Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

Paolina and I would like to wish all our family, friends and online followers a Merry Christmas & Seasonal Greetings. 

Safe travels and training wherever you may be! 

It's been a great year. We have much to be thankful and grateful for.

Onwards to 2013!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What a Week? And a Tale of Temptation!

The shocking revelations in the sport of cycling just keep coming. What a week it's been? Of course if we had really been paying attention, we would have known or suspected much of this, so really it should not have come as much of a surprise.

Everyone has their limits. Real competitive sport at the elite high performance level is ruthless - endurance sports like cycling, particularly so. You either keep up . . . or you don't! When you reach that personal limit, when you know you have trained as absolutly as hard as you can and you still can't keep up, or perhaps the podium, is only a few minutes, seconds or steps away . . . . then what?

Maybe I was lucky. I always trained with guys who were a lot better then me - first in running and then in triathlon. Early on in the game, I knew that despite all the training, despite all the hard work, even though we did all the same work outs, there was no way I was going to beat the better guys that I trained with. Call it defeatist if you like. To me it just seemed to be reality.

In the early '90's, I was deep into triathlon. I had come close to breaking 9 hours for the Ironman a couple of times. I was training what seemed to be a crazy amount - kept wondering, if this was my limit. Had a reached the point of taking this as far as I could go? Nine hours at the time was an OK time, but to really break-though, you needed to go sub-9 to be taken seriously. Some potential sponsors had even said, "Call me when you break 9"!

Around that time, I was working out at a local gym and fell into conversation with a coach (note he was not a triathlon coach, but a strength coach who worked out of that gym) who I knew, and helped athletes with strength training. He said to me in a quiet moment of conversation one day, straight-up, that I would be the perfect candidate for a low dosage steroid program. Super-lean (read - skinny-bean-pole) endurance athletes like me, did well on these programs. It allowed us to recover quicker from really hard workouts and made us overall more durable. Meaning, able to train more at a higher level, and then go faster. There was no testing at all in triathlon, the coach said. It was the ideal situation, he concluded!

It could have been that easy for me. In Canada at the time, we were still reeling with the hangover from the Ben Johnson Seoul Olympic Games debacle. Taking steroids, was a no-no. I soon moved, never went back to that gym and never saw that coach again. I did not succumb. I continued to believe that, I could be my best, and get that sub-9 Ironman time, on hard-work and hope.

I tried a few more times, but the sub-9 Ironman remained elusive and by the mid-90's, I had moved onto others things and after my son was born in 1997, gave up on the sport at a competitive level completely.

Given all the news and the revelations this week, I keep thinking back to those days in the early 90's, and that conversation at the gym. How beat-up, battered and fatigued I was after heavy training, and how one conversation and the outcome could have changed everything.

Not making excuses for professional cyclists, but the pressures right through the peleton that they face, would I assume be significantly greater than what me, the sub-pro triathlete was facing in the early 90's. However, everyone will reach their limit, and when they reach that point, knowing realistically, that just more years of hard work is not going to do it, that's perhaps when you reach that junction in the road - one road, is more hard work, but you know not much is going to change. The other road, is to seek some form of outside illegal assistance.

The question is, what road do you take? If you are an endurance athlete, at the level I was at (or there abouts), where you ever tempted along the way?

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Three Ironmans. Three Weeks. Three Very Different Events

 On the run course at Ironman Canada. Photo from

In the span of three weeks, the World Triathlon Corporation(WTC) will be putting on three Ironman races in three very different event venues, that represents the past, the present, and possibly the future of these races.

Last weekend was the inaugural Ironman New York City(IMNYC). In truth, most of the race took place across the Hudson River, in New Jersey, but still, the race did have a geographical and actual connection with the Big Apple, in many ways. This race was seven years in the making, and was being billed by the WTC as a showcase for the sport of triathlon and their iconic Ironman brand in one of the key media centers in the world. Veterans in the sport, in particular, those involved in event management knew that this was a massive logistical undertaking, that went way above and beyond what is "normal", for an Ironman triathlon -  which even in the best circumstances, has huge logistical challenges. Read more on this, from the perspective of IMNYC Race Director John Korff, HERE

From many reports the first IMNYC, was reasonably successful. However, no surprise there were a number of logistical hiccups: athletes with non-favorable stories from the course, and more than a few that were saying, one-and-done, and that they would not recommend others doing this race to others. As for media exposure, the big news coming out of the event was a sewage leak up-stream on the Hudson R. that was threatening, even having a swim, and an unfortunate death of an athlete that took place during the swim. Doubtful that this was the media pop, the WTC was hoping for. Registration was opened for 2013, with a $1200 entry fee - about $400 beyond the entry for most other Ironman races! However, the WTC abruptly stopped the registration after a day. The reasons for this, at this stage are unclear.

Despite criticism that they don't care about their race participants, the WTC obviously does take this seriously, and it was clear that the overall consensus from athletes was that, there were some things that needed to be worked on and edges smoothed out at IMNYC. Also, and this is purely speculation at this stage is that, without the benefit of a post-race de-brief, and review, the WTC may have had no idea if they could secure the permits that they had in place for this year, for next year, or if changes to the course were required, get new permits in place.

