quick adjustments of saddle, seatpost, cockpit, etc.

Kinesis KT610's proprietary carbon aero seatpost becomes the holder of my spare tube.

Never leave home without a hand-pump! This MOB hand-pump stays at my back pocket while riding.

Ultegra SL 10 brake calipers stops the bike when it needs to. Equipped with a Salomon brakepad, these calipers give me the security I will ever need on descents.

Ultegra 12-27 cogset enables me to climb those hills and burn the flats.

The Kinesis KT610 frame in all its glory. Responsive, durable and affordable.

A couple more races before Camsur and I'm sure me and my steed will be in fine form. That new PR looks too tempting to break! :-)

Thanks for reading!

God bless.

Deo P.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Race Report: Subic International Triathlon 2010


The Subic International Triathlon is the oldest and most prestigious ITU ( International Triathlon Union ) sanctioned triathlon race in the country, and this year's edition has attracted more than 600 participants including delegates from 23 countries and the who's who in the local triathlon scene. This edition also hosted the 2010 Junior and Under 23 Asian Triathlon Championships, the highlight of the 2-day event.

May 1 was the staging of the Adult Sprint ( 750m swim - 20kms bike - 5K run ) and the female Olympic Distance ( 1.5K swim - 40K bike - 10K run ). The male Olympic distance was held on May 2.

I was registered to race in the Olympic distance category and drove to Subic on May 1. Had lunch with my teammates and did a short recon of the swim course. Normally, my nerves would start racking up a day before the race, but, this time around I was unusually very relaxed. I have raced the Philippine Ironman 70.3 in Camsur last year where the distances were crazier and I survived, so I thought this race would be easier.

Race Day

I woke up around 3:30 a.m. on race day. My teammates and I informed the admin, in the hotel we were staying in, that we would be up early and would need to be served breakfast around 3:00 a.m. Teammates doing a triathlon for the first time hardly slept due to nervousness and anticipation of what was in store for the day. I slept like a baby and needed to be woken up by my wife after getting my wake up call which, unfortunately, only she heard.

The whole race course of SubIT 2010 was different from other triathlons I joined. The transition areas were in different locations: T1 was at Dungaree beach where the swim was going to be held, and T2 was at the Boardwalk just in front of our hotel where the run part was going to happen. After depositing our T2 bags, we proceeded to Dungaree beach for the start of the swim.

The SWIM : 1.5 Kilometers

The race started at exactly 6:00 a.m. with the Elites, then the Juniors, then the 29 below and 50 above...then us.

Waiting for the horn start, I could see different facial expressions among my co-age groupers. Some were obviously nervous, others look focused. I was a bit tense but nowhere near nervous. I had visualized the distances weeks earlier and was ready for this race. It was just a matter of charging into the water and finishing the swim.

Then the horn went off, and all of us attacked the ocean...

My game plan was simple: stay at the back of the pack during the swim, attack on the bike, and then hold them off in the run. I am a poor swimmer so in order for me not to be last, I need to make up lost time in the bike.

Upon diving into the water, I immediately saw bubbles from the kicks of the swimmers in front of me. 50 meters into the swim and I got kicked in the face, my goggles knocked off. I held onto the buoy, released the water from my goggles and swam back into the race.

The swim part of a triathlon is always the most dangerous. In 2008 alone, on the 9 deaths recorded in triathlon races around the world, 8 occurred during the swim portion. Some were caused by cardiac arrests due to the sudden change in body temperature upon diving into the water, the rest were due to drowning and mostly claimed the lives of those who were new to the sport. Last year, in Philippine Ironman Camsur 70.3, Miguel Vasquez, a CEO of an insurance company, suffered a stroke during the 2nd half of the swim portion and drowned. His body was only discovered after all the other participants got out of the swim portion. He was seen floating near the banks of the river, lifeless.

Swimmers on both sides of the swim course. A great sight to see!

The Subic shoreline is a trench, where there is an immediate deepening of the ocean floor after around 200 meters from the beach. Once we reached this, some swimmers panicked and swam towards the buoy line where I was swimming comfortably. There were a lot of contacts. There was one particular swimmer who stayed on my left for quite some time. He was annoyingly hitting my left shoulder every time he stroked and I pushed him to my left so he would stop hitting me. He came back and hit me again. Pissed off, I intentionally hit the back of his head with my left stroke. He held on to the buoy, and so did I. We stared at each other for a second then I yelled at him to go. We hit the water again and never saw each other throughout the duration of the race.

Finished the first lap of the swim in 20 minutes and dove again to complete the swim portion. At about 200 meters to my swim finish, I was overrun by two faster swimmers to the right. Good thing me and my teammates practice situations like this in the pool so I was kind of used to it.

