Mid-Atlantic Multisport World Conference and Expo

Today was the Mid-Atlantic Multisport World Conference and Expo in Bethesda.  The DC Tri Club signed on to provide volunteer support for the event, spearheaded by fearless volunteer leader Amanda.  Given my recent resolution to become involved in club activities, and my general joiner attitude, I would have felt guilty if I didn’t volunteer.  Plus, I wanted to check out the expo anyway.

The event had a number of hands-on clinics with expert coaches in the swim, bike, and run disciplines, as well as some yoga and other functional fitness sessions.  There were also several seminars throughout the day on a variety of topics including training and nutrition, and keynote address by six time (!!!) Ironman National Champion Dave Scott.

When I first arrived, I wandered about the expo for a bit.  There were many of the typical vendors there: Muscle Milk, FRS, Garmin, CEP, etc., as well as a number of local training and nutrition resources.  There were also some local chiropractors, massage therapists, and PT folks.  Wish I would have had some more time to take advantage of what they were offering!

I originally signed up to volunteer at a “Kids Olympics” event.  When I checked in shortly before my shift, however, I was informed that the Kids Olympics organizer had bailed a few days before, so that particular event was off.  Since I was already there, I offered to do whatever needed to be done, and Amanda promptly whisked me away to directional duty.

While hanging out in the directional chair, I got to watch the attendees stroll by and overhear the seminar speakers.  Although, I must admit, I spent most of my shift eavesdropping on Dave Scott talking to the various folks who walked by to chat him up and get his autograph.  I really wanted to wander over and talk to him, but was worried about neglecting my volunteer duties (and ok fine, I was a little intimidated!)

Dave Scott in the distance, being ultimately cool.

Dave Scott is somewhat of a legend in the triathlon world.  Having six championships under his belt is no small feat, and he is only one of two men ever to do accomplish it.  He currently coaches this Disco Runner’s own personal idol Chrissie Wellington.  Scott is also rather well known for supposedly being on a plant-based diet during most of the years of his Ironman success.

Towards the end of the day, the FRS rep came out and had a bunch of leftover FRS energy drinks to give away.  I tried the Orange Cream protein version on the spot:

It was pretty good.  Tasted like a more protein-y Orange Julius.  It wouldn’t be my go-to post-workout protein drink, but it wasn’t bad.  She also gave me one of each of the other flavors that she had left.  I loaded up my backpack since I knew the Hubz would partake of whatever I brought home.

I really wish I would have gotten on the bandwagon for this event a bit earlier so I could have signed up for one of the swim clinics or the chi running clinics that took place throughout the day.

There were also various competitions throughout the day which I was somewhat paying attention to.  I know the DC Tri Snapple teams swept 1st and 2nd place, at least.  Way to go!

Next year I need to pay more attention to the hype for this event before it happens, so I can get in on the good stuff.  There were a lot of resources there and if I would have been more on the ball rather than swooping in at the last minute after being guilted into volunteering, I really could have taken advantage.

Just like riding a bike… – Part 2 – Foiled by a rainy day.

Bad news.  This morning I woke up bright and early to a very disappointing email informing me that Part 2 of the Group Riding and Pacelining clinic would be postponed.  It rained last night and the roads were awfully slippery, so the instructors thought it better to wait until we could practice on safer and more normal road conditions.

Worse news.  Instead of postponing to next Saturday, as per the original plan articulated Thursday night, the clinic is now postponed until April 7th due to an instructor’s scheduling conflicts.  Hubz and I depart for our Zambia HFH build on April 6.  BUMMER.  I’m going to try to get in touch with Chuck and see if I can attend the second part of the clinic when they repeat it next month.  Otherwise, I’m going to have to just buck up and get out there to a paceline/group ride and give it a go.

Just like riding a bike… – Part 1

It is no secret that when it comes to the three triathlon disciplines, my biking lags behind in both technique and confidence.  On a bike, there are just so many factors to consider.  When to shift and how much, when to come up out of the saddle, when to drop into aero position, etc etc etc.  Throw in some pleasant D.C. traffic and I’m is basically overloaded with information.

So it’s no surprise that I’ve totally avoided group rides.  You want me to handle all of the above, while still riding wheel to wheel in a pack of other riders?  And not crash into someone/fall off my bike/have my brain melt right out of my ears?  Good luck.