Key Point - putting on a large triathlon for 2500 people over an Ironman distance course in, and near-by the largest city in North America, is an extraordinarily difficult challenge.

One week from now is the Ironman Canada(IMC) triathlon in Penticton, BC. I have written about IMC before in this space, and you can read more about my personal feeling for the race HERE. IMC is one of the worlds original Ironman triathlons. At one time it was the only Ironman in all of North America. Ever since triathletes first started coming to the Okanagan Valley to do this race back in the 80's, athletes have raved about the beauty of the area, the challenge and scenery of the courses, the hospitality of the town of Penticton, the set-up of the race and ease of it all for athletes and spectators. Back before the proliferation of Ironman races, many had said, IMC, was a better race in some ways, than Ironman Hawaii - The WTC's centerpiece event, their World Championships and the race that started it all! Such is the popularity of IMC that in on-line polls that I have seen, IMC is often the one Ironman race that triathletes, "most want to do"!

Similar to real-estate what's key to a great triathlon and an Ironman race in particular, as told to me by one prominent Race Director, it's "Venue, venue, venue"!

The venue, set-up and logistics of IMC were so good that, Graham Fraser, who took over the management and running of IMC in the mid - 90's, essentially used, IMC and what went on in Penticton as a template, as he expanded the Ironman races to a number of other locations in North America. Now, in truth, IMC did grow in size and sophistication, in an organic fashion over a number of years. Thus, both the race and the city of Penticton grew together and adapted to one another. However, despite all these good things for and about the race, and the city of Penticton, there  have been points of friction, and issues locally, as their have been in some of the other Ironman locations.Mostly regarding the size of these events now, and the disruption they cause. But overall, IMC and those second generation Ironman races, have been very successful, and have a positive impact (financially, in particular) on the towns and cities where the races are held!

Key Point - The best set-up and location for these events is small to mid-sized towns and cities, where you have close to 100% buy-in and support of all stake-holders. Historically, with some exceptions, this does seem to be the case in North America. In the past, this has been the best model.

This weekend is the inaugural Ironman Mount Tremblant ( IMMT) in the ski resort village of Mt Tremblant, Que., about 90 minutes drive north of Montreal.  This Ironman race, despite not even happening yet, is most likely to be a huge success on all fronts. It had the benefit of running one of the WTC's 70.3 races on almost exactly the same course back in June as a bit of a dry-run for this weekend's full Ironman. The reports back from athletes and spectators in June, were unanimous - maybe the best long distance triathlon venue in the world! Useing the "Venue, venue, venue" mantra, IMMT seems to have it all - scenic and challenging courses; tons of great accommodation right there; easy onsite logistics for athletes and spectators; great local hospitality and help; total buy-in from all stakeholders. What's not to like?

Key Point - Perhaps the growth model for the WTC and for Ironman races is finding those perfect race venues such as in Mt. Tremblant, and not trying to put a square peg in a round hole, such as what happened at IMNYC. Does a set-up like at Mount Tremblant this weekend, represent the future of these sorts of events?

If you have done an Ironman, what is your favorite Ironman race venue? If you know of a place, that you think would be a great Ironman race venue, where is it? Or perhaps, on second thought, you may want to keep that a secret!

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Simon Says: The Medals, London and The Legacy

Simon Whitfield at the Toronto Triathlon Festival. Photo by Bob Hatcher -

I was living in Vancouver, BC back in 2000. A small group of the Vancouver triathlon community gathered to watch the inaugural Olympic Games Triathlon in Sydney at a well known downtown pub.

Going into the Games, Vancouver's Carol Montgomery had been on fire on the World Cup circuit. Indeed, prior to even getting to the games Carol had accomplished an unprecedented feat in modern Olympic sport, which I don't think has been duplicated - she had qualified in one Games for two different sports. Triathlon obviously, but she had also qualified in Athletics in the 10,000m on the track for Canada as well, and was set to race in the 10,000m final for women on the track later in the games after the triathlon.

We settled into watch history in the making and fingers crossed - witness a win or at the very least, a medal for Carol and Canada. Alas, it was not to be as Carol crashed on the bike, broke her wrist, and was unable to go on. It also took her out of the 10,000m race on the track. We all left the pub a bit disappointed that night.

The next day was the men's triathlon.  For this race I found myself watching on TV with my three year old son, Matthew in the basement of our house, alone other than the two of us. We all know the outcome to this - Simon Whitfield raced to a gold medal, and into, not just triathlon history but into the history of sports in Canada in a big way!

When I realized that Simon had won, the tears started to pour out of me in a completely uncontrolled manner. My son, sitting on my lap, asked, "Dad, why are you crying"? I said, "Simon just won the Olympic games triathlon and the Gold Medal", as I sat there on the couch over-come with emotion. I am not sure if Matthew understood the massive significance of this.

In Canada, this was not just sports news, it was front-page-of-paper, lead-story-on-the-TV-news, news! In fact, a few days later, I was asked on as a guest on the CBC TV Morning News show, to comment on the significance of Simon's Gold Medal win and what it would mean for Canada and for the sport of triathlon.

In a way, we (the sport of triathlon in Canada) were not really ready for it - suddenly all eyes were on Simon and the sport of triathlon. This level of attention and exposure for the sport was completely unknown. But on the whole - looking back, it was the best thing that could have ever happened.

