Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Our Kona Girl Comes Home

Whew! Time to get something down on paper about this most epic adventure!

I just completed the Ironman World Championship race in Kona, Hawaii 10/9/10 and came back to north central WI Wednesday afternoon. The leaves are off the trees and everything is brown and all Wisconsin-like. Those of you from WI know exactly what I mean; somewhere between winter and summer. Yes, that's fall I realize. But yucky to me. A far cry from the niceties of Hawaii.

I have no idea how I'm going to break this experience up into manageable posts. So, please, bear with me because I'm sure there will be a lot of rambling!

I think the things that really struck me the most were the people and the atmosphere. Electric. That is the best word I can use to describe it. Yes, the scenery was beautiful. The bike porn was hot. The food was great. But, it was the people and the energy about the race that will stick with me forever.


On the trip out, we knew we'd be traveling with tons of Ironman geeks. I met a professional photographer who LOVED name dropping and letting us know what pros he would be focusing on. It was funny because there is always someone you see over and over on a trip like this and he was the guy! And, no, he wasn't real excited about taking my pic!! I also met a gentleman named Phillipe (probably screwed up the spelling). He was from LA. He wasn't a racer and he did not have an athlete he was going with. He had done an Ironman several years ago and just loved the sport. He recently had knee surgery. Basically, he always wanted to go to Kona for the race and was looking to get back into the sport. How nice it was that I got to see him out on the run course twice and on the plane ride home! People like that were everywhere. They just love Ironman!
We met people with personality plus. Like the guy we met at lunch who told me he was racing and writing a book on how to compete at Kona via the minimalist training plan and bad diet regimen. He was kidding. But it got me to thinking, hmmm....maybe I should write the book from the bad diet perspective!!! Mine is definitely lacking! It would probably resonate with a lot of people! Anyway, he wasn't racing. But he was a volunteer. I saw him in the transition area and out on the run.

I've got to give a huge shout-out to the Wisconsin folks; Kim Basala, and Mike and Jenny Wimmer. I saw you guys out there and it truly warmed my heart. I don't know you very well. But you're my home state people. To have your support means a lot!

My personal peeps were the best! I'm probably not the funnest person to be around the few days leading up to a big race. I tend to get quiet and withdrawn. I don't want to talk about it and I have a lot of nervous energy. To put up with me was a challenge. Plus, the few days before IM is full of IM activities; expo, registration, pre-race banquet, bike racking, and workouts. This cut into their fun and I am grateful for their patience. You guys are the BEST!


I lump the racers in this category because they are the driving force behind what makes the atmosphere the atmosphere. Anyone who's done an Ironman or somehow participated in an Ironman either volunteering or spectating knows that the level of fitness at these events is great. Now take that level and ratchet it up X 10! That's what it felt like. The men were tan, slick, and lean. No complaints from me there! The women were impressive to say the least. Body fat? What's that? I saw women in the 50-54 age group on the podium post-race who I dream of looking like. I suppose a lot of this was generated in my head and of my own insecurities but I kept looking at myself and thinking 'what are you doing here? you do NOT look like these people! you look like a good-old WI dairy queen.' And intense! My sister kept saying that she wanted "to feed these people a cheese burger". They all looked pretty focused and it seemed clear they were there with a job to complete.

The event itself is extremely well-organized. This also contributes to the overall great feel of the race. The expo was like a triathlon North Pole; a place to go and see all the toys you can only dream of all in one spot. Of course, the most fabulous of fabulous were there including Headsweats, 2XU, Specialized, CycleOps, SRAM, and Zipp. The pre-race and post-race awards banquets are also top notch. The food was actually good and had some local flavor. There were luau dancers and fire twirlers, Hawaiian music and drum lines. Mike Reilly is, of course, the announcer and he really does an awesome job. If you weren't pumped to race before, Reilly definitely has you ready to go. If you thought your day was less than spectacular, Reilly makes you feel like a rock star after.

