I finally made it around to doing an analysis video on the pro women. In this video we compare and contrast the aero positions of Michelle Vesterby, Liz Blatchford, Jodie Swallow, Amanda Stevens, Caroline Steffen, Amy Marsh, Rachel Joyce and Mary Beth Ellis. Here we talk about the meaning of an “aggressive” aero position, and compare setups at both ends of the aggressiveness spectrum. We also discuss whether the positions are appropriate for the rider in question (or anyone for that matter) and why. Finally, we put a couple of the athletes in the bike fit penalty box. As always we employ our videos shot on the Queen K at mile 110 at 300 fps.

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Let’s face it: there is a huge disconnect in the tri bike world. As with most things in life, it has to do with incentive-caused biases. By that I mean what is best for the manufacturers, bike shops, and athletes is not necessarily the same thing. Hence as a potential consumer of a tri bike, you must be armed with good information – not marketing hype or forum hearsay, but in-depth knowledge and unbiased advice. Unfortunately on a daily basis I meet with athletes who still fall into the traps of agents (shops, manufacturers) who are simply trying their best to do what brings them success, even if that is at the expense of the athlete.

First we must understand where the interested parties are coming from; where their bread is buttered so to speak. As an aside, in another life I hold a Chartered Financial Analyst designation and have spent years as an equity analyst and portfolio manager, so I do know a little bit about business and finance – especially behavioral finance. The bike business is tough. Manufacturers must invest in engineering, molds, and marketing many months (years) before a new bike design will hit the market. These investments ideally need to be amortized over quite a few years of robust bike sales. So for them it is a volume game. Scale of operations and more bikes sold means better margins, survival, and success. If you want to sponsor a Pro Tour road team, it will cost around $2M plus maybe 80 bikes. That is a tough nut to crack for a small or medium company regardless of whether they have the “best” product. Only the companies that have achieved scale can even consider playing here. Sponsoring a top pro triathlete might cost $100k – still tough for a small company. So the industry consolidates into fewer larger players, where synergies in management, distribution, and manufacturing can turn it all into a reasonably good business. But you need to sell a lot of bikes – ideally all kinds of bikes – MTB, recreational, road, tri, etc – to leverage your infrastructure.

Tri is just a niche, but a fast growing, high income niche. Triathletes are the early adopters and are willing to spend for speed. While a topic for another article, in the non-drafting race world, you can buy some extra speed. In the draft-legal road bike world, not so much. Once you hit a certain level, a good road bike is a good road bike, assuming it fits you. That new one is unlikely to move you from Cat 4 to Cat 3. But the high-zoot tri bike just might make the difference in qualifying for Kona or Worlds. Of course, that assumes it is the right bike for YOU, and that your fit is dialed. Which are a big assumptions.

Next comes the retailer who buys bikes from the manufacturer and sells to the athletes. The bike shop business model was built over many years of selling a variety of bikes that require little knowledge of fit. Road, recreational, MTB. You can get away with quite a bit as far as fit is concerned in these categories. In tri you cannot – end of story. Triathlon is simply a very different sport from cycling having amazingly little overlap with traditional cycle sports. Many tri bikes continue to be sold as if they were $400 hybrids. Stand over it, ride it around the parking lot, maybe get on a trainer for a few minutes. SOLD. This model is not the fault of the shops, but a product of tradition and the economic constraints of keeping a bike shop in business – a very tough business. We absolutely need quality local bike shops, but many walk a fine line between survival and doom. Depending on the manufacturer, if you want to carry a big name brand (and as we said, the smaller brands are finding it harder and harder to survive), you must commit to a large preseason inventory order. Then you have the typical fixed costs – facility, staff, financing. You need to move these bikes to keep the lights on. This works ok for most bike categories. As a triathlete though, you should not allow this model to rope you into a stupid purchase. Remember that shops need to SELL. You, however, need to spend many many hours training and competing on a bike that costs you $2-10,000 or more in a sport that costs you God knows what. You better get it right. Unfortunately, most bike shops are not equipped, nor are they incentivized to make sure you are on the best bike for you and that you are fit correctly. They most likely come from a road racing or MTB background. They may have never raced a tri. They may have a fit certification from somewhere – better than nothing, but 2 days does not a fitter make. They are rarely triathlon fit experts- even if they are road fit pros. I have seen some of the worst tri fits come out of well known road-fit shops.