Strictly speaking, group riding is not something that is in any way required for triathlon training.  I made it through my first few tris without ever riding in a group, and could certainly do it again, even for the longer distances required for my upcoming half iron training.  But biking gets pretty darn boring when you’re out there by yourself.  And I sincerely believe that training with other people in any discipline is a surefire way to learn from others, improve your own technique, and become more confident all around as an athlete.  The DC Tri Club has some great regular training groups that I’d really like to get in on, but I don’t want to go in without the base of knowledge required.  I don’t want to embarrass myself, or (heaven forbid) endanger anyone’s safety.

So imagine how happy I was to get an email last week advertising that The Bike Rack, a local bike shop that is a big supporter of DC Tri and cyclists and triathletes of all shapes and sizes, is hosting a Group Ride and Paceline Clinic this week.  A budget $35 price to be taught the rules of the road, bike handling, group riding, and get a whole morning of hands-on practice with instructors and fellow group ride novices alike?  PERFECTO!  Sign me up straight away!

The clinic is comprised of two sessions.  First, we had the in-store session and presentation last night.  We gathered at 8 pm at The Bike Rack shop where Chuck and associates had set out a nice little spread of wines, cheese, fruit and crackers.  I had just wandered in and sat down when a new tri club friend arrived.  We had met a few weeks before at the Half Iron program kick off happy hour, and chatted for a LT interval or two the night before at the Wednesday night track workout up in Tenleytown.  Yay, tri friends!

Chuck got started after a few minutes and had very helpful handouts for all of us going over the basics of both group riding and pacelining. First, he went over the difference between a pace line and a plain old vanilla group ride.  A group ride is pretty much what it sounds like – a group of folks who go out and ride together in a social, community atmosphere.  These are typically no drop, meaning that even if your slow, the group won’t abandon you (in contrast to a training ride, where you may be left far behind in the dust if you can’t keep up).

Pacelining is…well.  True life confession: before last night, I hadn’t the foggiest idea what a paceline was.  Clearly I needed this training.

Chuck explained the basic form and etiquette for single pacelines, double pacelines, and circular pacelines (an advanced formation that I’m pretty sure I’ll never need to use). Basically, a paceline is a line (duh) of bikers traveling tightly together. The idea is that each rider drafts off of the rider in front of them. The closer you are to the person in front of you, the stronger the draft you get off them. Riding like this can save up to 30% of your energy output, and thus you can end up travelling much faster than you might riding on your own.

Of course, the nature of the paceline means that the lucky soul at the front of the line doesn’t get to draft, and thus has to work hard to lead the line along. As such, each rider’s position in a paceline is constantly changing. The line leader will lead for some short amount of time, usually a few minutes at most, and then move over to the side of the line to drop back, allow the entire line to pass, and then fall in again at the end of the line. As you move up through the line again, you are recovering by riding in the draft. (Note, because of the turbulence coming off the draft, the last in line position is also pretty tough, so when leading a pace line you need to make sure to save enough energy so that when you move out and drop back, you can still keep up with the line).

A single paceline is exactly as described above, with the front rider usually moving to the left to fall back. A double paceline is, like it sounds, two pacelines side by side. In that configuration, the front riders on both lines move off and fall back at the same time – one to the left and one to the right. The circular paceline is constantly moving. Rather than having one line with one rider moving back at each time, there are riders constantly falling off and moving back up the line, so you essentially have two lines side by side by moving opposite each other. I’m sure I described that poorly. So, helpful diagram:

There is also that diagonal formation for when there’s a strong head or side wind, but I kind of tuned out by that point because I already had enough to think about, and chances are around here I’ll never be riding on a road wide enough to pull that off.

Obviously, pacelining has many benefits (primarily speed) and can really help a person take their riding to the next level.

Chuck also went over the basics of regular group riding, such as the importance of calling out and pointing to obstacles in the road, using proper hand signals to notify that you are turning or stopping, etc.  Basically, you need to be constantly communicating with your fellow riders.  The more communication the better.  Most of this was stuff I already knew, but it is nice to have a refresher.  And I hope to get my skills in practice at one of their weekly Group Rides in the near future.  The Bike Rack has a very comprehensive guide to the Rules of the Road for group rides on their website as well.

Chuck concluded by giving us an overview of Part 2 of the clinic, scheduled for tomorrow morning.  We’ll be meeting up at the shop and then heading up to a big parking lot over at Howard University, where the instructors will have set up nice little courses with all sorts of technical and other obstacles for us to practice on.  We’ll be split up into small groups and we’ll practice our newly acquired mad pacelining skillz.  Just like when I learned to drive a stick shift, I’ll be glad to have my first practice with this stuff in a parking lot.