Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Triathlon is a Family Affair

by Renata, Team Estrogen staff member

When you think of team building activities, you usually think of boring things like bowling, or a picnic - but not at Team Estrogen - we go and do a triathlon! The Gator Grinder Sprint Triathlon in Canby, Oregon that is! This is also our chance to test out our new cool tri outfits! I wore the Zoot TRIfit Electric Racerback Tank and the TRIfit 6" Shorts with no issues - you can read about them in our “Staff Picks”.

I have done this tri every year since 2006, and have even inspired my teenage kids and their friends to get involved. My first year, I got first place in my age group! Every year after that, I have completed it a minute or so slower. The second year I think I was second, the third year, third, and so on. This year, I decided to try to beat my last result, so I started training earlier than usual, in October. I signed up for swim lessons (because this year I wanted to do the crawl, not the breast stroke). I even joined a tri group at my club for extra inspiration. Thank you Jim and the BAC Tri Club members for all your inspiration!!

All the training went well, except when I timed my 500 meter swim a few weeks before the tri, well, it was time to go back to the breast stroke. Maybe next year, I told myself. I kept up the running and biking in anticipation of the big day. I even borrowed my co-worker Katie's super-duper-aero-time trial helmet to be faster (she was out of commission for a little while with an injury). The kids did their thing to train, but that's another topic.

The day before the tri, Team Estrogen was buzzing with excitement, thanks to Anona's and Anna's energy. We all knew they were going to kick booty. That night, I packed up the car with 5 bikes, one for me, 2 for my kids, and 2 more for their friends. Yup, there were 5 of us going! The kids practiced transitioning, sort of, but mostly I heard a lot of laughing, which was great, since I always try to encourage the 'fun' part of all this.

The day of the tri, I got up at 5:30, rallied the kids and got all the gear into the car. After picking up everyone else at 6:30 am, we headed down to the race. My swim heat start time was early - 8:40 am. We all checked in, got our goodie bags, t-shirts, timing chips put on our ankles, and numbers marked on our bodies. We had people in almost every single heat. I would be out on the course when my kids started, so they were on their own. It's a good thing I brought them down here a couple of weeks ago to check it all out so they knew how it all worked - but silly me, they knew it all anyway, they're teenagers, right? Nonetheless, it's always a good idea to 'check out the course'. We set up our bikes and gear in the transition area, warmed up a bit, and then it was time to jump in the pool. Lane 5 position 4. I was glad I was the last swimmer in my lane because I didn't want to slow down the others 3 athletes. I did manage to keep up with the others, even passing one person in my lane. After counting down ten laps, it was time to get out. In all, a pretty uneventful swim.

I was so happy to have the swim behind me! It was time for my favorite and best leg, the bike! I quickly dried my feet, got my socks and shoes on, then my glasses and helmet. One of the straps got stuck inside, so I had to take it off and put it back on again. Not an easy thing to do quick with a narrow, tight fitting time trial helmet. I finally got it on, and by then my glasses had completely fogged up. Darn, I didn't think of coating them with some anti-fog wipes! Next, my shirt, oh but wait, I can't get it over my helmet! Off it goes again. I struggled with my shirt, trying to pull it over my head and on my wet body. Helmet goes back on, then the gloves, and I'm off running to the mounting area, squinting, struggling to see under my fogged up glasses. I hopped on the bike and off I went. I pedaled hard, picking people off one by one. I felt fast. Katie's aero helmet was doing it's job.

Through town, around a detour, and onto a flat stretch I flew. It was time to shift into the big chain ring again and power down the road. But as I shifted, I felt a horrible dreaded thing...no chain. NO! I screamed inside, it can't be. My chain fell off? To the outside? If this has happened to you, you know there is no safe way to get that thing back on without stopping. I thought about reaching down and trying to get it on while I was still moving, but that would have been really stupid since I had never done it before, nor did I know if it was even possible. I stopped, got it back on, but as soon as I started pedaling, it fell off again! NO! NO! NO! I screamed OUT LOUD, as most of the people I had picked off went flying by. This time I turned the crank a few times after I put it on, shifted down to the small chain ring, and made sure it didn't fall off. I got back on, started pedaling, and very carefully shifted back up to the big chain ring. Then it got stuck! O.K. this can't be happening I thought. But it was! There was no holding back now. *#+* and *+#* flew out of my mouth quite loudly as the chain fell off once more, and riders went on by. Yes, they did ask if I was all right, but I can't remember what I said. I hope it wasn't something horrible. The chain was kinked behind the derailleur, and as I tried to turn the crank, the chain ring gnashed it's terrible teeth into the chain and held on tight!