Tri bike fitting is a specialized discipline, and most shops cannot find, much less afford to hire a fitter with the deep knowledge of tri fit required to get your fit right and be able to tell you exactly how your contact points translate to available bikes. That fitter will have had to invest a great deal of time learning his craft, and undoubtedly racing in the saddle too. They must have an architect or engineer’s brain. The fit process takes time, and it may honestly result in selecting a bike that the shop does not sell. A shop can only carry so many brands. And the brand portfolio is not likely to be selected as to fit spectrum – i.e., so that they have at least one model that fits each part of the typical spectrum of fit “shapes”. If I sell Specialized (in which case I have made a large inventory commitment), and you are a tall athletic guy with short legs you probably don’t fit on my Shivs. So am I going to send you across town to the Cervelo dealer when I’ve got all these Shivs on the floor, and another shipment coming in 2 months? Although some newer fit systems claim to produce ecumenical results, that is ultimately up to the shop and fitter. Always consider what the guy on the other side of the transaction’s personal incentive is. Most likely it has something to do with selling more bikes as quickly as possible. It is not evil, it’s just survival.

This points out why a prebuy fit SHOULD cost a decent amount of money. It should take some time and some serious thought/work by an educated fitter. BUT – if you end up buying a bike from that fitter’s shop, I believe the prebuy fit should cost almost nothing. Because it really SHOULD be a standard part of buying a tri bike. So paying for the fit SHOULD ensure good results and should promote unbiased info – if you buy a bike elsewhere, at least the shop made something for its work. If it is free, it might just be a sales pitch for one of the bikes on the floor.

A tri bike should not be an impulse buy. It should not be prompted by that cool looking bike you saw in the transition area at least week’s race. It should NOT be prompted by a “test ride” around the block – there are so many variables here that any bike can feel like crap in a test ride – and a poor match can feel ok for a short while. Wheel, saddle and bar choice along with how the fit is set up have far greater influence on your test ride outcome than the frame itself. It must be an informed decision. Ask around – get referrals, figure out where you can go to get the advice you need – and focus on the fitter, not the tools involved (beyond what I consider the basics listed below). Make sure you consider the source of the referrals and whether there is any conflict. Once you drop several thou on a bike, there is strong natural human behavioral bias to really believe it is the best bike ever.

How should a tri bike be purchased in a perfect world? First, you need to know how you fit on a tri bike. You need to know your fit coordinates. You MUST either go to an experienced tri fitter to figure this out, or you MUST, if you are really dialed in on your current bike, be able to translate those coordinates and determine their suitability relative to any tri bike you are potentially interested in buying. One tool that can help with this is our newly launched free site, mybikefit.com. Here you will find fit information that you cannot find anywhere else (certainly not on manufacturer’s websites), and if you know your fit coordinates you can zero in quickly on specific bikes via our Fit Targets. The site is only in beta mode, and there is lots more to come in terms of fit tools, but it already has some very valuable features.

If you get a prebuy fit, it should be done on a dynamic fit bike. Here the fitter is unconstrained in his quest to figure out where your contact points should be. And you can feel immediately, while riding at a moderate or even hard level, what affect any position changes have. In our studio, we designed, patented and built our own automated fit bike. If you want to do some workouts to test out your new fit coordinates, we’ll hook it up to our multirider system and you can go to town. Intervals, what have you. No guess work. Regardless of how the fit is determined, you should receive a report with your coordinates illustrated as well as a listing of what bikes work well for those coordinates. Ideally the fitter understands the tradeoffs and trigonometry here. Not just that the bike “can” fit, but that it is a good fit – and why. Some newer systems spit out a list of bikes (ecumenical or not). But does the fitter in this case really know which ones are “good” and why? Does he have the tools to play with component selection and determine exactly what is needed to make frame X and bars Y hit your coordinates – and can he tell you? Are the choices based on rational front end setups with the ability to tweak the fit in all directions without needing to do something stupid? If not, you are wasting your time. Go elsewhere. If a fitter insists you MUST get a custom bike, be VERY skeptical if you’re not 6’5″ or taller or shorter than 5′ (and even then you may be fine on the right stock bike). First, have him explain exactly why you are so unique, and then get a 2nd opinion (run, don’t walk). If you want a custom bike – great – just be DARN SURE the fit the custom frame is based on is a good one. I have seen way too many custom-made frankenbikes, or customs that coincidentally measure exactly the same as stock sizes but cost 2x as much.

