Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Onion Hombre.

I chose the Onionman Olympic distance triathlon as my "tune-up" race for the big show down at the Hawaii 70.3 this coming Saturday.

This was my first time racing on the new clincher-style Gray Wheels, so I was pretty excited to be trying out their equivalent of Zipp 808's, along with a new SRAM Red 11-23 cassette. The one element that is always present at Onionman is occasional big gusts of crosswind, so I knew this would be a great chance to see how these wheels performed in Hawaii-Like conditions.

Onionman has never been without it's share of "hiccups" for me. The first year I raced, my water bottle and fuel bottle flew off my bike on the first speed bump coming out of transition, and spilled my nutrition all over the road. The next year, I fought pre-race poopies that left me standing in a porta-potty with a wetsuit around my ankles just a few minutes before the race start. That year, I just did not feel right, and came in seventh overall. Here were my splits for that year:

Swim: 0:21:36
T1: 1:03
Bike: 1:03:19
T2: 0:36
Run: 0:39:35

Time: 2:06:09

So this year, I was anxious to see what would be in store. And sure enough, just as the race announcer said "10 minutes to swim start, everybody down to the water!", I heard a loud sound like a gunshot - BOOM. Somebody's tire blew. Sucker.

As I adjusted my wetsuit and headed down to the water, I happened to glance at my bike. The rear wheel visibly flat. MY tube had blown.

I sprinted to my bike and whipped out my flat change kit, and at the same time, a race official showed up, "Just go down and swim, man, I got it."

Seriously? ROCK ON. I was a bit apprehensive about him getting adequate pressure and leaving my rear derailleur in the proper gear, but what could I do? You can't pass up an offer like that. I didn't see him again after the race, so I guess he was probably my heavenly triathlon angel, with huge feathered wings tucked under his bright orange official vest. ;)

The swim here was cold. Headache cold. And dirty. You should not open your mouth and swallow any water if you value the health of your gut flora. Incentive to swim fast! I wore my neoprene cap, but about 200 yards in, I felt like it was choking me, so I tore it off and kept swimming. So some fisherman is going to find himself a nice little thirty dollar piece of floating headgear...

My swim split was a 21:35. One second faster than laster year. I'll take it.

I hopped on the bike in sixth place. Everything, including the tire, appeared to be set-up perfectly. My only error was 1) forgetting my aero tube bottle, so I rode with my downtube Gatorade bottle - full of tasty GU Brew; 2) forgetting my sweet Zeal Optics sunglasses, so I had to use some old generic glasses that fogged a bit, but not really a big deal.

Bike split on my Specialized Transition felt great. I hammered into the headwind going out, knowing it would be an easy ride coming back. I rode a 1:00:11, 3 minutes and 8 seconds faster than last year. For a 40K bike, that is a seriously sweet improvement. With an extra gear, I could have ridden under an hour.

With that bike split, I was in first place by the turnaround point.

Coming off the bike in first place, you feel like the rabbit - with all those hungry dogs chasing. I slipped into my Avia Bolts and took off for the 6.4 mile run, running scared. At 1 mile, I looked back. Nobody.

At 2 miles, I looked back. Nobody.

At 2 and a half miles, I checked again, and this time, saw Michael Gordon about 100 yards back. Knowing he could hammer out a 34 minute 10K, I knew I could be in trouble.

He passed me at the 5K mark, and I thought about trying to run with him, but I can't move that fast - I was feeling pushed to the limit running 6:15's.

As Michael opened a big gap, my strategy moved towards holding off 3rd place and finishing strong.

I managed to keep a large gap between myself and 3rd place, and came across 38:42, about 45 seconds faster than last year, and good enough for a 2nd place finish, an age group win, a little bit of cash, and a 2:02:09 overall, EXACTLY 4 minutes faster than last year, which I'm very happy with for an Olympic distance race!

Ultimately, it looks like (despite the last minute tire blow!) those Gray wheels turned out pretty well! Thanks to SynergySports, I'm looking forward to racing a great bike split in Hawaii, and feeling very good about my fitness.

With the Hawaii race so close, this will be the first time I've raced Onionman without planning a stagger-fest of red wine tasting in downtown Walla Walla after the race. Somehow, I didn't imagine a few barrels of ethanol to be conducive to recovery. But a Mexican restaurant stop at Caseula's in good ol' Ritzville, Washington was the next best thing.

P.S. A shout-out to my race homies for the weekend: Scott Chesrown ( - 2nd place division finish ) and Amy Larson (who did not stop to pet the miniature donkeys on the bike course) - they had great races and were fantastic trip-mates!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ben, Do you honestly feel that long distance triathlon (70.3 & Ironman) are healthy endeavors? I haven't met a triathlete who isn't either injured or just getting over an injury. Divorce rate and immune deficiency issues also are the tip of the iceberg.