A lot has happened in the ensuing 12 years. Simon, "The Kid", who won in Sydney is now nearer to 40. He won another medal, Silver, in perhaps in even a more stirring and dramatic fashion, four years ago at the Beijing, Olympic Games. The sport of triathlon in Canada has grown up a lot and matured in Canada and elsewhere. We now have a history, and knowing Simon well, one of the things he is most proud of, is a legacy that is starting to build in Canada, because of his success - people take the sport seriously, and some of the current top talent in the country, in particular Multiple World Cup winner, Paula Findlay and a fellow London Olympic Triathlon team member, are a direct result of that legacy.

The ultimate symbol of this, occurred a few weeks ago when Simon was named the Flag Bearer for the Canadian team at the London Olympic Games opening ceremony. Wins and medals aside, there is really no greater honor than to be recognized by your fellow sportsmen and your country. No doubt a proud moment for Simon, and his family, but also for the whole sport of triathlon as well!

This is important stuff - this winning, these performances, the medals, the exposure, the legacy, the pride. I was a guest speaker at the Timex Triathlon Team launch back in February this year. In my remarks at the team dinner and awards, I said, that I really hoped that the United States, could win a  Gold Medal in triathlon at the Olympic Games - maybe even in London ( with apologies to Simon!). It would not only be a big shot in the arm for triathlon, and International Triathlon Union style racing in the United States, but for the whole sport, and business of triathlon - with much of the latter, on the product side, centered in the United States.

Something has not changed since Sydney - that glint you see in Simon Whitfield's eye. It's that slightly mischievous and comedic, look people have when they have something up their sleeve - that he knows something big and important is about to happen. Yet, he's still joking and jovial as ever! That's Simon. I think it's his secret weapon - as it's the polar opposite to the deer-in-the-head-light look of most other athletes at this level prior to the Big Race. I saw that look on Simon, yesterday at the Toronto Triathlon Festival, standing with him on the dock just before the start of the demonstration event that he was doing with Paula Findlay, Andrew Yorke and Mike Greenberg. That means he's ready!

I say watch out, London and make sure that you tune into the  Men's Olympic Triathlon coverage on August, 7th (6:30am Eastern Day Light Saving Time) to watch the final chapter. I know that I will be!

What are your thoughts on the men's Olympic Games Triathlon and what the results will mean?

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Monday, July 16, 2012

A Rich Time For Endurance Sports Events

We live in a particularly rich time for endurance sports events - of all kinds. Running, cycling, swimming, triathlons, and now obstacle and adventure races - there has never been a better time to be an active participant and endurance sports athlete.

Go back an athletic generation, say about 15 - 20 years ago and, the pickings nor the selection was anywhere near as rich. Over the last two decades numbers of participants across the board in all of these endurance sports events has grown in a big way. In some cases explosively - in the case of the so called "dirty events", or obstacle races such as  The Spartan Race, The Warrior Dash, Muddy Buddy and others. These events barely existed a few years ago and now, attract, 4,000 - 7,000 people for a first year event! The Spartan race is expecting over a million participants world wide next year, and the Warrior Dash, bills it self as "the largest running series in the world"!

It's not uncommon now for marathon running races to have over 20,000 runners. Indeed, the really high profile marathons such as the Boston Marathon and the New York City Marathon, have over 25,000 and 30,000 respectively. The Vancouver Sun Run 10K get's 45,000 entrants every year! However in terms of year over year growth, the really big growth is in the 1/2 Marathon races! Then there are the Color Runs, which, are a bit hard to describe, but none-the-less, growing immensely in popularity in a very short period of time. Indeed,  niche seems to be key in running, with women's only runs, dress-up runs, and even running events for you and your dog, such as the Walk Run Wag series! The latter is geared towards fit runners who own fit dogs, but also less fit dog owners who's dogs are perhaps not as active as they should be!

Even within a sport such as cycling, the diversity of options is impressive with events for everyone and different disciplines. Traditional road racing, such as what is seen in the Pro Tour and  events like the Tour de France, are growing at the amateur and licensed category level, but the growth of more mass participation events, in the past called sportifs and now referred to as gran fondos is really growing. Some of these such as the Centurion Cycling series (see picture at top), founded by North American triathlon and Ironman pioneer Graham Fraser, try to give the racer and the rider, a similar experience to racing in a Pro Tour cycling event! "Racers race and riders, ride", is the motto for Centurion.

In the off-road cycling world, again more diversity - Traditional mountain bike racing, has  gone a bit under-ground and now gaining popularity are off-road trail races, with less technical terrain, like the new Fire Road Cycling events - gran fondos, or "Dirt Fondos" for the off-road crowd. The grand-daddy of this genre being the annual Leadville 100 -  a100 mile Mountain Bike race which is run entirely above 10,000 ft of elevation and is one of the hardest off-road races to get into!