Once you have those coordinates in hand, you should know exactly what bikes to look at, and how they should be set up. In our perfect world example, that fitter can get you the bike and build it to your specs – especially if it is a “super bike”. Otherwise, if you buy the bike off the floor or online, expect that it may need to be completely reassembled to your specs. The more the bike costs, the more proprietary components it has, the tougher it is to adjust/reconfigure, as a general statement. If a shop built it up generically for display, assume the cables or wires will need to be pulled so that extensions can be cut to your specs – and that is just for a start. This is another huge reason the setup should be known BEFORE the bike is even pulled out of the box.

Ironically, the big companies that make the most complex, proprietary bikes, are the ones LEAST likely to deal with fit boutiques. These guys got where they are by moving product! By relying on the old traditional pre-season order-or-die model. As a general statement, their dealers have no idea how (or desire) to properly configure one of their flagship $10k bikes to a specific set of fit coordinates. I have examples of this walking into my shop every day. Bike shops often do not have the tools or knowledge to do it right. When I talk to the folks at these big bike companies, they typically say, “we leave the fitting up to our dealers”, or “we have a system that does this” (which assumes the “fitter” understands the system and can operate it, not to mention has a deep understanding of tri fit). Some companies are so nonchalant about fit that they don’t publish relevant geometry specs, and/or post INCORRECT measurements (which I find indefensible but amazingly common). But the shops have no incentive to take the time or attention to detail that understanding all this requires – they will do much better spending their time on moving bikes that require far less effort. A good fit studio should have the time, knowledge and incentive. But said fit studio cannot order a Cervelo or Trek or Specialized bike for the guy they just did the prebuy fit on. Fit studios aren’t bike shops (unless they are, in which case they aren’t a true fit studio and have the same potential conflicts as any bike shop), and they aren’t high volume and they don’t sell hybrids and urban bikes. But they may actually sell quite a few high end tri bikes. We do. Granted they are from smaller companies that allow us to order bikes as needed.

I don’t want to be in the bike shop business. I want to be, and am, in the “help athletes get the best racing experience they can business”, the performance business. I sell bikes because people begged me to, and I found a few companies that make quality products and don’t require the dreaded $50k+ preseason order. Large inventory overhangs and order commitments lead to bad decisions and advice – it is a clear conflict of interest between the shop and athlete. I have had reps or management from most of the big bike cos visit. One said, “you know we have 4 dealers within 10 miles of you and didn’t sell one (high end tri bike) in this region last year.” “That’s funny”, I said, “I just had a guy fly in from Wisconsin (maybe the co’s home state) so I could spec out one of those bikes for him – because no dealer within 2 hours of him could tell him what stem he needed or could agree on which frame size was best and why”. Most big bike cos will not sell their bikes, even a small subset of their bikes, to the very outlets that understand them best and will ensure a fantastic experience for the athlete who in turn becomes a great brand advocate.

Typical scenario: Joe Kona Qualifier comes in for a prefit with a few big name super bikes in mind. Fit results are generated, and we go over the list. Yes you fit on that one well (and here is why). No we can’t get it for you. Why not? (read above paragraphs out loud)… Well which ones can you get? Joe Kona buys one of the good fits we can get, not the big co super bike he thought he wanted. He gets the bike built to his spec the right way, gets some good advice along the way, and gets a free fit on the bike itself once it’s ready. Loves the bike, and now really likes brand X which he never thought about before coming in because they don’t have a huge marketing budget. Seems like a missed opportunity for big bike co.

