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Posts Tagged ‘duathlon

Getting Aero

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This year I made a few changes to try to improve my bike aerodynamics and this past weekend I did some testing to see how much of a difference different gear actually makes. This post is going to show the results of my testing to see how much of a speed difference deeper wheels and an aero helmet make on the bike. I’ll note that this topic has been covered in great depth by countless others, so if you’re into triathlons and bike gear this won’t be news to you, but hopefully you’ll still find it a little interesting. If you’re reading this I’m going to assume you’re at least somewhat familiar with the importance of aerodynamics in triathlon and cycling, so I won’t elaborate on that here.

Last winter I was researching different things to improve my speed outside of training more. Wanting to get more involved in the sport, I wanted to make an upgrade that would hopefully make me a bit faster. I came across this article and, aside from working on my bike position (more on that below), I decided to buy an aero helmet, a used Giro Advantage 2 that I got online for $50 shipped.

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Through the year I kept my eyes open for some aero wheels as well and came across a Shimano RS80 C50 front wheel on craigslist, then shortly later picked up a Giant P-SLR 1 rear wheel on eBay.

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Not being a matching set they do look a little silly together on the bike, but they’re both well regarded 50mm deep wheels, and combined they “only” cost me $250, which is pretty cheap for an aero wheelset (I couldn’t have gotten a matching set for that price), so I’m quite pleased with them and don’t care how they look. There are better, deeper, lighter, etc. wheels out there, but for my budget these are just fine. I’ll also note that they actually might be a tad lighter in weight than my basic Bontrager Select wheels.

Here’s an older pic of the bike with the Bontrager wheels:

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When using this aero stuff I definitely *feel* faster on the bike, but I wanted to quantify how much of a change they actually made. So on Saturday I did some testing…

There is a stretch of road not far from my house that’s just a hair under 2.5 miles long. On the far end the last half mile goes uphill at a 4% to 5% grade, but otherwise it’s relatively flat. I use this stretch of road for interval work from time to time and it takes about 10 minutes to get there, which works for a short warm up.

On Saturday morning I did this course three times. Each time I pedaled easy to the stretch of road, then:

  • First did it with my “non-aero” Bontrager Select wheels and wearing my normal helmet.
  • Second with my aero wheelset, still wearing the normal helmet.
  • Third with the aero helmet and aero wheelset.

Recording this all with my Garmin 305 watch, I did the 2.5 mile stretch as hard as I could on the way out, turned around at the top, then did the stretch as hard as I could back. I counted each time out as a lap on the watch and each time back as a lap, excluding the turnaround. I then pedaled easy back to my house and changed the wheels or helmet for the next run. Everything else stayed the same. I wore exactly the same clothes, kept the same stuff on my bike, and even topped off my water bottle each time so all other factors would be as consistent as possible between the runs. At the end of this post are some other notes about things that could have potentially affected the results, though I think they’re minor.

Here are the results:

Aero testing chart

Having to go uphill at the end of the “Out” segment really hurt the time/speed of that leg, but going down helped on the way back, which is why there is such a difference between the two segments.

Here are some of the key take away points, combining the “out” and “back” times:

  • The aero wheels were 20 seconds – 2.4% – faster than regular wheels.
  • Adding the aero helmet was 21 seconds – 2.6% – faster than the aero wheels with a regular helmet.
  • The aero wheels and aero helmet combined were 41 seconds – 5% – faster than the regular wheels and regular helmet.
  • My heart rate stayed within 3 beats per minute for each run, which would suggest a pretty consistent level of exertion.
  • I think the reason the top speeds weren’t always recorded during the fastest run had to do with me jumping the gun a little with my effort vs. when I started the watch. If I was a little eager with jumping on the pedals, it would give me a bit of a head start and more time to reach top speed before I settled into the normal effort for the ride.

I had mixed feelings about these results. I was hoping for more than a ~0.5 miles per hour difference with each upgrade and have to wonder how much the margin for error is since testing was based on effort. Still, I feel pretty confident that I put the same amount of effort into each test, this still shows an improvement with the aerodynamic equipment, and is pretty consistent with the linked study. I’m especially pleased and surprised with the third test; my legs were feeling pretty fatigued by then and I didn’t feel like it went well. I still gave it all I had, but was sure that the time wouldn’t be any better than my previous test. Had my legs been fresh I wonder if I could have done better yet.