Finished the swim in +/- 42 minutes. Not fast but definitely my fastest 1.5 kms in the water. I was grinning from ear to ear with my swim time, also relieved that the swim was over for me.

Getting out of the water with two Polo Tri members. Grinning from ear to ear, relieved that I was done with the swim portion

The BIKE: 40 kilometers

I was at T1 with Hans Pe, a former teammate, and Poch, a forum colleague. Whatever part of triathlon I was good at, it was in transitions. It only took me 1min 33seconds to transition from swim to bike. As a practice, I always psyche myself up upon mounting my bike. I am a cyclist and whatever time the other participants had on me in the swim, I always try to get back at the bike.

At T1, trying to transition fast to catch the guys who got out of the water ahead of me

Leaving T1, I was with two other cyclists who got dropped within the first kilometer. Going up the bike course, I saw a group of around 7 cyclists doing the same pace climbing the hills.

Caught the group in front of me in less than two minutes and hung on with them for about a minute. Thinking their pace was slow, I excused myself and tried to pass to their left, but, four of the cyclists were blocking the road and wouldn't let me , so I did the next "bad" thing: I passed these four in the middle without excusing myself which caught them by surprise.

I caught a lot of participants on the bike, mostly going uphill. Some even walk their bikes on the climbs. In all modesty and surprisingly, I never felt it was that hard of a climb, or I probably was used to climbing steeper roads, or probably my adrenalin was pumping so hard. Whatever the reason maybe, it served me well in this race.

Going back down was fast, as in 60kph fast. It was nerve-wracking. I crashed on descents before so I know how it feels sliding down the road using your palms as brakes. I pressed on the brakes gently while negotiating the downhill turns, it was better to be slower and safe than fast and crash.

When I reached the flats, I pushed on the pedal harder. I felt my eyes turn red and all I could think of was to pedal faster than the one in front of me. I caught several participants again, but other stronger cyclists also passed me. I caught someone I look up to in triathlons and that actually surprised me big time, or he was just probably having a bad race. Whatever the reason was, it boosted my confidence so much. I adjusted my saddle height two days prior to this race and I think the risk I took paid dividends.

Pushing the pedal harder upon reaching the flats

I reached T2 in after 1 hour and 25 minutes on the bike. I wanted it faster but miscalculated my speed. My cyclo computer conked out in the middle of the bike leg! My hopes of doing sub-3 hours seemed to become hopeless! I was at 2:07 of the race already and running 10K in 53 minutes, including transition, was something I haven't done yet. My 10K PR stands at 56 minutes!

The RUN: 10 kilometers

I transitioned in less than two minutes in T2, had an energy gel then ran. The run course was to go 4 loops at Boardwalk then a short 600-meter loop going into the finish line. I would normally be struggling to get my running legs after biking for more than an hour, but this time, its different.

My position in the bike has changed. I now sit at a 78 degree angle which makes me use my quads more than my hamstrings while biking. As a result, I could run fresher off the bike.

I had a good run on the first 3 loops. I was at 2:55 of the race going into the final 1 1/2 laps. I pushed and pushed until my legs hurt hoping I could finish even in sub-3:10.

I was at 3:03 of the race with one full lap to go. I gave up hope of going under 3:10. I relaxed my stride but going slower meant feeling the heat more. I maintained a steady pace of about 6:30-6:45. My legs felt like burning and my mind was telling me to walk even just a bit. I didn't. There was a water station at the turn going to Waterfront road, I thought I'd pour water on my legs there.

Upon reaching where the water station was, it wasn't there anymore. Shit! Now I felt my burning legs more and had to walk a bit. It felt good. So I walked more than I needed to and did the shuffle before reaching the final water station leading to the finish.

Running towards the finish line

No matter how you raced a triathlon, whether you're the first or the last to cross the finish line, it always feels good. You forget all the pains and agony you went through during the race, leaving you with a euphoric feeling that will last for days.

Finished the race in 3 hours, 19 minutes. It will do for now.

Deo P.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Roadbike or Tribike?

For those who are venturing into multi-sports and still don't have a bike to race with, the question of whether to use a roadbike or tribike ( short for triathlon bike ) is a reasonable question. We always see the pros riding that blazingly fast looking bike, with bar-end shifters and brake levers, tucked down in an aero position in all Ironman races. Do you really need something like that?

I have raced triathlons and duathlons both in a road bike and a tribike, and have experienced what it feels like running after dismounting from both and can tell you this: There's a reason why its called a tribike!

Below is an image of a tribike with the seat angle highlighted in red. Let us decipher what this diagram means:

1. The Seat Angle

The seat angle differentiates the tribike from the road bike. Tribikes have steeper seat angles ( 76-78 degrees ) than road bikes primarily due to the benefit it gives the legs after dismounting and getting ready for the run. Tribikes are designed for a rider to have fresher legs for the run after dismounting from his bike, it preserves his hamstrings which are used when running.