Only if you train smart. Junk miles = family problems,lots of time training, injuries, and immune suppression. Probably 80% of people do this sport wrong, and it's sad because I hear bad stories from spouses and kids.

Ask me anything

Friday, May 7, 2010

Announcing My New Wheel Sponsor: Gray Wheels!

I am proud to announce that I will be riding Gray wheels for the 2010 race season, and running their 9.5 carbon clinchers for both my front and rear, with a Powertap SLC+ on the rear wheel (when I'm not using a disc).

Am I excited about this? You bet!

Pictured above: The 9.5 full Carbon Clincher front is a 700c wheel and is developed mainly for serious time trail racers and triathletes, who know what they are doing! The 9.5 is a 95mm deep section rim that offers the ultimate aerodynamics in the right conditions. If you are racing in light to no wind, this is the perfect wheel to use!

Here's the low-down on these awesome wheels, straight from Gray's website, which you can visit by clicking here:

Gray wheels are handmade from high modulus carbon. The rims are designed for maximum aerodynamics, minimum weight, while retaining incredible structural strength. In fact, structural strength is the area our engineers have made our primary focus. It has allowed us to produce an extremely solid, strong and stiff rim that can handle a rider up to 240 lbs, while still maintaining extremely light weight.

We offer 8 specific wheel models. Each model is designed to optimize specific riding conditions. The 40mm Full Carbon Clincher is designed as a great training, criterium and climbing wheel. The 50mm Full Carbon Clincher is designed as a versatile training and racing wheel that offers the greatest all around aero dynamics when including all riding and weather conditions. The deep 95mm rim is optimized for maximum aerodynamics at 43 km per hour (26.7 mph). The 95mm depth and rim design is proven to be the most aerodynamic at this speed over all other depths, Going deeper only ads more weight and does not reduce more drag, unless it is a full disc. We collaborate with Zipp on the disc wheel, since the version we use is not only the lightest disc ever made (945 grams), it is also the most aerodynamic.

The bicycle wheel industry is rather small, so most of us know each other very well and collaborate on testing, design and aero dynamic testing, so do not be surprised to find Gray design features in other high end wheel brands.

Ever since triathlons inception, there has been a discussion on what the most aerodynamic and effective wheel combination is. There has been lots of misinformation in this area, so here is bottom line:

In flat, non windy conditions, a 95mm front and a disc rear is the fastest combination.

In slightly windy conditions, a 50mm or 95mm and 95mm rear is the fastest combination.

In more windy and /or hilly conditions, a 50mm front and disc or 95mm rear is the fastest combination.

In hilly and non windy conditions, the 40mm front and rear is a preferred wheel.

In conditions that are both windy and hilly, the 50mm front and rear is the preferred option.

We also offer two new race wheel options: The SLX and the CSX. The SLX is our new sub 1100 gram wheel set designed for lighter, professional riders. The CSX is a carbon spoked version of the SLX that can handle more weight, yet yields the same ultra low drag.


  • Full High Modulus Carbon
  • Fully UCI tested and approved
  • Available for Campagnolo, SRAM or Shimano
  • Super high impact-resistant moulded rim
  • 20 Spoke Front / 24 Spoke Rear
  • Single billet CNC machined hub
  • Four fully sealed EZO bearings / Hybrid Ceramics 5/5
  • Stainless bladed spokes
  • Integrated internal nipples
  • Carbon/Ti skewers or Alu with solid axle
  • Basalt breaking surface
  • Specialty breaking pads included
  • Spoke tool included
  • Tubular and Carbon Clincher
  • Super-engineered structural strength
  • Optimized Aerodynamic design
  • Road or Track setup (disc only)
  • Hand built

Of course, as with most of my sponsors, Pacific Elite Athletes and Rock Star Triathlete Academy members can get good deals on these wheels, so drop me a line if you want me to hook you up with the folks at Gray!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Wet & Wild Race Report

I guess most triathletes kinda know about the Avia Wildflower triathlon, but for those of you who want the 30 second elevator pitch... a triathlon geek's dreamy 3 day festival with multiple events, Wildflower is considered the "Woodstock of Triathlon", attracting close to 8000 participants, the majority of whom camp at the race venue for several days leading up to the race, creating what looks like a tent city comprised of spandex-clad's a couple videos I shot:

In addition, Wildflower is also considered one of the tougher courses out there, and this holds true for both the Olympic and Half Iron distances (for some flavor of the Olympic, watch my wife's video adventure below)

So as a "big" and "tough" triathlon, I was pretty determined to make a good showing at the Wildflower Half Ironman. Two years ago, the only other time I've done this race, I was fifth overall and fourth in my division, and although this wasn't my "HIGH PRIORITY" for this year (that's coming up in 5 weeks in the land of Hawaii), I wanted to do as well or better than my last showing. After all, who wants to exercise for two years and find out you're less fit?