Triathlon, the sport that really kicked off the endurance sports diversity trend many years ago, continues to grow - with Ironman triathlons still selling out a year ahead of time. One wonders where it will all start to plateau, but the numbers still seem to be growing in triathlon - even with a small cohort of veteran triathletes leaving the sport, at one end for one of the above activities, they are quickly replaced, by many newbies coming in at the front end of the sport of triathlon. There are even races specifically geared to the new triathlete such as the Multisport Canada Triathlon Series events, with their aptly named "Give-It-A-Tri" races for the newbie to get a taste of swim/bike/run.

No surprise, there has been a small cottage industry of Event Services companies that have sprung up supplying a variety of services to all of these wide ranging events. Timing & results companies, online registration companies, race photography and videography companies, race (bib) number printing companies - all supplying various needs for these many endurance sports events. It's a thriving industry and business, with an interesting range of vendors and suppliers from small to large!

That being said, and the richness of the endurance sports event selection out there, what sorts of events are you into? Has what interests you changed recently? What's next for you?

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Time For Change

As some of you may know, I will be leaving Nineteen Wetsuits shortly. I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank Dan Rishworth the Founder and Owner of Nineteen for the opportunity over the last 5 years of working for him in helping grow the Nineteen brand. It's been a good run errr . . . swim! We've made some serious headway in a very competitive market. Best wishes to Dan and the rest of the team at Nineteen for continued success in the triathlon business.

I would also like to thank our many Nineteen retail customers, and in particular, the thousands of Nineteen wetsuit customers and owners. Thanks for the business and the support. It's been a great deal of fun working with all of you. I will miss you all. Working with customers, both retailers and consumers, out in the field be it in stores or on-site at events was the greatest form of pleasure for me. Hopefully, people have found all of that helpful.

What's going on? It's fair question to ask, and where I am going is one of those good situations, where a number of factors all came together to create a great opportunity and a win-win situation for all involved.

Next week I will be starting my new role as Sales Representitive at You may be more familiar with EOL's sister company SportStats. There is also a third sister business involved called I will be selling the services of all three event services companies. I am particularly looking forward to working directly with Marc Roy who is the key principal behind all three operations. Marc has been a visionary and leader in the area of event timing, and now event entry/registration as well as race number printing in North America.

Last week there was a major announcement regarding a significant investment in EventsOnline by prominant endurance sports industry veteran and investor, Mitch Thrower. See the news in Triathlon Magazine Canada HERE. I've known Mitch for a long time in the business, and it will be a pleasure to be indirectly working for him as well.

The great news for me personally, is that I get to stay in the business that I'm really am passionate about - the endurance sports business. Be it running, or cycling or triathlon or whatever it is, it's always been part of who I am as person, and it's always given me a great deal of pleasure working with other like minded folks who share that passion for endurance sports. Onwards!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Open Letter To Lance Armstrong

Dear Lance,

Welcome back to the sport of triathlon. It's good to see you back to your roots!

You don't know me at all. However, we did share a few laughs over a beer at the Bermuda International triathlon back in the late 80's. Good times!

I noticed last night on Twitter that you and your Nike brethren Simon Whitfield had a bit of  "discussion" about drafting in triathlon. Since you have been away from the sport for many years, I sense that you have missed many of the great drafting debates that has lead us to where we are today.

After you left triathlon for cycling, triathlon grew tremendously, particularly at the Elite/Professional level. The International Triathlon Union( ITU) was formed and the first World Cups and World Championships were held. It was becoming apparent that the gentleman's and sportsman's agreement to not draft on the bike, and to treat it like an Individual Time Trial in cycling, was not working out so well any more. This was due mostly to the size of the race fields and the competitiveness of the athletes. It was becoming harder and harder to enforce the no-drafting rules. Self policing was not working. Putting a number of Drafting Marshals on the course was also having limited impact.

The situation reached it's nadir in the early '90's, when with penalties, disqualifications, appeals to deal with after each big race, it was hard to know who won and who placed where. The arguments and discussions after-the races were over would seem to go on for ever. We would not even know who won or who was on the podium, until well after the race was over( hours!)

At the time, Triathlon had started a quiet campaign to be included in the Olympic Games. Then President of the ITU, Les MacDondald had been advised that if the sport were to be taken seriously by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), one thing thy had to do was to clean things up so that the athlete across the finish line first in most circumstances, was the race winner. The IOC does not like messy things and triathlon at this level had become a bit messy. So the the ITU, in their wisdom, after much discussion and consultation, said, fine: swim, bike and run however, you want in all three sports and the first athlete across the line is the winner. That's simple, clean and easy to understand.

Obviously, this meant that drafting on the bike would now be allowed, in ITU level racing for Elites/Pros in their races. It did change the dynamic and the strategy of the racing. The swim became much more important - a few seconds now mattered. The bike, was admittedly different in philosophy, but became more strategic. Physiologic demands were not that much less, but again different now - it became more like a bike road race. And the run was always the same - of high importance, if for no other reason than it was last!

It did simplify the racing and the officiating for this level of racing dramatically. The IOC liked what they saw and by the late '90's, the sport of triathlon was accepted into the Olympic Games, and as you and just about everyone knows, Simon Whitfield won the Gold Medal that first Olympic Games triathlon in dramatic fashion in Sydney, in 2000.