So how does that happen?

Compared to a road bike with shallower seat angles, tribikes enable the athlete to ride "taller" by putting him on a more forward seating position, thereby forcing him to use his quadriceps instead of his hamstrings. This position helps an athlete to cycle easier, with lighter pedaling and almost like in a running position.

To experience how this feels, mount your bike, put your body nearer the handlebars and try pedaling. Next, slack up on the saddle by pushing your butt back, seating on the rearmost part of the saddle. You should feel the pressure on your legs more when in the slacked up position. This is also the reason why you cannot just install an aerobar and basebar on your roadbike, the geometry just won't match the cockpit!

2. The Head Tube Angle

The headtube is the part of the bike where the fork is inserted and where the headset stand on. In tribikes and roadbikes, the angle of the head tube is almost similar, with the tribike's angle just a teeny weeny bit steeper.

However, if you factor in the seat tube angle with the head tube angle, the difference between the tribike and roadbike starts to show. With the tribike's seat angle steeper, the top tube becomes shorter than a roadbike. Road bikes have seat angles of 72-73 degrees which is almost parallel to the head tube. With the tribike's seat tube at 76-78 degrees, its top tube will be around 1.5 to 3 cm shorter. Do the math.

3. The Top Tube

The top tube of the bike is where the head tube meets the seat tube. Its the topmost part of the bike which is located between your legs.

Tribikes are designed to have a shorter top tube than road bikes as the intention is to keep the rider in an aero position, the back curled up like a ball, head down into the wind. Comparing the sizes, a medium tribike would have a top tube of between 53-54 cm while a roadbike will have 55-55.5 cm. Most athletes will tell you that if you're riding a Large sized roadbike, you should be getting a medium sized tribike...NOT!

Tribike manufacturers have already incorporated the measurements into the design of tribikes. So if you are using a Large roadbike, get a Large tribike. Their measurements are different.

I made the mistake of buying a medium tribike when I ride a Large roadbike. I followed the advices of some friends and ended up spending unnecessarily. I changed my stem to 110mm from 90mm and set back the saddle. In the end, I was riding in a roadbike geometry already. The benefit I should have been getting from having a tribike was lost. I was virtually riding in 73 degrees when I should have been at 76 degrees. To top that, I always slid forward when in the aero position and would always have neck and shoulder pains after a ride. The medium tribike's top tube was shorter than what I needed.

The longer stem also made my bike more difficult to maneuver on road rides, plus I had to pull the seatpost up more than regular just to accomodate the correct angle of my legs when pedaling. There were more things to tweak than if I got a Large sized frame at the start.

Some would advise a new multi-sport athlete to buy a road bike, slap on a clip-on aero bar and insert a fast forward seatpost to mimic a tribike geometry. This could work. However, it will not look as aesthetically mean as having a real tribike. Would you like to go through all the trouble of changing seatposts everytime you race? If yes, then go for this set-up, there's nothing wrong with it. But if your intention in getting into cycling is to compete in triathlons and duathlons, why not train and race with the proper equipment?

Being on an aerobar takes some getting used to. You are more prone to crashing while on an aerobar than on a dropbar. Taking this risk, though, is properly compensated with the faster time you will be doing.

It is necessary for someone who gets into multi-sports to think about what's best to ride in races as the bike leg is always 50% of the race already. Back in Camsur Ironman 70.3 2009, I was among the last to come off the water. By the time I was on my last quarter of the bike portion ,I passed almost a hundred athletes already. I was comfortable with my ride because of the correct bike I chose to use. Being on an aero position for more than 2 hours enabled me to catch the faster swimmers during the race. They were using roadbikes which were heavier on the legs, and at the halfway point of their bike rides, they slowed down substantially enabling me to catch them one by one. I also had good legs when I dismounted, and was able to complete the first 10K of the run in just a little over an hour, until I succumbed to the heat.

Going back to the question on whether to invest on a tribike or roadbike, I'd say invest on a tribike if you're seriously doing multi-sports. It will be more costly for you to buy a roadbike now then change to a tribike later. You can use both in road rides anyway, but a tribike will give you better results in races.

Deo P.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Race Report: Tribob Sprint Duathlon Singapore

Tribob Sprint Duathlon is an annual race in Singapore designed for people who want to experience multi-sports racing. The distances are short (3k run-18k bike-3krun ) and the race is claimed to be fun and friendly. I was registered to race this event courtesy of my brother, Russel, who has been in Singapore for quite some time already.