We (and I am sure many other specialty fit operations) really know a thing or two about each of these manufacturer’s bikes – I would posit WAY more than just about any traditional bike shop. The hard truth is these super bikes are just a big pain in the butt for average bike shops. Whereas the big dollar road bikes are generally no more difficult to fit, build or configure than a bargain basement model, the same can’t be said for super bike tri rigs that come with stacks of proprietary fit parts, about 4x the build time (not to mention the learning curve required to build one), and finicky type-A riders (who SHOULD be finicky). The assembly manual for super bike A is 19 pages with 97 figures, super bike B is 57 pages, and super bike C is 42 pages and/or a series of 18 videos. Then there are the fit manuals and whitepapers. All of which we read and understand, even though we can’t offer said bikes to clients. We built custom fit computers for each of these super bikes just so we can understand how fit works on them. I can tell you in minutes what stem and bar setup you need on that new super bike. And we can build it to suit your fit and race goals perfectly. But just don’t ask us to get one for you.

I spoke with another rep from a big Pro-Tour-sponsoring bike co who looked to be losing their only dealer in our region. So I said we can sell your tt bikes and probably some road bikes too. I have a custom-built computer that specs out exactly how each of your umpteen proprietary stem configurations affects fit. His response was that they can’t just let me sell their “hot” bikes… Once again, they need to move a lot of product to pay for the Pro Tour sponsorship and R&D, I get that. A fit studio isn’t going to put much of a dent in that nut. But then again, I am not sure that offering select bikes via a high service, high touch, knowledgeable channel like a specialty fit boutique somehow hurts the rest of the business. Seems to me it would be additive if you already aren’t selling any of these bikes in a region. And in brand satisfaction and loyalty, the payoff could be much bigger than the relatively small monetary bump. But then you would have to tell any traditional shop that you sign on as a dealer that some fit guy is selling their high end TT bike. Which is probably the big issue here – that just won’t float in the bike shop world – unless maybe some kind of a partnership could be developed.

We don’t need to sell bikes. But it sure makes the process more enjoyable for the athlete and we sell quite a few even though we have almost zero inventory. And we certainly don’t mind the extra revenue. Ask any client of ours – you get a list of all bikes that will fit you – the way it SHOULD be – but many/most of which we probably can’t get for you. We are a fit studio first – that sells some bikes via special order, not a bike shop. We believe we are the model that SHOULD be used to sell tri bikes to triathletes (maybe only tri bikes but probably high-end road bikes too) who invest huge amounts of money, time, and effort into their sport. Luckily some bike companies are on board with this. Most are not – yet. Maybe this will change. We CAN get you any wheelset, any components and accessories you need. We SHOULD be able to get you any bike you want. Assuming the big bike cos can’t wrap their heads around this, I think there is potential for the tri-specialty fit studio to partner with bike shops so both sides come out ahead. The bike shop can outsource the fitting, bike selection, and even the bike build to the fit studio while increasing the throughput of high-end tri bikes and bringing more triathletes in the door. The fit studio gets access to bike brands that they wouldn’t otherwise get – both sides bring each other business and stick to their core competencies. Both sides, the bike company and the athletes benefit. But until then the industry is stuck trying to push high tech, high strung high cost machines to high knowledge high dollar clients through a channel designed to sell moderately priced bikes to everyman. Remember that next time you go shopping for a tri bike, and please get a GOOD fit FIRST.

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In part 2 of our annual look at the bike fits of the pros in Kona, we check out winner Frederik Van Lierde, top American Tim O’Donnell, as well as some questionable fits. One theme that remains constant is very steep effective seat angles. Everyone is sitting in the 80+ degree range. We also spot a couple sets of Osymmetric chainrings, and discuss crank length. Each of these are effectively ways to make the pedal stroke as efficient and powerful as possible while maintaining a low torso position. Then we look at some examples of apparently sub-optimal positions: low saddles, high saddles, reach issues, and upright torsos. In at least some of these cases the equipment the athlete was forced to ride may have limited their setup. Our analysis of the women’s bike fits is up next. In the mean time, grab a cold one and have a look.