The previous is obviously all about Elite racing at the ITU level. All Age-Group racing and Pro/Elite racing in longer races, particularly the World Triathlon Corporation's world wide series of Ironman and 70.3 races are still contested under the "old" rules of no drafting allowed on the bike. In the Pro ranks, which are now for the most part separated from the Age-Groupers, the old gentleman's agreement with a bit of "help" from race officials, still seems to work. Field sizes are small, and there is often lots of road and room to work with. I have worked with your good friend Jimmy Riccitello as a Drafting Marshal in the past, and today's Pro Triathletes get the rules - they push the limits of the no-drafting rules right to the edge, as the best athletes tend to do in any sport, but they rarely go over. It's actually beautiful thing to see at a race like Ironman Hawaii with 20 - 25 of the best triathletes all strung out with exactly 10m between them in a 250m long legal pace line out on the Lava Fields

The story back in the Age-Group ranks in many big triathlons is a bit muddier, and less clear. Back there, it's really a question, of numbers and physics. If you stood at the exit to T1 in any big, 2000+ athlete Ironman at about the 60 - 70 minute mark of the race ( something that I would urge you to do when you have a chance), when massive numbers of triathletes are literally flooding onto the bike course you would know what I am getting at. The no-drafting rules are clear, but at times and places on the bike course, the rules are asking the athletes to do something that is physically impossible to do! There is simply not enough room on the road, for them all. Drafting back here, can be a real problem. Officials try and do what they can, but they can't be everywhere on the bike course all the time. Back here there needs to be some give-and-take on the part of both officials and athletes to try and work it out and make it a fair race for everyone, but it can get messy. It's accepted now that passive or inadvertent drafting may happen. Good race officials like Jimmy, know what to look for - for the athlete, who is purposly drafting to gain advantage. It does go on.

The great drafting debate in the sport of triathlon can get quite heated. Just go to the Slowtwitch Forum and put the word, "Drafting" in the forum's search function, to get a sense for this. It's almost as lively a debates about what's better, clinchers or tubulars, or which frame is more aerodynamic!

It's not about which format or style of racing is better. There is room, a reason and respect for both in Triathlon. Perhaps, not exactly the same but in cycling - you were a Stage Race specialist, who re-defined the approach to the biggest stage races like the Tour de France. Whereas, say, a Tom Boonen, will focus on one day cobbled classics of the spring. Both of you are great cyclists!

Hopefully you have found this helpful. Again, welcome back. Best wishes with the training and the racing on your road to Kona. It will be great to see you on the starting line there in October.

Best regards,


P.S. If you are considering adding another Ironman race to your resume this year, I would highly recommend Ironman Canada. It's one of the original five Ironman races and is truly iconic in the sport. The bike course is a beaut, and the course record for it is one that I am sure only someone with your credentials could bring down!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Randy Starkman R.I.P.

Amateur and Olympic sports in Canada lost a huge friend and supporter today. As reported earlier in the day, Toronto Star Sports Writer Randy Starkman died suddenly today, due to complications from a bout of pneumonia.

In the world of sports media in North America the lines are pretty clearly drawn - there are the Pro League team sports - Baseball, Football, Basketball and Hockey, also Tennis & Golf, and then there is everything else - the "other" sports. Most mainstream media outlets these days don't even bother with the "other" sports. But this was Randy's beat. In Canada, I believe he was the only one that was on that "other" sports beat, 365 days a year, year in year out.

Every four years, as we'll see in a few months there is an orgy of coverage of the "other" sports at the Olympic Games. However Randy tried to keep many of those Olympic and Amateur sports, everything from Athletics to Archery, in the spot-light all the time! It was Randy who kept the lights on in the 3 years and 50 weeks, between Olympic Games! Kudos to the Star for giving him the leeway and latitude over the years to do this - I really don't know of anyone else in Canada who would cover and report on cycling and canoeing, or bobsleigh, or nordic skiing the way Randy did. Certainly no one who did it with the depth of knowledge, detail, and the passion that he did!

My interactions over the years with Randy have been limited. We would see one another from time to time, at triathlon races and industry events and I recall a few lengthy phone chats over the years about triathlon, and also, sports development. He was a huge fan of the sport of triathlon and despite, following so many diverse sports, he had a great knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport of triathlon. And when he didn't know something he had no shame in asking a question about that sport!

Of course it's doubly tragic that we are in an Olympic year, and while there will be that usual flurry and frenzy of coverage during the actual games from all media, in London in August, it was Randy who was at the Swim Canada Olympic Trials just over a week ago, writing and blogging about the highs and the heart-break of who made it and who did not! It was Randy who was at the announcement of the new Toronto Triathlon Festival recently, and the one doing the interview with Olympic Triathlon Gold and Silver Medalist, Simon Whitfield trying to understand what Whitfield's drive was to go for a fourth Olympic Games.

These will be HUGE shoes to fill, for The Star, and for all of us who are fans, and followers of these "other" sports. We have lost a massive fan, supporter and friend. As Olympic & World Champion Kayaker Adam Van Koverden put it in another tribute today: "Randy was a steadfast devotee. He Loved us. He was our fan, our colleague & our friend"!