Russel, Edu ( a Spanish friend who was also racing ) and myself took off from Russel's flat in Serangoon to Sengkang West using our bikes at 6:30 a.m. The streets of Singaapore, though busy with vehicles, were a lot safer than the roads in Manila. There were no undisciplined drivers similar to jeepney and bus drivers here. They respect the right of way of bikers and avoided them as much as possible. I guess that's how it really is when traffic laws are properly implemented.

We got to the race venue by around 7:15 and proceeded to the bag check-in area to deposit our things, then went to transition to rack our bikes.

Checking in my backpack. Russel, Edu and myself rode our bikes from Russel's Serangoon flat to the race venue

Edu's age-group wave started at 8:00 a.m., mine would start at 8:30 so I took the 30-minute difference to warm up. When I started a slow jog, I realized all the strolling and shopping we did 2 1/2 days leading to the race took a toll on my legs. It felt heavy. I shrugged it off and told myself it was going to roll smoothly at race time.

At 8:20 a.m., the 40+ participants were called in at the starting line. I positioned myself at the front of the pack to avoid getting caught in the middle and have trouble running my way to the front. The front pack was mostly caucasians, and I was bent on giving them a run for their money.

At exactly 8:30 a.m., we started.

Start of our age group. I stayed at the front to avoid weaving through the slower runners at the back.

Trying to keep a good pace at the start of the first run.

This was a short race and I knew well before the race that it was going to be an all out sprint from start to finish. I kept a 4:30ish pace on the first 2K but suddenly felt heavy legs on the 3rd K of the run leading to the T1. I was huffing and puffing and was having sidestitch. What in the world was happening to me?

Huffing and puffing towards the end of the 1st run. I wasn't at my best.

Upon reaching T1, I couldn't change to bike shoes as fast as I could. I finished the first run in 14+ minutes which was within my target but was having a hard time transitioning.

As I rolled off the bike, I told myself I'll hack it out and try to catch up with the leaders.

I was still thinking of landing in the top 40 of my age group at the start of the bike leg.

I initially was averaging 33-34 kph on the bike. I wanted to go faster and be at an average of around 36kph for the whole bike leg. However, at the time I was on the saddle, there were still some riders belonging to the earlier waves who were still on the course, making it tight for fast riding. The turns were tight and I had to pussyfoot to avoid crashing with other riders. What's worse was that the women's wave got on the bike on my last lap. Some of them were weaving through the course dangerously, so I had to take extra caution. It was a "no drafting" race, but on my second lap, there was a group of around 5-6 people bunched up in a peloton. When I excused myself to pass them, the nutheads drafted behind me. Cheaters!

Turning cautiously at the tight turn around

I finished the bike leg in 33+ minutes, at an average of 32.2kph. Not an ideal time.

Already disappointed at my performance, my legs already felt heavy going into the 2nd run.

At this point, I have given up hope to make it to the top 40 of my age group. I had heavy legs upon leaving T2 and my stamina was suspect. The days leading to the race was spent in late nights and all day strolling around Singapore. It wasn't a good way to prepare even for a short race and it all fell apart on the 2nd run for me.

There was only one water station along the whole course, located at the 1K point of the run course. With the 9 a.m. Singaporean heat already taking its toll on me, I did something I haven't done in my past 2 duathlons, walk!

I tried hard to keep a good pace on the 2nd run, but my legs weren't there anymore. I was hoping for a second wind, but it did not come the way it came on my previous duathlons which were a lot longer than this one.

I reached the finish line at 1:07 of the race, only to find myself exiting in the wrong direction. I proceeded to the transition area once more instead of going into the finish line chute. My brother Noel and wife, Carol, called my attention on the mistake I did. I was already walking towards my bike then and had to run back to where the finish line chute was, taking away precious minutes from me.

Took a wrong turn at the finish line and smiling about it. What a way to cap a disappointing race.

I officially finished the race in 1:09, with a second run of more than 19 mins, a personal worst.

Just posing happily while receiving the finisher's medal.

I was looking at finishing this race in sub-1 hour, but needed 9 minutes extra. Not nice. I placed 66th in my age category out of 175, 217th among 440 males and 239th among all racers with an official finish time of 1:09:37.

The only consolation I got in finishing, a kiss from my darling Carol

It was a good experience though. I underestimated the distance and paid dearly for it. I guess I just have to learn from it.

Our support group ( from left ): Noel, Mike, Carol, myself, Edu, Nimf, Leila. Russel took the photo.

Moving on, Tribob is a good race, but not the best. I still find the Powerade MOA duathlons better in a lot of ways. First, there are more water stations in the duathlons held here. The turns, too, are wider and safer. And the athletes here are more mindful in the bike leg and they don't weave in and out of a lane without caution. Different race, different atmosphere. Oh well.

See you guys at the Powerade National Duathlon Open on April 18.

Deo P.