By the time I finally got it loose, it seemed like an eternity had gone by. I got back on the bike, but I didn't dare shift until I couldn't pedal any faster on a long descent. I did end up catching a few of the riders ahead of me until a car passed me, and slowed to a stop right in front of me. With no room to pass on the right, and the volunteers waving him by so I couldn't go around the left, a few more adrenaline inspired words flew out of my mouth. As we slowly got going again, my game of leap frog with the other riders was just to much fun to quit now! So, I finished the bike leg and quickly transitioned to the running leg.

After my chain escapade, my goal changed to finishing instead of beating my time, and thanks to my tri group training, the run didn't feel so horrible after the bike. It felt good to finish. Then came the best part, cheering everyone else on, including my kids, as they came across the finish line with smiles on their faces!! We all did great, and it was a blast! Afterwards, we took some pictures, put on our cool Zoot recovery tights, and had a great barbecue while waiting for the results.

My son was 1st in his age group, my daughter 4th, and their friend a 3rd. I'm glad I thought about abandoning the race for only 1 second, because I ended up 3rd out of 12 in my age group! I'm looking forward to next year, and moving on up into the next age category, 50+!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Apparel Review: De Soto Forza Trisuit

by Anna Grace, TE staff member

I knew I wanted to wear a one piece suit for the Canby Gator Grinder Triathlon to avoid having a seam at my stomach and also because I wanted it to be very very fitted, like a second skin. I tried on a bunch of suits that we have in stock. The first time I put on the De Soto Forza Trisuit, it just felt good and seemed to fit me perfectly.

When I rinsed off in the shower before going into the pool, I noticed that the silver mesh panels (on the black suit) became translucent when wet, so I could see the color of my skin through it. However, De Soto did a great job of being aware of this and the opaque black portion went over my breasts, so no worries about show-through. Also the upper part of the suit was supportive without being constraining at all. I didn't have to wear a bra (I am a small A cup) and I also didn't have any chafing issues.

I have done a time trial before at a stage race in cycling shorts and I recall that being in the aero position made my woman parts a little bit irritated and tired, so I was prepared for the same thing in the triathlon. This was not the case. I didn't even think about my clothing on the bike, except for feeling really fast in it (honestly). Wearing the one piece suit and not having to worry about a waistband was so comfortable on the bike. I can't imagine wearing shorts with a waistband again after how great this suit felt. The "Invisipad" chamois really is 'invisible'; I didn't notice any seams or edges whatsoever. It didn't hold any water at all, no part of me felt moist on the bike, and the fabric dried very quickly, which was a useful feature because it was still a bit chilly in the morning.

On to the run. Some potential issues I thought of as possibilities were that it might ride up or give me a wedgie, or that the legs might bunch. None of these things happened. The suit just came along with me and didn't fight me in any way. Again, I didn't have to think about my suit on the run, except that it made me feel really fast (honestly). The panel lines are also very flattering and outline the muscles that seemed to be doing a lot of work on the run, my obliques. The panels are very thoughtful and appropriate.

The fabric on the bottom portion of this suit, the Forza Compressor, has a large amount of compressive support. The subtle vertical line texture is flattering, the contrast stitch is just right, it feels fantastic over my lower stomach and quads, and the best part is that it doesn't squeeze my upper leg and give me an unsightly bulge.

Geez, do I have any negative feedback for this suit? Just one thing (that's unheard of from this critical gal): the extra long zipper pull flew around and was bothersome. It was great for the 10 times I had to pee before the race because I could zip my suit up myself, but what do you do with this thing while you are racing? I didn't notice it in the water at all, but it flew around in the wind on the bike. I ignored it for that part, but it really got on my nerves during the run. It was swinging around and tapping me on the back...tap tap tap. So I grabbed it and shoved it under the shoulder of the suit - not an elegant or thoughtful solution, I realize. I think De Soto should come up with a better solution for this, like perhaps it could be shorter or attach somehow. I suppose I could just take it off; I would rather ask someone to zip me up before the race then have a huge tail for the entire triathlon.

My Gator Grinder Experience: by Anna Grace

These are the things I learned in my second triathlon:

1. get speed laces
2. don't run without socks if you've never done it before (two matching blisters on the bottoms of my feet will be reminding me all week)
3. if you smile the whole time, it goes by fast
4. having friends on the course makes for a happy day
5. wear a one-piece suit; they totally rock
6. learn where to go out for the bike and run from the transition area before you're racing
7. it's OK if you're not a great swimmer, or don't really swim efficiently at all
8. get a timing band that's not made of Velcro (a chafe spot on the back of my ankle will remind me of that all week)

This is how it happened:

I woke up to a sunny Saturday morning in my Portland apartment on the hill to find myself excited about riding out to Canby for a day of swim, bike, run with all my TE homies. My BF and I met my compadre, Anona Miles, near the river in SE Portland and off we were into the early morning light. I practiced getting aero in my attached bars on my road bike and noted the pleasantness of the day. I wondered how hard the swim and run would be, since I had only swum once in preparation and gone running twice over the past month. I was counting on my Minnesota-Land-of-10,000-Lakes roots to get me through the water and my years of being a runner to help me on the 5K.