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Kona 2013 – Bike Fit Analysis, Pro Men, part 1

Posted in: Uncategorized by admin on November 15, 2013

The first of our bike fit analysis videos is up. This one looks at Starykowicz, Kienle, and McKenzie. We compare various fit aspects via motion analysis. It will be clear the Andrew is a bit of an outlier in the way he is fit on the bike, bucking the trend of very steep effective seat angles that we see in many of the other pros. The next video will look at Frederik Van Lierde, as well as some more questionable fits.

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Late-breaking race report here on Kona #7. 1996 was my first one after which I took a triple-baby pause and then raced it 6 years in a row. Every year I intend to take a Kona-break and this time I really mean it. After last year’s epic meltdown, however; ending up 4th AG after having lead for 136 miles, I wanted to come back and have a race I could feel good about regardless of placing (thanks Coach for subliminally putting that in my head). This meant taking an honest look at why I failed last year. And I say honest because I sure had come up with a lot of excuses for my disappointing race.

Last year’s big race was Norseman Xtreme, 10 weeks before Kona (race video here). I came into Norseman having trained in the 4th flattest state but with a lot of strength work to try to make up for the lack of steep terrain. I had a great race in Norseman and as result felt that if I can do well at Norseman from training on flats, I can do anything. Feeling invincible was my first mistake. So my Kona build lacked the ever important post ironman re-balancing of my strength and mobility. Yes, the core sessions were in there as always but I justified it to myself with time limitation related excuses. What I did I rushed through with bad form. My hip flexors are particularly tight if I don’t maintain the (boooring) work and my glutes are traditionally weak; those are my trouble-spots as I sit a lot at work. End result – I went into Kona with confidence that did not match my readiness. Couple that with an extraordinarily tough wind and heat year that had me dehydrated plus being too aggressive on the bike – I started going backwards during the marathon. It is never a good idea to set a time goal for Kona. Madam Pele scoffs at time goals.

Fast forward to this year, Kona was intimidating me once again. But Coach Al and Todd helped me get my race goals sorted – the focus would be on preparation, planning and executing those plans perfectly without regard to overall time or what my competitors were doing (at least until the 2nd half of the run anyway). So I made the trip to PAP (Pursuit Athletic Performance) to dial in the circuits I needed for my current strength and compensations and to make sure I was doing them right – it was humbling to have to revert back to the very basic and easiest versions or exercises. Like the half front planking with reach making sure the stick across your back does not move at all – such an easy concept but impossible to do right if you compensate. But yet – as my mother said when she saw me in action – every single person in her gym obviously does with wrong form when she realized how much I had to concentrate to get a tiny movement like that perfect.

We started the Kona build 10 weeks prior with an average of 15 training hours per week (the relatively low volume is due to time constraints but is offset with some mighty high intensity sessions) and a couple of 18 hour weeks. To minimize pool time I used the VASA increasingly – our local pool had been torn down and rebuilt so this had been my sole swim option all winter anyway. It’s amazing how well it translates to the real thing. When the Bay warmed up, most swim sessions were open water. I also started doing track with pure runners at Brown University – I can’t thank the Ronald McDonald House Running Club coaches and runners enough for the support and comradery. These sessions got me so far out of my comfort zone and I was humbled at how far these folks can fly with each step. I could tell it was beneficial to mingle with the fast.

Now to some bad luck along the way. A slight setback in June where I lost 1/5 of my blood with a visit to the ER; no surgery needed, just iron supplements to get me un-anemic again (freak female related stuff). Then one month before Kona I came down with Shingles (we call it ‘Hell’s Fire’ in Norway for good reasons, please let me never get this again). The nerves wrapped around my back were inflamed; a pain that is always on during the course of the illness. Ibuprofen around the clock. Careful swimming was possible. Biking was interesting – getting my leg over the top tube was a dilemma but once I was in position I could bike. I just couldn’t put my foot on the ground to support my body weight as it put too much pressure on my back when moving from a ‘floating’ position to a weight bearing one, therefore much of the biking was done indoors. The long rides were outdoors and Peter Russo who was also building for Kona would make sure intersections were clear while I was circling. Running for some reason felt fine, something I can’t explain. The whole affair was a pretty good reminder to keep good posture – once I moved wrong I got shooting pains. 10 days before the race I was pain free but a disaster movement-wise. Coach Al made a rush trip to RI to evaluate the damage and this was extremely critical as it turned out. Had he not redirected those last few strengthening/stability training sessions and helped me “turn on” and activate the stabilizers around my hips, I probably would not have had the same result.