My condolences to the Starkman family. I am sorry for your loss. We will all miss Randy.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Being Out There

My friend Jimmy Riccitello wrote a great blog recently that summed it up really well. In short, the really great athletes want to be out there! The subject of that blog was Lance Armstrong and the fact that despite ferocious winds, Armstrong was out on the Ironman Hawaii bike course doing what he loves to do - riding his bike. Riccitello, called it desire!

In fact Armstrong makes this clear in the very first chapter of his first book, "It's not About The Bike", that there is nothing he would rather be doing, than being out there on his bike!

With the recent huge growth in recreational endurance sports, strangely, this is the dirty little secret, that never seems to get addressed. That regardless of the weather, how you feel, your hectic schedule, or whatever, there is nothing else you would rather be doing, than being out there doing what you love to do.

The great athletes rarely have to be told what to do. More often they need to be told what not to do - when not to train. When not to go too hard or too long. I recall the round of interviews several years ago with coach Brett Sutton, when the great Chrissie Wellington broke out and started on her magnificent run of long distance triathlon dominance. Sutton who was coaching Wellington at the time, was getting poked and prodded for his "secret". Sutton's best line in several of those articles was: "I have to have strong biceps with athletes like Chrissie - to hold them back!"

The picture at the top of this blog, was taken on a damp, cold and foggy day a few weeks ago. When I got up in the morning I really did not feel like riding. Yet, I prepped myself and the bike, and headed out. Fifteen minutes into the ride, I realized I had a grin on my face - this is what I wanted to be doing. This is what I really loved to be doing. Out there riding my bike!

Reflecting back on my own "career" as an endurance athlete, with the help of age and a better perspective, I have come to the conclusion that I was a better trainer than racer. I wanted to be out there, doing it, whatever it was, as much as I could. There is no doubt in my mind that I probably left some of my best performances on the training track or road and not in real races. Yet, I realize also that I would not have experienced the modest "success" that I did achieve, if I truly did not love being out there!

I don't mean to discredit anyone here, but when I engage with modern endurance athletes, the questions all seem to be about everything else, but that love of being out there and that desire. It's all about the gear, the graphs, the numbers, the program . . . . etc They seem to want the results, and to move forward, but what seems lacking from the questions I get and the discussions I am involved with and listen to, is that, love of being out there and that desire.

The bottom line is that if you have the love and the desire, the results will come!

Do you really love being out there?

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Friday, March 9, 2012

You are What You Eat - Maybe, More than You Think!

I learned a new word yesterday, "Obesogens". I first read it in an article in The Atlantic talking about how certain chemical compounds in our food, even in micro amounts, are possibly contributing to the over-weight and obesity epidemic in North America. The article is here. It's an interesting and thought provoking read. I would like to thank Professional Triathlete, and sometime race announcing colleague and friend, Jordan Rapp for bringing it to my attention.

Engaging and lengthy threads discussing the content of The Atlantic article sprung up on each of both Jordan and my Facebook pages after first Jordan and then myself posted it up.

There is no doubt that it's a complicated issue with many factors contributing to a persons weight gain and weight loss. One fact is clear - in North America in particular, we are getting bigger and bigger, with a large percentage of the population over-weight or obese, and a growing number becoming morbidly obese!

It's an oversimplification, but many believe that weight gain and weight loss is directly related to the calculus of calories-in and calories-out. If you believe that, you are possibly only partly right. For sometime scientists and nutritional scientists have known that there are chemical compounds, in foods, some/many, introduced in the growth, production and storage of those foods, that have impacts on the bodies own internal chemical systems, such as the endocrine system, which in turn regulates, the calories-in/calories-out balance. It's a valid question to ask and to challenge the agricultural industry and business, why are these chemical compounds in our food in the first place?

The old adage was that if you wanted to lose weight - eat less and be more active. However, for some, that does not work. The Atlantic article claims that for these folks, these "obesogens" may potentially over-ride, the bodies caloric balancing mechanisms and despite best efforts at diet modification and physical activity, a person will still gain weight!

They have come to this conclusion based on isolating some of these so called "obesogens" and also discounting, the popular claim that much of the overweight and obesity epidemic in North America, can be attributed to the fact that we eat more and are less active - That in fact, caloric consumption is about the same as it was many years ago and that activity levels are also the same, and perhaps even higher! It's these two claims, that I find, albeit from my own anectdotal observation, but also backed up by other authors on the subject such as Michael Pollan, strange and out of synch.

From what I have seen in my life, meal portion sizes in North America have increased substantially, and people are far less physically active. A generation ago, as kids, we walked everywhere - to/from school, to friends houses, to the store and to the playground. These days, kids and every one else, walks, very little. Sure there is an obsession amongst a select group of people to be physically active and train and exercise, but overall, we seem to be far less active in our lives.

It's my personal belief that the calories-in/calories-out equation is still important - if you start out, as Pollon suggests, "Eat[ing] food. Not too much. Mostly plants", and are physically active in your daily life, there is a very good chance that you will not put on massive amounts of weight. The claim, that "obesogens" in our food is causing us to get fat, while potentially true, puts us in dangerous territory, of giving the already overweight and the obese another excuse, to not do anything about their weight and health.