We made it to Canby with only one mishap (see Anona's story) and plenty of time to get into our rad outfits. The energy at the event was so happy and positive, I knew it would be a good day. Being my second triathlon and all, I tried to play it super cool, like I totally knew what was going on. I showed Anona how to lay things out with a towel near your bicycle, then supplied her with Gu packets like I had a whole backpack full of them!

Susan found us and snapped some shots of our outfits before we applied temporary tattoos to our legs and butts to look supercool. (This, by the way, totally worked and we did look supercool :).

On to the racing part.

A pool swim, hmmm. Four people to a lane and I was planning to use my most efficient stroke, the side stroke (pick an apple, put it in the basket – that's what I say to myself the whole time). When the big red clock struck 9am and the whistle blew, I was off with a splash! Back and forth I swam, finding my rhythm, remembering to breathe in my bright pink swim cap and one-piece tri suit. I looked up at the red digits that are the clock and thought “I've only been swimming for three minutes!?”. And on I went. I got passed by the man behind me, only to have him slow his pace a whole bunch. I had to tap his foot for three lengths of the pool before he would let me by again! I was pleased to see the red kick board indicating that I was almost done with the swim and made my final effort to end the wet part of this day. I flopped out of the pool like a whale.

I ran out to my bicycle and heard Katie yell my name! It put an extra spring in my step and I tore off my cap and goggles and slipped into my cycling shoes (zippidy do da). I clicked on my helmet, awkwardly jogged out of the transition area in my cleats, and jumped on my steed. Off we sped into the beautiful Oregon countryside, just me and my aero bars. I said 'thank you' to all of the volunteers as I rode by. The sun warmed my skin and the wind dried me off. What a perfect day! I felt sleek and powerful as my bicycle and I navigated the course. I offered words of encouragement to the other cyclists I passed and pushed hard up the hills. Whenever the thought of running came into my mind, I pushed it out, determined not to let it slow me down.

It seemed like no time before I was back at the transition area and waddle-ran to my area. Katie was here to cheer me on. She said “Don't breathe, just go run!”. I tore off my cycling shoes and tied my running shoes, cursing myself for not getting speed laces! I could have shaved a good 30 seconds off my transition time, I just know it. I clicked on my race belt and flailed my way onto the run course. I was off running through the trees on the grass and following the direction of the volunteers. My legs felt heavy, but very warmed up! My suit felt so good and it made me feel fast! I saw Anona out on the course and high-fived her (she looked super awesome in the TYR two-piece suit). A little later, I saw Jeff out ahead of me - it's so wonderful to see your friends out on the course. I was having such a joyful triathlon experience.

I found myself coming up on Jeff with about half a mile to go and when I reached him I said, “Let's finish strong, Jeff!” He immediately took off in a sprint and I hung on, battling to the last 200 meters on the track finish. Katie and Anona were on the corner and hollered for us. Susan was just going out on her run leg and she shouted words of encouragement. I managed to pull ahead in the last 100 meters and flew across the finish line like a gazelle, with Jeff hot on my tail. I was so overjoyed to be done, it felt really great and my body was tired and happy! Two thumbs up for triathlon and a nap in the grass.

The end.

Editor's note: Anna was 1st in her age group, 2nd place female overall, and had the fastest women's bike split of the day! Congratulations, Anna!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tips for Riding in the Rain

Ready for rain?

Let It Rain!

Here in Portland, we've had our one snowfall for the season but we have several months of rain ahead of us before our perfect summer weather arrives. With that in mind, we thought we'd offer up a few simple tips to help you have a BLAST riding in the rain!

  1. Brake Early

    Your stopping distance while riding in wet weather will be greatly increased (unless you have a bike with disc brakes). If you are in a situation where you might need to come to a sudden stop, lightly pulse your brakes to "squeegee" off the water on the rims in advance of actually needing to brake hard.

  2. Light It Up

    Even during the daytime, a flashing red tailight and a front headlight can help other road users see you better. You should also wear brightly colored clothing with plenty of reflectivity to enhance your visibility.

  3. Avoid Puddles, Paint, Plates and Plant Debris

    Puddles can be surprisingly deep and can hide potholes, rocks and even roadside curbs. The white fog line and other painted features on the road can be slippery when wet and should be avoided. Use caution when rolling over manhole covers and metal plates in the roadway. And a final word of warning: leave the leaves alone! Wet leaves and other debris on the side of the road can cause you to loose control, especially when turning or going around curves.

  4. Stay Alert

    You aren't the only one who can't see as well when it is dark and rainy. Assume that motorists do not see you and exercise even more caution than usual while playing in traffic.