People love this race. Ironman athletes, supporters, volunteers....everyone. This is the big dance and it shows. I have more respect and admiration for the race now that I've done it than before when I only dreamed about doing it. Now I know why people want to keep coming back again and again and again.....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

JP Follows up with Kona Finisher Michelle

Once again, JP sat down with Michelle to talk Kona. This time, it was to go over her race in the Ironman World Championships. Michelle talks about the atomosphere, fitting in, what it took to finish, and what's next on her never end plate of endurance athletics.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Announcing Book Bike Project!

From time to time on my blog I will allude to my day job as a librarian at Illinois Wesleyan University. My career choice intersects with my triathlon endeavors more than often than you would imagine. In particular, I attribute some of my success as a long course triathlete to my abilities to research all the minutiae of racing, training, nutrition, recovery, etc. Being able to evaluate and manage large amounts of information has made me a better triathlete and an even better coach. It was only recently that I came across a way to even further integrate many of my life-long passions: literacy, sustainability, fitness and education. Enter the Book Bike!

The Book Bike idea came from a great guy up in Chicago named Gabe Levinson. Gabe has a website about his book bike project here: http://www.bookbike.org/about/ . The beauty of the idea is in its simplicity. A bicycle is one of the most low-tech forms of transportation out there. Riding reduces carbon emissions and promotes physical fitness. Now take a three-wheeled bike and mount a book case on the front! In the vein of the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep it Simple Stupid) the concept is to ride the book bike to public places and just give away books- no strings attached!

Gabe's Book Bike Project originally crossed my radar when I saw this YouYube Video:

I forwarded the video to some of my library colleagues and Karen Schmidt, our library director, jumped on the concept and started making plans to bring a book bike to Bloomington. Karen is on the Bloomington City Council and part of the West Bloomington Revitalization Project (WBRP). The Book Bike supports several parts of the WBRP strategic plan, including education, engagement with youth, and greening initiatives.

The bike itself is a US-made front load Worksman Tricycle. Unlike a kids tricycle, it has two wheels up front that allow the bike to support a heavy load. These bikes are used in large factories for internal deliveries and by a variety of street vendors. We worked with our local bike shop, Vitesse Cycle, to coordinate ordering and assembling the bike. The book case was designed and donated by Mark Fagerland of Unique Design in Normal, IL. It sits on the front platform and then when you get to your location, it unfolds and locks to display the books.

Steering the bike is surprisingly easy with the two wheels up front. Currently the bike is set up as a single speed, but we are looking at re-working the gear ratio to better manage hills! The bike itself probably weighs 75-100 lbs. The book case is another 75 lbs. When you add rider weight to that equation, you are talking about quite a bit of weight! I had the distinction of being the guinea pig rider for the first 10-block maiden voyage of the book bike! The one small hill was somewhat challenging even for an experienced cyclist! Once we get the bike geared down, it should be surprisingly easy to ride around town.

Our Book Bike debut was at a a Fall Family Fun Festival near some community garden plots in West Bloomington. The bike itself drew more interest from the adults, while some of the kids in attendance grabbed some free books before rain forced the bike inside.

Opened up, the bookcase looks something like this (photo is of Gabe's bike)

We are looking for donations of new and gently used books, as well as financial donations to support the Book Bike. Donations for the book bike should be marked as such and sent to: Illinois Prairie Community, 202 N Prospect Rd, Bloomington, IL 61704-7914. Book donations can be dropped off at the WBRP office.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Kona Finisher!

On Saturday, October 9, Team Evotri's Rural Girl, heard those words that every aspiring Ironman triathlete hopes to hear, "You are an Ironman!" Except that she heard them on Ali'i drive while finishing the 2010 Ford Ironman World Championship! She sported a huge smile flashing shakas with both hands as she crossed the line.

Michelle enjoyed the beautiful swim, conquered the challenging winds and heat on the bike course, and cruised through the run in for a 12:06:05 finish. Reflecting on her race she said, "that's the hardest Ironman race ever!" noting that winds were so strong on the bike, that she witnessed athletes falling from being blown off course. And the heat was so strong, she felt that her skin was going to start boiling! She was able to bring herself back together on the run, especially enjoying the crowd support on Ali'i drive, even though she worked it all the way to the line, not allowing another female competitor to beat her; Michelle's way of having fun!