My wife and I flew down on Wednesday, allowing us three days to camp in the scary wilderness before the Saturday race. Of course, I brought along a few of my highly recommended travel staples - ActionWipes travel wipes (good for cleaning bikes and the occasional ass), Bumblebar energy bars (tasteful alternative to airplane food) and nuun electrolyte beverage (always recommended near hot races) and Solar Synergy from Mt. Capra (high quality antioxidant loading can reduce your rating of perceived exertion during hard efforts so THERE). The scary wilderness also involved hot running showers, VIP access to an RV with full amenities, and several large plastic bags full of fresh food from Wal-Mart. Ah, roughing it.

I've also really been focusing on keeping my body "non-acidic" and grabbed a ziplock bag of Enerprime powder as well, giving myself 1 tablespoon a day leading up to the race.

Since I sent my Specialized Transition bicycle and gear down earlier with one of the Pacific Elite Fitness athletes who was gracious enough to drive down a freakin' HAUL of my equipment, it was pretty easy travel, and the days leading up to the event were filled with the standard triathlon expo-esque hanging around, checking out new products, eating new variations on sugar, talking to old and new faces, assessing whether the legs should or should not be shaved, and trying to handle the nerves and camping food constipation leading up to the big day.

Race morning arrived at 4:30am with car alarms, some college student's loud "pump me up for a race" rock music and a random crying baby. I'm sure that somewhere, masked behind the noise of rising triathletes, were birds singing.

Two hours before the race, I ate a couple salted yams with a dab of peanut butter. For those rabid nutritional nazis who follow my BenGreenfieldFitness blog, YES, I know peanut butter is a no-no according to my testosterone-boosting, fatty-acid optimizing, Russian prize fighter protocol from Bioletics, but hell, you can only find certain foods at Wal-Mart while driving in to camp. Finally, I pulled out my secret weapon 30 minutes prior to the swim start: 2 packets of delta-E energy powder. BOOM!


The Swim: Since it was very cold in the morning, I ventured down to the water as one of the last guys, content to steer clear of the swim entrance and do jumping jacks and push-ups to get my body heat up, rather than spend the first 2 minutes of the swim just trying to deliver warm blood to cold muscles. It worked well at avoiding the typical "breathlessness" and lactic acid through the firehose feeling in those first 200 meters.

I was lucky enough to line-up on the swim start directly next to an incredibly talented team: a blind athlete guided by and tethered to a very fast swimmer. I figured if some guy was LEADING a blind man, he'd probably make a pretty straight draft, so I found their feet and stayed there during the entire swim. As a result, although the swim was challenging, I came out of the water as one of the first 10 competitors, and didn't feel like I worked hard enough to really come out that early.

This was my first race wearing the new 2010 Blue Seventy Helix. For those of you who are already wearing the Helix, I must tell you that it is amazing how Blue Seventy somehow improved on an already perfectly form-fitting suit. This wetsuit absolutely rocks, and for you triathlon fashionistas, it is by far the most superheroish looking suit too (hey, style points count).


The Bike: I used a Zipp disc with a 404 on the bike, and planned on riding the first 25 miles fairly aggressively, since 25-37 miles are mostly downhill. Since it was about 80 degrees, I got my salts by slamming a couple Athlytes as soon as I got on the bike, (and continued to take 2 every 30 minutes for the entire race, along with 24-28oz of water per hour from my CeeGees aero bottle).

Despite my minimal taper of about six days, my hairy legs really felt great on the bike. Within 15 miles, I rode up on the women's pro field, who started 5 minutes prior to my wave, and by the 25 mile mark, was riding into the men's field, who started 10 minutes prior (OK, OK, they were probably the guys who got draft penalties or were 15 year old phenom pros, but it helped fuel my fire)...

Nothing hurt on the bike, the whole time. As a bit of an experiment, I upped my calories just a smidge, and averaged close to 375 calories per hour of a mix of GU Roctane and GU Chomps, about 50 calories more than usual. This higher intake felt like it really helped, especially as aggressively as I was riding (I switched to 200 calories per hour on the run, from sickeningly sweet aid station gels - once again highlighting race director's needs to get the far superior GU gels on more aid station tables).