  5. Take Your Time

    Riding slower gives you more time to detect and safely react to roadway hazards.

“There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

10 Gear Recommendations for Wet Weather Riding

  1. Fenders


    Fenders dramatically reduce the impact of the road spray kicked up by your bike. Without fenders, water from the front wheel soaks your feet and lower legs, while spray from your rear wheel leaves a characteristic "skunk stripe" of mud and grit up your back and in your shorts. If you've ever finished a long rainy ride and found your chamois pad full of road grime, you know what I'm talking about!

    Fenders are available in a huge range of styles and sizes to fit almost any bike. Here are some the leading fender manufacturers:

    Planet Bike
    SKS Germany

    A properly sized fender (you can add mudflaps) also makes you a polite rider on group rides -- no one wants to ride behind someone who is sending up a rooster tail of cold muddy water.

    In addition to shielding you and those around you from the spray, fenders are also crucial protective equipment for your bike itself. All that dirt and muck gets into your headset, bottom bracket and drivetrain and causes premature wear.

    In rainy Oregon, many of us have a dedicated "rain bike" that has fenders permanently mounted.
    Fullwood Fenders
    For those of you in less wet climes, or who only rarely ride in the rain, several companies manufacture fenders ("race blades") that can quickly and easily be put on and taken off a bike.

    If you think fenders aren't cool, you haven't seen these works of art.

  2. Waterproof Jacket

    Showers Pass Jacket

    Gore Alp-X Jacket

    In warmer weather, even a jacket made with the most breathable waterproof fabric will still soak you from the inside if you are exerting yourself over an extended period. Consequently, good ventilation is a key requirement in a waterproof cycling jacket. Things to look for:

    • pit zips or other extra ventilation options,

    • extended cuffs that can open up to provide airflow up your arms,

    • a back vent to allow the air that enters through the cuffs and pit zips to flow around your body and out your back without "puffing up" the jacket too much,
    • and a long "tail" on the back of the jacket to cover your butt when you are hunkered down in the cycling position.

  3. Waterproof Pants

    Waterproof Pants

    Many cyclists already own a waterproof jacket, but a pair of waterproof pants can be just the ticket for riding / commuting when the rain is really coming down. Features to look for include:

    • zippers on the lower leg so you can pull the pants on over your shoes,

    • velcro adjusters on the lower legs to keep the pants from "ballooning" and getting caught in your chain,

    • stretch panels or other features to allow for flexibility in the hip and knee areas,

    • reflective piping for increased visibility.

  4. Booties and Shoe Covers

    Shoe Covers

    While they won't necessarily keep your feet completely dry, booties and shoe covers block the majority of the rain, wind and grit. The thicker thermal booties are good for cold and wet weather, while you may want to investigate some of the thinner shoe covers if you inhabit a warm but rainy climate.

  5. Winter Boots

    Winter Boots

    If you are looking for a truly waterproof cycling shoe, look no further than the Sidi winter boot. This shoe has a thin layer of insulation along with a 100% waterproof Gore-Tex upper. The cuff at the top of the boot takes a bit of getting used to, and you'll need to think about how to keep water from running down your legs into the shoe to avoid turning this waterproof boot into a leakproof bucket! (Hint: the pants go outside the boot - don't tuck them in.)

  6. Waterproof Gloves

    Waterproof Gloves

    Finding a truly waterproof cycling glove that isn't also super-insulated for cold weather can be a bit of a challenge. At the thin, non-cycling-specific end of the spectrum we have the SealSkinz Glove, while at the "perhaps-a-bit-to-warm" end, we have the Pearl Izumi Barrier Glove and the Gore Countdown Glove. In the middle ground there are a number of windproof, water-resistant gloves that combine svelte styling with enough water protection to get you through anything short of a steady rain. The Gore Bike Wear ALP-X Windstopper Glove is one of our favorite "in-between" wet weather gloves.

  7. Foot and Hand Warmers

    Foot and Hand Warmers

    Sometimes you don't care if your feet and hands get wet, so long as they stay WARM. As a bonus, you can tell your friends you've got an exothermic reaction on your hands!

  8. Helmet Cover

    Helmet Cover

    While it may be a myth that we lose most of our heat through our heads, staying dry up top is still a worthy goal. A helmet cover will keep the cold wind out of your helmet vents and shed the rain before it plasters your hair to your skull in a drippy mess!

  9. Anti-Fog Lens Drops or Wipes

    anti-fog wipes

    No, we don't have mini-wipers, but we do have some anti-fog wipes and drops that can come in handy when cool and humid weather tends to fog up your lenses.

  10. Reflective Bits

    reflective stickers

    Add some bling to your ride or enhance your kit with these reflective adhesive products. We also have a variety of reflective wear including reflective vests and legbands.