I also multiplied the combined times by 5 to project the overall improvements for a 25 mile (Olympic distance) ride. Sure, I wouldn’t be able to maintain this effort for 25 miles, and a lot of other factors would come into play, but it gives a rough idea about how much time savings these changes would give you in an actual race.

25mi testing chart

Summarizing for a 25 mile ride:

  • Aero wheels would save 1 minute 40 seconds over standard wheels.
  • Aero wheels and an aero helmet would save 1 minute and 45 seconds over just aero wheels and a regular helmet.
  • Using an aero helmet and aero wheels together would save 3 minutes and 25 seconds over regular wheels and helmet.

Again, this is just multiplying the times out so isn’t overly realistic, but still shows that there are time savings to be had. The article I linked to listed a 67 second savings with the aero helmet alone and roughly a minute savings with the aero wheelset, so my calculations aren’t that far off.

Between the two, if there’s one big take away, I’d say that getting a good aerodynamic helmet should be done before spending money on wheels. It yields the same improvement or more, and helmets are a lot cheaper than wheels. Helmets can be found used for $50 or less, and new ones are available for as low as $80 and up to $200 or more. Decent new wheelsets on the other hand typically start close to $1,000 and only go up from there. Even if you put together a used set like I did, the price will still be greater than most new helmets. How much a helmet helps is also dependent on your body positioning and how well you hold your position and head over a race. But when considering price, and assuming you can get a decent fitting helmet that compliments your position, and that you are comfortable holding your position, there is a much greater combined value and benefit in getting the helmet.

Talking about gear is interesting and the subject of a lot of different debates, but actually, the human body accounts for about 80% of drag on the bicycle (I’ve read this multiple times over the past couple years but do not have a source handy, sorry), so getting in the most aerodynamic position as possible will yield the greatest improvements. To that end, last winter I lowered the elbow pads on my bike as low as I could and moved the extensions as close together as possible, while still allowing room for a bottle between my forearms. I did not do before and after testing or take pictures, so don’t have any data to show how much of a change it made, but it did definitely reduced my frontal area in the wind, which is a good thing. I think I could comfortably get a little lower yet and maybe bring my arms a bit closer together, but I would need to buy a new bar to accomplish this, and am done spending money on upgrades for this bike for a little while. I’m comfortable and satisfied with how I fit on the bike for now.

Hopefully you found this interesting and helpful. Thanks for reading!

 

Here are some other quick notes about possible factors in the different times. I don’t think these played a huge part, but they should be mentioned:

  • It would have been more scientific and accurate to use a power meter and ride at a consistent power level each time to see how much the speed/time changed, but I don’t own a power meter and I found it too hard to maintain consistency by cadence or heart rate, so decided to go by what I felt was the highest effort I could sustain for the intervals. There is room for error with this approach, but it’s what I did.
  • The tires on the Bontrager wheels are Michelin Pro 4 Service Course and the tires on the aero wheels are Michelin Pro 4 Service Course Comp, which have slightly less rolling resistance, but both sets of tires have quite a bit of wear and neither are considered especially fast tires, so I don’t think this should have affected the results much. They both have the same types of tubes.
  • The Bontrager wheelset has a 12-27 cassette while the aero set has a 11-28 cassette. The gear spacing in the middle gears is nearly identical though, so to keep everything equal I didn’t use the largest cog in either wheelset, and didn’t use the smallest in the aero set – the second smallest is a 12 tooth gear, so it’s the same as the smallest on the Bontrager set. This is important because I could have used the smallest gear when using the aero wheels, but didn’t for the sake of equality. Meanwhile, I wouldn’t have been able to sustain the 11 tooth gear long with the Bontrager set, so I know I left some speed on the table when I was riding with the aero gear.
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Written by Jim

September 6, 2016 at 7:01 am

Duathlons, Triathlons, and Working Out

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It’s been over a year since I’ve posted anything about exercise and racing, so I thought I’d get on that.

First off, my days of “heavy” [for me] weight lifting are over. As I focus more and more on multi-sport/endurance activities, lifting heavy became a lot less relevant, and as I age I’m just not able to bounce back or make gains like I used to. I still really enjoy lifting and haven’t stopped, but I’ve tailored it more to supplement my racing goals and am no longer pursuing one rep maxes and personal bests. I’m also not sore all the time like I used to be.