So for my division, I was in first place coming off the bike, and had a 4 and a half minute lead over the nearest competitor. My total bike time was a 2:34:36 - one of the fastest splits of the entire race - but I really didn't "push outside my limits", knowing I would need to tackle a very tough run course afterwards. For those of you who wonder what "push outside my limits" means, it means that you should feel like you're sustained maximal pace at a high cadence, without the legs feeling rubbery or without feeling like you're mashing gears. Incredibly qualitative. Look for more quantitativeness when I get my Powertap in a couple weeks. Thanks to Specialized, I was also outfitted with a shiny new aero helmet, which goes very well with the best optics on the planet from Zeal Optics in Boulder.

The Run: In my build-up to my big Hawaii 70.3 race in June, I've built up every part of my fitness EXCEPT that final long endurance kick. For you physiology buffs out there, this would be the ability to hold a "Zone 4" muscular endurance effort for longer than an hour. Based on this, I knew I would need to run the extremely challenging Wildflower course somewhat conservatively up to mile 9, where I could put in a final 5K kick. For me to qualify for Kona in 5 weeks, I will need to be able to put in this final kick closer to the 10K mark.

Unfortunately, running the first 9 miles of Wildflower conservatively is a big joke. Multiple dirt trail stretches literally take you straight up the sides of hills that you'd expect in a brutal 5K cross-country race, and not in a triathlon half-marathon.Tracing your fingers over an elevation profile on a map and planning to stay aerobic can become a pipe dream when faced with the actual course. So despite attempting to maintain a relatively aerobic state, I repeatedly had to dig very deep to even "keep moving". A run-walk protocol might have been prudent in this scenario, but each uphill was followed by a steep downhill, making it very hard to "walk".

At mile 8, my cadence slowed, I started to suffer, and my pace dropped from a 6:45 to a 6:55. At this point, I was passed by the eventual division winner, who ended up besting me by 4 minutes. When he passed me, he was really moving, and I knew my goose was cooked, since the final 3 miles are the most difficult part of the Wildflower run course, due to a very long uphill climb.

From here, my strategy was to "hold off" getting passed again. It took some serious pain. Like finger-tingling, blurry-vision, head-pounding pain to maintain anything close to a 7:20 minute shuffling pace as I climbed the final hill before the descent to the finish line. Near the very top of that final hill (embarrassingly, smack-dab in front of my Avia running shoes sponsor rep) I slowed to a walk for a good 20 seconds, which I truly believe kept me from passing out, but probably didn't look good in a pair of sweet racing flats.

The final 1K of this race is straight downhill - like, straight downhill. It hurts like a sledgehammer hitting your metatarsals, but you just let your legs turnover while gravity does its damage. At the bottom of the hill is a final 300m flat kick to the finish line, which I managed to cross at the 1:32 mark, for a second place division finish, ninth place overall (although top ten overall sounds nicer), and a 4:37 total time.

Awards video (keep reading too, because yes, there's more):

With my current fitness levels, I couldn't have pushed any harder in this race, and don't feel like I made any "tactical" errors. I'm where I want to be at this point in the season. This was a fantastic test to tell me exactly where I need to be in 5 weeks for Hawaii 70.3 and my final push to that race will involve two to three "4x5K" progression runs at a faster pace for each 5K, with at least one of those being off the bike.

After the race, for recovery, I popped 8 Recoverease, hopped in the cold lake, then spent the entire next day chasing my smoking hot wife around the Olympic distance race course and breaking multiple state laws of California driving back to the airport.

Life's a short adventure, so be certain to live your dreams. Sometimes they hurt, like this race, but hurt usually feels good in the end. I don't know if that's shallow, deeply meaningful, or just the product of writing race reports on an airplane, but take it for what its worth. Thanks for reading, and please visit my sponsors via the links on the right and buy stuff from them because if it wasn't the best I wouldn't use it. If you want discounts and stuff, just e-mail me.

P.S. Speaking of the good stuff, during Wildflower, I tried the new Scape sunscreen that I talked about in podcast #92 from It's the same stuff that Craig Alexander (Ironman triathlon world champion) uses. I bigtime recommendo - no embarassing sun marks after the race, no stinging of the eyes, no washing off of the sunscreen during the swim, no "hot skin reduced cooling" effect, and 50+ SPF to boot. E-mail with the title "Sample Pack" and they'll send you some with FREE shipping.

Hi Ben, This is my first year of triathlon. I have built up to 10 hour of training a week. Then an old back injury inflamed and all training stopped. My question is, is there anything i can do to prevent loss of fitness while my back heals? thanks

I'd try aqua jogging, elliptical, and also check this out:

Ask me anything