If you are reading my blog, you are very likely an endurance athlete - with daily physical activity levels way above, even what is suggested for "normal" health. You are also, conscious to obsessed, with what you eat, and probably strive to eat as healthy a diet as you can. The thing to remember is that we are not normal. Indeed, both Jordan and I, at 6'2" and about 155 lbs each, soaking wet - classic ectomorphs, thanks to our genetics - are not to be believed when it comes to these sorts of things. "You have no idea", many will say with a degree of incredulity. And they are probably right. I know that I could sit on the couch for a week eating only Oreos, and barely gain an ounce! When I stopped racing triathlon at a serious level, a number of years ago, and cut back on the amount I trained dramatically, I lost weight!

So perhaps there are people at the other end of the spectrum, who no matter what, are more inclined to put on weight, and that, these "Obesogens" in our food, drive that equation even further, negating the calories-in/calories-out calculus. If these foreign chemical compounds are in our food as a result of the foods production, why are they there?

What do you think? What has been your experience with food, with weight and your diet?

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

On Being a Triathlete & Seasonal Plans

Finish line scene at Ironman Canada

There is a trend in the sport amongst the recreational crowd, that I find curious - putting all your eggs in one race basket. Typically, these days it's putting all your focus on one big long race, and these days this is very often an Ironman. It's reached the point that I heard of athletes suffering post-Ironman depression - seriously!

It's natural that after a big goal has been achieved, that there is a bit of a let-down. Nothing wrong with this. This is a common occurrence in all manner of things we do in our lives.

To counter this, my suggestion would be to be a triathlete. Even more, be an athlete! If you are a true triathlete you are a jack-of-all-trades endurance athlete. Your range of things that you can do as an endurance athlete is wide. So why focus and obsess on just one event?

My suggestion would be to do two things:

1. Revel in your endurance athlete range, ability and endurance.

2. It sounds cliche, but focus on and enjoy the process of being a triathlete.

Regarding #1 - As a triathlete you can swim, bike and run. You don't have to just race and do triathlons. You have three times the events to look forward to and do, verses the single sport athlete.

Regarding #2 - If you really enjoy the journey and the process of being an athlete, the training, and everything that goes along with this, the goals will come.

Its OK to have a big season end goal - I am not advising against that. What I would recommend is that you have small goals along the way - smaller, other races, perhaps even single sport races and events leading up to the season ending race. Then, if the season-ender does not go so well, you'll have a season long list of other races, and hopefully successes to look back on.

Also, take time to hone your game of being a triathlete, of being an athlete. "Success" in any endurance sport, does not come over night. It takes time to build up the base of fitness and experience to do well, so take the time to immerse yourself in the sport, or sports and enjoy the journey?

Hopefully, what all of this will do is, buffer you from a really big let-down and depression after the end of the season and that big goal race.

What is your main season goal? Do you have little goals along the way?

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Social Media Marketing - What Are You Doing?

WOOOOOSSSSHHHHH! - Was that the sound of a Social Media Marketing opportunity passing you by?

For the first time ever, Social Media Marketing is on the table as a legitimate option for companies and athletes in the endurance sports business. In this Fall's go-round discussions for marketing plans for 2012, I heard for the first time from key industry people, that they are looking more at an athlete's digital foot-print, their blog, their number of Twitter followers, and how many Likes they have on Facebook etc . . . . In a meeting recently with one of the leading players in the retail side of the triathlon business I was told, "We are definitely looking more at an athletes social media activity, more than anything else"!

All of a sudden, social media matters! Both sponsors and the sponsored need to get with the program! The traditional way for brands and other businesses to get their name out there was to sponsor athletes and then use their results on the podium, as the methodology to get exposure. This still works at the highest level for the best athletes in a sport that are on the podium. You get that exposure. Those are marketable results. Now, with the power of social media, for other athletes, the podium does not matter as much, or at all - they may give a company or a brand, greater exposure, and a more powerful and intimate connection to customers through that athletes social network(s).

In a recent conversation with a leading consultant in the triathlon business, who is involved with sponsorship at the highest level in the sport, I was told, "Twitter and blogs are where it's at"!

In the sport of triathlon and the endurance sports in general, we are lucky, in that we have as consumers, and customers, people who are early adopters of just about everything. In fact, way before we even knew what social media was, we had web sites like Slowtwitch and it's associated high traffic forum. This was well before Facebook was even a twinkle in the eye of a young Mark Zukerberg and tweeting was for birds only!

The game has changed almost completely. For brands and an A-List of athletes right at the top of the sport, the old model of marketing remains more or less the same. If you are one of these A-Listers, you are defined by your results. You can pull down large and good sponsorship contracts, with the biggest companies, based almost solely on your results. This is how the game has always worked for professional athletes.

Now though, as you start to move down the ranks of athletes and move away from the bigger brands, Social Media Marketing starts to become much more important. For the athlete, it's not that results don't matter, they still do, but at the end of the day, it's about how many people you can influence, and the bigger the athletes social network, the more influence they will have and the more valuable they will be to the brands and companies that sponsor them. Athletes have to remember that when all is said and done, they need to deliver value to their sponsors.

For great primer on all of the above and it's impact, I highly recommend you read Mitch Joel's, "Six Pixels of Separation" and follow his blog.

Social Media Marketing - What are you doing this year that's different?

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012


It's a fact of life - if you do a lot of riding, you are going to get flat tires.