Kona week – heat acclimating and getting the body straight were the focus; 3x per day I worked on my new strength circuit. Not the kind most people associate with ‘panic training’. Staying off the feet as much as possible during pre week is always tough but I did a good job this year. 3 days out I felt really good but then had a bout of bad luck again during our daily swim back from the Kona Coffee Boat. The person in front of me decided to dive down, he kicked straight up and hit my head with a hard blow. I saw some cartoon style gray stars and everything became quiet it seemed for a second. For the 3rd time this year I thought there goes my race. It was a violent kick and what’s weird is the person never checked on me. I hope his foot hurts a lot because in writing moment a month later the bone by my eye still aches and it hurts to roll my eyes.

Eye of the Tiger

Bike Check-in

Enough of the soap opera drama, race day was a perfect day. Celebrity racer Chef Gordon Ramsay of Hell’s Kitchen walked by me during early morning transition and whispered “you have a good race, OK?” Sir, yes Sir – having watched his show and seen the consequence of a bad pie I knew a good race was a must. There was no swell during the swim and optimal conditions. I lined up in the middle of it all and must admit I was concerned about contact to my head. I felt vulnerable. I tried to avoid the flailing arms and legs and was pleased when I got to the turnaround boat with minimal roughness. Because of the lack of swell, I was able to sight the buoys and swim straight. My biggest wish for this particular race is more frequent and taller buoys – if there is a swell you often can’t see the next buoy. I took my time in T1 to actually sit down, get my heart rate down and drink a lot of water which was served to me by my fabulous team of 3 ladies. I could have spent all day in there being pampered. Swim 1:03.

Mile 10 heading out on the Queen K

The bike was hot as usual but fast. We had no winds up to Hawi nor cross winds coming down – a fabulous treat it was! We had a nasty headwind on our way back along the Queen K for a couple of hours, maybe less. At the feedbag hand-off in Hawi I had another ‘there goes my race’ drama. Somehow my special needs bag hit my aerobars and I flew over my handlebars. Good grief. What’s amazing is all the things I had time to think about during the actual flight before I hit the ground. I went through several emotions from fright to disappointment to shit happens acceptance. I rolled shoulder first and the bike landed on me. The volunteers swiftly got me up and on my way after checking that the helmet was intact. Some time later a girl in my age group, Diana H passed me going very strong – I picked it up trying to keep her in my sight but the pace was too fast and my master plan was to be more conservative than ever – I could see she was working very hard and thought (hoped) maybe she would come back later. I didn’t know who else might be in front of us. Bike 5:15.

Run – my plan was to be overly conservative first half and then go. We had a nice cloud cover early on which was another fabulous treat. It made a big difference. Still it was hot but instead of 107F it was 87F. It was a very humid day, the dew point was 72F. Overall it was a much easier year than last. At the 5 mile turnaround I was surprised to see Diana H only about 1 1/2 minutes ahead. I passed her up the road and we established that there were no one else in our age group ahead. I told her to stay strong (but not too strong). I figured the next girl in our age group was 11 minutes back, but holy cow she looked good! She was running fast and I tried not to panic. She told me the next day she is a 2:52 open marathoner… I kept my pace comfortable because I felt with all the happenings I didn’t have a big margin of error if I wanted to stay strong and steady. I was gun shy from previous years and I started doubting myself. Up the long steep hill at mile 10 to the Queen K and this is where I walked for the first time – through the whole length of the aid station to make sure I was completely caught up on hydration. My stomach felt good. I saw Todd and Peter (who ended up with a torn hamstring right before Kona and was spectating) and they yelled that I looked good. At this point – half way – the plan was to pick it up and just go for it. My fitness should have been up to the task but I was still afraid to blow up like so many times before so I kept it comfortable. Into the Energy Lab and down to the 17.8 mile turn around where you again can start looking where the competition is. About 45 seconds later here comes the German girl who was 11 minutes back at mile 5 – crap!