Last year I did two sprint duathlons and two 5k’s.  I finished second overall in the first duathlon (out of only about 20 people) and fourth overall in the second duathlon (out of about 30 people).  Before you get too impressed, the level of competition in these events wasn’t that great and I was BLOWN AWAY by the winners, like a several minute difference. In the 5k’s, I placed 3rd in my age group in the first one (guessing 20 something out of a couple hundred entrants)  and the second one I did for fun with a some family members and wasn’t really competing. The result in the first 5k was really surprising, my time truly wasn’t that good but my whole age group did poorly, so I still placed.

I really like doing these races and am going to continue. As I’ve said before, 5k’s have lost their appeal for me and I don’t plan on them, but I still will if it’s convenient or if I’m doing it with someone else for fun.

My plans for this year are a little different than what I had intended. I didn’t really have much interest in triathlons (did one 6 years ago and thought it would be my one and only), but the duathlon I normally do in April has been cancelled (due to dropping interest) and only the option of a triathlon is available. So, I’m going to try my hand at triathlons again this year. The number of competitors and level of competition is much greater in the tri than in the duathlon, and it will be surprising if I’m able to win anything. Looking at previous years’ results, I’ll probably finish middle of the pack. Oh well. I am training very seriously for it though and am going to take a swimming lesson or two to improve. I’m just going to try to do the best I can and have fun with it.

I found a very short triathlon that’s early in the summer in Virginia, close to where some family lives, and I’m planning on doing that one too. Not that I need a reason to visit them, but it’ll give me an excuse to go down and enjoy myself. It’ll also be neat having some more people along to cheer me on. Well, hopefully they cheer, it would stink if they booed!

Aside from that, there is another local event in the summer where you have the option of doing a triathlon or duathlon, and there’s another duathlon in Maryland I’m somewhat interested in, so I might end up doing one of those. Otherwise I might do a 5k or something if it seems like it’ll be fun.

For training, I actually bought a book and am following a structured plan. I always used to make up my own routines but I want to do better this year, so figured a book would be a good idea. The book is  “Training Plans for Multisport Athletes: Your Essential Guide to Triathlon, Duathlon, Xterra, Ironman & Endurance Racing” by Gale Bernhardt. I decided on it last year since it was one of the few books I found that had plans specifically for duathlons. It has more content about triathlons, which I’m thankful for now that I’m going to do some, but had I known I was going to be training for tris I might have gotten something different. It seems good though and I’m happy with it, though sometimes wonder if I’m training enough. I guess time will tell and the races will show how well it worked, I’m committed to following it until then.

For workouts, I’m running, biking, and swimming two to three times a week each. I lift two to three times a week as well. I’ve been doing plans from the book since mid last year and have noticed improvements in my overall endurance, but not much so far for speed. The plans seem to build up to that though, and last year I changed plans a couple times just trying things out when I wasn’t specifically training for something, so I’ll give it time now that I’m set for the triathlon. I also got a GPS watch with a heart rate monitor and have been training based off of heart rate; it’s pretty cool and I wish I would have gotten one sooner, I get a lot more out of my runs and biking this way.

Well, that about covers it. I don’t think I’ll be posting as much about fitness, but I’ll update on progress and race results at a minimum.

Thanks for reading and happy training!

Written by Jim

January 16, 2016 at 12:36 pm

A New Bike

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I’ve finally upgraded my bicycle!

For the past five to six years I’ve ridden an early 80’s Panasonic Sport 500 10-speed (the link is about a duathlon, but I talked about the bike some too). It was a bit too small for me, weighed a shade under 30 pounds (that’s heavy in the bike world), and even in its day it would have just been an entry level economy bike. In short, it’s quite outdated and not “nice” in today’s terms. Still, it isn’t exactly a “bad” bike. It’s held up pretty well considering the tough miles I’ve put on it, it helped to get me interested in biking and I’ve learned a lot about bike maintenance and setup from it.

I’ve done a triathlon, two duathlons, and put on tons of training miles with the Panasonic, so feel that I’ve paid my dues and earned the right to upgrade to something more modern.

I picked up this bike used from craigslist a week and a half ago and so far am very pleased. It is a Royal Windsor Triathlon bike.