After an excellent year finishing two Ironman races, two half-iron distances, several snowshoe races, and all the ups and downs that goes with training, she's welcoming some time off before she readies herself for the 2011 Team Evotri race, the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon in Minneapolis, MN.

Congratulations, Michelle!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


JP Severin

Retuling my Bike

This season I have vowed to not cut any corners in my Ironman preparation. I have got the nutrition gear I need to fuel properly, I have bought new racing tires, a Specialized TT2 aero helmet, and I also invested in a bike fit.

I have been thinking about a fitting for a while now, despite having reasonable success fitting myself. I just felt I needed it to be spot on. A lot of fitters just eyeball it with a static fit. Essentially, as you go through your pedal stroke, they stop you at different intervals and look at the angles your body is making. It is good, but it is still cutting a corner. Biking is a dynamic motion so to truly get a proper fit, it should be a dynamic fitting. Basically this means the angles are measured as you are pedaling.

I figured a static fit was something I could do myself. I needed the best dynamic fit that I could find.

This is where
Retul comes in. It is a company based in Boulder that is making noise in the tri industry and fitting a ton of pros. Retul is a bike fitting system that incorporates three-dimensional motion ca
pture technology to provide what they claim is an incredibly accurate dynamic fitting solution. In theory, the result is that the rider will have a true fit to his or her bike, maximizing efficiency and performance while avoiding discomfort or injury. Sound good? It did to me but I was skeptical.

I set about looking for a Retul fitter in my area. Luckily my favorite shop, Win’s wheels, offered Retul. Win’s wheels is an amazing shop with phenomenal mechanics who don’t miss a thing. They have done everything for me from gluing tubulars to total drive train overhauls. I love the work they do so I was thrilled that they offered what I was looking for.

I set up a time and went in. Win’s wheels has an agreement with Franco Bicycles, a shop in Malibu, to bring Julian, a certified Retul fitter, in. We talked for a bit and then I hopped on his Cycleops Powerbeam. I warmed up at 180 watts, dialed in by the trainer. He had set up 8 sensors on my body that measure points in 3-dimensions and set about examining the numbers as I pedaled. After talking about it, we made some significant changes. My seat went up, my aerobars were swapped out, and my stem came in. My hip angle was the major difference. I initially felt super open and could breath with ease. I was still skeptical as I felt like a sail being so high in the air.

The truth would be told out on the roads. To date it has been about a month of putting the fit through the motions. Immediately I noticed more glute activation and felt super smooth, and powerful. I was very comfortable. It was an incredible night and day feeling. My eyeball fit wasn’t bad, but the
Retul fit was mind-blowing. I wondered if it would translate to speed… My thought was it may have compromised some aerodynamics which I wasn’t too pleased about.

I did a few TT’s and, to my surprise, things were looking good but only racing matters.

I recently raced Rev3 and when I hopped on my bike, I felt like I was floating. The speed was coming! I biked my way from 5 minutes back in wave 2 to the front of the race. I couldn’t believe it. I had the 2nd fastest bike split, only back by 3 seconds to a guy who biked 4:45 at Ironman Florida! The crazy thing was how easy it was. The effort was SUPER controlled and I felt smooth and efficient the whole day. I guess this Retul thing works! If you spend 2 grand on a bike, spend another couple hundred and make that thing work for you. It is totally worth it. Don’t cut corners!

The new position at Rev3 Cedar Point!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

JP Interviews Kona bound Michelle!

Listen in as JP takes his outstanding interview style live as he interviews Team Evotri's Michelle (aka Rural Girl) as she gets ready for the World Ironman Championship in Kona, HI. (She's bib #1153, in case you want to track her.)

Highlights include:

  • Michelle's IM Lake Placid Race Review

  • Special "training" Michelle has included prepping for her time in Hawaii

  • Lightening Round!

Best of luck to Michelle and all the Kona-bound athletes this weekend!