Feet (barely!) floating above Alii Drive

Mile 22, working it, running scared. I think I found Waldo too.

We had 8 miles to go and this is where I actually said to myself – 2nd is good! I grabbed my special needs bag which contained a couple of Glucose Shot bottles which I had picked up in the diabetic section at Wal-Mart. This was something new I had tried in training as my stomach always gives me issues late in the marathon. Glucose doesn’t require the stomach to do any work as it goes straight into your blood stream – and so it did! I told myself – yes I was talking out loud at this point – that if she is to pass me I am going to make her work for it. In order to feel good about 2nd place I had to work as hard as I could in order to truthfully say I did all that I could. I picked up my cadence and ran my best up the one mile hill and out of the Energy Lab. I took small sips of the Glucose and started throwing down coke and water at aid stations, wow I felt good and happy. I concentrated on my form and tried to stay tall. This is typically the point where people are losing it big time but we had planned my whole race around feeling good here and being able to let it rip. I saw Todd and Peter again at mile 22 and wondered where they had been – I didn’t realize they had closed the road at mile 13 for spectators this year, which was mile 22 going back. Hopefully they will change this back. It was too lonely. They yelled that I was looking good but I yelled back,”she is coming she is coming”! I pressed on. A little later Diana H’s husband appeared (I know as he introduced himself) and told me I was killing it – I was not able to respond at the moment but realized later that this person was a class act, motivating me in a time of battle. Todd and Peter appeared while I was running up the last one mile hill and informed me I was now 4-5 minutes ahead! What? HUGE relief – the strategy to be patient was working. I could relax and enjoy the feeling. I was proud that I had finally executed in a way that allowed me to feel strong in the last miles. This had never happened before. The high fives from kids were flying down the finisher chute; the happiest of endings (alongside Norseman of course). Run 3:37 Total 10:03:26

Hard to beat the feeling

Feeling way better than last year!

Todd more tired than me from worrying

Lessons learned: Madame Pele requires respect. Trust your coach. Don’t take your past performance for granted. It’s the little things that may end up making the biggest difference. Big thanks to my long-time loyal support: Todd of course and Coach Al, FuelBelt, Pursuit Athletic Performance, Steven Harad (bike sponsor), PowerBar, Speedfil, VASA, and ISM. And last but not least to this crowd at home – my mom who flew in from Norway with the troll trio.

Support Crew

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Kona 2013 – Top Age Group Men Bike, Super Slo-mo

Posted in: Uncategorized by admin on November 01, 2013

This is the last of our Kona cycling videos for 2013. That is other than some bike fit analysis coming soon. And we also have run footage. I actually have a backlog of great run footage, including the Boston Marathon and Eagleman 70.3. So lots more vids to come…

This video shows the first 14 age group men into T2 at mile 110 on the Queen K. It also shows some other top finishers that came by a bit later. The time into T2 among the riders in this video ranges from 5:38:04 to 5:46:09, for a range of only 8 minutes. Finishing times were much more widely distributed…

Many of the top age group finishers are in this video, including top overall age grouper Kyle Buckingham, and fastest biker Sam Gyde, along with 2011 overall age group winner Sami Inkinen. Many of these athletes out-rode many of the pros, and some ran sub 3 hours too. Several went well under 9 hours. It is interesting that the age group times were notably faster this year while those of the pros generally weren’t. Yes, the age groupers have a smaller draft zone than the pros, but have more heat and wind due to the later start time (although this year this was likely less of a factor than usual). All of these riders at the front here were draft legal when they passed me, even though the first four were in a loose group as were some of the riders near the end of the video. However, a bit later some huge packs came by.

The bike fits of most of these riders look quite good. There are a couple that could potentially be improved, but the positions are generally excellent. So whereas the choice of equipment varies a great deal across this bunch, the fits don’t.

Note that the first 4 riders were not filmed in super slo-mo due to a technical glitch, but I have slowed the video to approximate the effect. Also note that I do not film the top age group women, because by the time they pass by, the Queen K is packed with male age groupers and it is very tough to spot the women among them and capture them on video.