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If you don’t know and haven’t guessed, triathlon (or “time trial”) bikes are purpose built for triathlons and similar races (duathlons and time trials). Though different than road bikes in a number of ways, the two primary differences are that they put the rider in a more aerodynamic position, and they make the rider use their leg muscles slightly differently so that the legs aren’t as fatigued when it comes to the running stage in a race. When climbing hills the rider will typically sit upright with their hands on the outer bars, similar to a traditional bike, but on the flats and downhills the rider will lean forward and ride gripping the center bars with their elbows on the pads, which is a very aerodynamic position. The gear shifts are at the end of these bars for easy shifting without breaking the aero position. The seat post is also at more of an upright angle than a road bike’s which, aside from helping with the aero position, requires more use of the quads (front of the leg) to pedal and subsequently saves the hamstrings (back of the leg) for running.

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To be clear, the bike I got is about the cheapest triathlon bike out there. It is missing a lot of bells and whistles that nicer bikes have, it doesn’t have very aggressive geometry and is as “entry level” as these bikes come. I bought it without pedals so am still using my old pedals with straps from the Panasonic while I shop around for modern shoes and pedals.

Still, it’s awesome! Having only ridden a 30 year old bike before, this feels like a Rolls Royce in comparison. The ride is much smoother and I’m much more comfortable on it. It’s much lighter, too. As equipped it weighs about 22 pounds, which is still no light weight, but it’s significantly lighter than what I’m used to and those pounds definitely make a difference out on the road.

Most importantly, it’s much faster. Well, I guess it would be more accurate to say that I’m much faster on it. I’ve only been able to do three rides so far, but each has been faster than the last and all have been much faster than I was ever able to do on my old bike. Whether going up or down hills, and even when doing longer distances there’s no comparison, it’s just faster. I ran following two of my rides as well and that went much better than before with the Panasonic. My time wasn’t anything special for the first run, but I did feel fresher and my legs never bothered me, then on the second run I actually ran my fastest 5k time ever, which is pretty amazing considering I had just done a bike ride.

Overall I’m very pleased. I don’t think I’ll be able to make any more races this year, but I’ll enjoy riding it and training, and hopefully next year I can race more.

Thanks for reading and happy pedaling!

Written by Jim

July 3, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Duathlon #2

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It’s taken me a week to write about it, but last weekend I completed a duathlon. I did the same one that I did and posted about last year, a local sprint distance duathlon. The distances were the same as last year: 1.5 mile run, then a 16 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run at the end. Also like last year there was a triathlon which attracts a lot more people. About 100 people did the triathlon, while just 25 did the duathlon.

I took training for it more seriously this time. Last year I tried to both power lift and train for the duathlon at the same time and, as would be expected, didn’t have great results. This time I scaled my lifting back and really focused on running and biking. Since the winter was extremely cold this year and lasted much longer than normal, I only began running and biking outside about three or four weeks before the event. So the majority of my training was on treadmills and exercise bikes.

I started in late December by running and/or biking for three days straight, then taking a day off, then doing another three days, and so on. After I built my endurance up a bit I started doing more days consecutively without a rest day. About two days a week I’d run in the morning then bike in the evening, or vice versa, and as the weeks passed I worked in sessions where I’d both run and bike back to back. All the while I worked on going for longer distances and trying to increase my speed. It wasn’t a structured program, I sort of just winged it, but it worked pretty well for me. I kept lifting in the gym three days a week, too, but I really scaled back my workouts and was only trying to maintain my muscular fitness. On the last week I only lifted very lightly Monday and Tuesday and followed a structured running/biking plan to taper down appropriately so I’d be fresh and ready to go on race day.

So, how’d I do?

My only goal was to do faster than I did last year. I’m pleased to say that I did a whole six minutes faster, which surprised me. I was pretty confident I’d be about a minute faster this time, but I ended up doing much better… six minutes was a big surprise! I also ended up “winning” my age group, which was another surprise.

2014 Duo Glass

Full disclosure: There were only four guys in my group, one of which was the overall winner. Since he won the whole race, his results were bumped out of the age group results and I was the next fastest, so “won.” I don’t know how prepared or serious about the race the other guys were. I finished eighth overall and was still a whole 16 (SIXTEEN!) minutes behind the overall winner, so I’m not any where close to being competitive, but it’s cool I got the glass. I’m most happy about doing so much better than I did last year.