Every year at the Interbike Trade Show there are a few companies touting their flat-less, non-pneumatic tires. That these tires are going to revolutionize cycling by eliminating the dreaded flat tire. Despite the claims, these innovations never seem to catch on and, the over one hundred year old technology of the pneumatic tire roles on!

And that leads us back to the flats. In a typical year, my wife, Professional Triathlete Paolina Allan and I get on average 2 - 3 on-the-road flats, in thousands of miles ridden. Last, year was typical - we had exactly three flats for the year between the two of us!

Paolina had two on one day and one ride - one going up Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, AZ and another coming down Mt. Lemmon. The picture above is me changing #2. #1 was a staple through the tire, and #2 was a small razor sharp piece of scrap metal that again went right through the tire. I note in the picture above, another group ride's support van had stopped and loaned us a floor pump - very kind of them.

I had one, on the day we road the Ironman Canada bike course in August. Just as we started to ramp things up heading up the Yellow Lake climb, I ran over a metal screw, that perfectly punctured through the tire. In all three instances the change-over to a new tube was made quickly, and we were on our way in a few minutes.

These three flats, were total flukes and, just plain bad luck. On message boards and forums I see many triathletes and cyclists are plagued with flat tires. What I do to minimize flats is as follows and it seems to work for us:

- Ride on the best rubber that you can afford. I see this often - people riding $5,000 bikes and really cheap tires. Up-grade your rubber. It's win-win: Better ride and less flats.

- Make sure your tires are installed properly. It's not that hard a skill. This should be a basic. Know how to do it, at home and on the side of the road. Practice it! Outstanding guide for clincher tube changing at the always informative Park Tool site.

- Always check tire inflation and pressure, before every ride! Buy and use a good floor pump for home use and for on-the-road know how to use a Co2 cartridge (always carry two) or mini pump.

- Between rides check your tires over carefully. Look for cuts, and small micro pieces of glass and metal imbedded in the tread/tire. Use a pin to dig the small things out of the rubber.

- Scan road ahead for obvious things that cause flats. If on a group ride, alert following riders to these issues. Don't get too obsessed about this, as you also need to focus on riding and other things.

- Try to find a tire and rim/wheel combo that goes on and off easily for both your every-day wheels and your race wheels. Some combos are terrible and require the strength of three men to make a change. You don't want that combo.

FWIW - we have had great success with the Vittoria EVO CX tires. These clincher tires are "expensive", but they meet all of my key tire criteria:

- Have amazing feel for the road.
- Roll straight and true and offer fantastic grip in corners.
- Despite claims of others, reasonably durable. Again, only three flats last year!
- Go on and off our regularly used wheels very easily.
- Are readily available in most good bike shops.

Despite all of this, flats happen. Be ready for them! Don't sweat it. Know what you are doing. Make the change, and get on with the ride!
How often do you get flat tires?

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Black Socks

Are you a member of the Brotherhood of Black Sock Wearers?

The Rules seem to have mixed feelings on black Socks for cycling. However, I think they have been overly influenced by a certain cyclist from the State of Texas.

My use of black socks for cycling goes back a number of years, and way before, Big Tex started doing it. It was based more on utility and pragmatism than anything else. Back in the early 90's I was living in Vancouver, B.C. For those who know Vancouver, know that it rains a bit in Canada's Lotus Land, and you are often out riding in what locals call "Liquid Sunshine", more than you would like. There were some regular group road rides that I would attend, and I noticed that the hardest of the hard-core guys, like mountain bike ace, Bruce Spicer would wear black socks. I would always return from these gritty, wet, winter rides with my nice white cycling socks, now several shades of grey - a grey that would not wash out, no matter how many times through the washing machine, I note. So I went black! Problem solved.

I can't take full credit for it, but when Sugoi started to make cycling socks, when I was working there in the late 90's, I pushed in a planning meeting, to "Make sure you offer those socks in black". Made sense, Sugoi was a Vancouver based cycling apparel company - we knew about riding in dirty and wet conditions.

Since then, the sock business has exploded - it's a new sub specialty product category all itself these days. If you walk into a cycling or running shop you'll be faced by a wall of socks, from a variety of manufacturers, and a rainbow of colour options and designs, beyond the basic white sports sock. There are even anatomically correct options for your left and right foot . . who knew?

However, my eyes are always drawn to the black socks. My current preferred socks are the DeFeet Aireator Black High-Tops (pictured above). Simple. Basic. Black. Never get dirty. Always look the same! However, as you can see, on a quick perusal of the DeFeet website, their socks come in many different colours with all kinds of funky and cool designs. With socks these days, you can go crazy! Check out these retina wreckers from my friend Joe Foster from Sock Guy.

Now, when you see another cyclist wearing black socks, I am not sure what it is but, it's usually a veteran, someone who's been around for a few years. The kind of fellow rider that you just have to give a nod, to, to know that he/she get's it! They've been around the block a few times. They are comfortable in their own skin, and on the bike. You can be comfortable sitting on their wheel, or next to them in the group. They'll be calm and cool! And perhaps most importantly, they don't have to worry about keeping their white cycling socks, white!

Are you a member of the Brotherhood of Black Sock Wearers?

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