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Kona 2013 – Pro Women Bike Super Slo-mo

Posted in: Uncategorized by admin on October 29, 2013

Now we move to the women’s pro field, with this video of the first 17 pro women into T2, shot at 300 fps. After six consecutive years of filming on the Queen K, I can say that in general the women’s positions have become more aggressive and more similar to the men’s. In this video you will see both ends of the aggressiveness spectrum and as always some questionable fits. More on this soon when we release our Kona fit analysis videos. We also have a video on the way showcasing the fastest male age groupers.

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Part 2 of our video study of the male pros passing thru mile 110 on the Queen K. As always, slo-mo shot at 300 fps. Some of the big names are here in this group of the 13-26th pros into T2. These include Tim O’Donnell, Crowie, and Pete Jacobs. Whereas the faster bikers were pretty well strung out, here we see a group of several athletes (trailing TJ Tollakson at this mile marker) who all rode around 4:40. Although riding in a group, they certainly look legal as they pass. We also see the two fastest runners of the day, Ivan Rana (2:47) and Bart Aernouts (2:44) who both ran into the top ten while many others in this video went backwards.

I continue to hear that the draft zone was in fact extended this year (again) for the pros. But I am not still not sure if this is the case, even though it might explain some of the race outcome. What’s confusing matters is that the draft zone has already been larger than regulation in Kona for the last several years, but this has effectively been a “secret” (see this article by Aaron Hersh). The lane reflectors on the Queen K are about 12 meters apart. For the last 3-4 years at least, the “secret” pro draft zone in Kona has been set by the reflectors, effectively extending the standard pro draft zone (10m front wheel to front wheel) by 3.5m (assuming back wheel to front wheel spacing set by reflectors = 12m + 1.5m for bike length). Or has it actually been front wheel to front wheel on the reflectors = 12m draft zone? Not according to that article… So was it really extended further this year? Anyone know for certain?

This video also shows some questionable bike positions – more on this in a later video. Until then, have fun:

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Here we go again – the first of our 300 fps super slo-mo videos from Kona. Well the 2nd really – we put an early edit up on Xtri.com while still in Kona, but now that we are back at TTBikeFit HQ we will be churning out several more. This one features the first 12 pro men into T2 approaching the finish of the bike.

The conditions were certainly easier on the athletes this year than last year, not to mention much easier on us. Everything is relative of course – Kona is always hard. This year though the raging winds typically felt in the last 7 miles up to Hawi were largely absent, even for the age groupers. In some years these winds don’t show up until after the pros have come and gone. Age groupers did report strong headwinds from Waikoloa to the airport (approx mile 85-105). Not sure whether the pros experienced this as well but I am guessing they did. The heat was also not as bad as it often is – haze and then cloud cover kept things relatively hospitable.

That all said, we still saw quite a few blowups among the pros, and some slow marathons. Mark Allen is on record as saying that no one runs as fast as he and Dave Scott did because they bike so hard nowadays. Chris Legh mentioned to me before the race that the draft zone had been increased by two meters this year, and that he had found it to be enough to remove any drafting effect during training rides on the Queen K. It looks as if he was right as the mens’ pack blew apart on the way back with huge gaps between the first several riders. In past years you often had one bike specialist off the front, and then a few big groups of chasers. This could also explain the relatively slow marathons in the cooler than usual conditions. Uber-bikers Starykowicz, McKenzie and Kienle let it rip, and the run specialists had to make a decision as to how much time they could afford to give up versus pushing the limit on the bike. The decision was tougher this year as they apparently couldn’t depend on pack riding to help them stay in contention. Van Lierde seemed to find the sweet spot, as he ceded a bit of time on the bike to the front riders while staying well ahead of the run speedsters into T2. He was then able to pull off a decent, if not great marathon for the win.

There will be several more bike and run videos coming, including some with bike fit analysis. Until then, enjoy the first chapter:

Kona 2013 – Pro Bike Checkin

Posted in: Uncategorized by admin on October 12, 2013

As always I stood on the searing pavement in front of the King K to bring you pics of as many pro bikes as possible. Enjoy!

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