I can see doing more of these in the future, though don’t know how seriously I’ll pursue it. I’m still using the same bike as before, an early 80’s ten speed that doesn’t fit me well, so I’d really like to upgrade before doing another, which should also help my speed. Even if I only end up doing this one once a year, it’s a fun thing to train for and do; the personal satisfaction of finishing and/or meeting your goal is the biggest thing about it. I highly recommend it.

Thanks for reading and happy running & biking!

Written by Jim

May 3, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Duathlon

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This morning I did my first duathlon! Well, I had done a triathlon 3 years ago, so it’s not exactly my first time doing something like this, but it’s still technically my first one.

A duathlon, in case you don’t know, is an endurance race similar to a triathlon, but instead of swimming, there is a running portion first, followed by a bicycling portion, then another final running segment. The one I did is categorized as a “Sprint Duathlon” because it is a shorter distance. The first run was 1.5 miles, the biking segment was 16 miles, and the last run was a 5k (3.1 miles). It might be short compared to other endurance races, but it’s long to me!

The gym I go to organizes and runs it every year and over the winter I decided to do it. I really don’t have a reason why, I just thought it might be fun to do and it gave me something to train for since I don’t venture out to exercise as much in the colder months. They hold a triathlon at the same time, too, but I decided to do the duathlon. I’m not the strongest swimmer, don’t enjoy it that much, and swimming (in my mind, anyway) takes away too much from weight lifting, which is still very important to me. The race is open to the public – not just a gym thing – and quite a few people come for it; the triathlon is very popular and I think typically 150-ish people do it, but the duathlon usually only has about 20 participants. Today there were 25.

My total time was 1 hour 38 minutes and 23 seconds. My personal goal was 1 hour and 40 minutes, so I’m happy that I did slightly better. I’m honestly a bit disappointed at the same time though because I think I could have done better yet. I was able to do some of the splits a bit faster in training and think I left about 2 or 3 minutes on the table. That wouldn’t have changed my overall finishing spot at all really, I just think I could have pushed myself a bit hard. My wife is telling me I need stop thinking like this and just be happy since I met my goal and it’ll give me something to improve on if there is a “next time.” She’s probably right.

Anyway, I finished 11th out of 25 total, 9th out of 15 men, and 4th out of 5 in my age group. Not at all impressive comparatively speaking. I wish I would have done a wee bit better, but I knew I wasn’t going to be winning anything and I was better than my personal goal, so I guess I’m happy with it.

To train for it, I came up with my own schedule. Lifting is still really important to me and I didn’t want that to suffer on account of the duathlon. That’s what happened when I did the triathlon years ago; I lifted less and less while I devoted nearly all my workout time to swimming, running and biking, and though I got in great cardiovascular shape and lost quite a bit of unneeded weight, I got a lot weaker. So this time I trained for the duathlon Friday through Monday, and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday I still lifted heavy. I always lift in the mornings; Mondays and Fridays I’d do my running and/or biking in the evening. I did 90% of my running and biking in the gym over the winter. I don’t like the cold and didn’t run or bike outside until the last two weekends; before then I always used the treadmills and stationary bikes in my gym, or an exercise bike we have in our basement.

My 4 day a week workouts for the duathlon usually worked out like this, though not necessarily in this order:

  • 1 day I’d only run, usually a “longer” distance (4-6 miles), though sometimes I’d do intervals
  • 1 day I’d only bike, usually 16 miles
  • the other two days I’d both run and bike, always mixing up the distances and which I’d do first

It actually worked out really well. I got in better shape endurance wise, but I didn’t lose much weight and I got stronger in all my lifts at the same time. I began training for the duathlon at the same time that I started doing the 5-3-1 lifting program I posted about a bit ago, and the two worked out well together. Since I was doing the duathlon exercises on 4 consecutive days, I could get a bit worn out by the last day, and lifting legs could be tough at times too. I do them on Wednesday so I can rest the days before and after, but I didn’t always feel as fresh as I could have. Still though, I’m pleased with my progress for both goals. It isn’t an ideal plan for getting GREAT at either one or the other, but works well enough if trying to BOTH lift and endurance train at the same time. Well, for me, anyway.

If I talk with my friends about doing this type of race they nearly always ask what type of bike I have, so I figured I’d cover that here too. My bike isn’t special at all, which many people automatically assume when you tell them you’re doing a race. It is an early 80’s Panasonic Sport-500 10 speed:

Panasonic Sport 500 side
Unless you’re a bike enthusiast, I bet you didn’t know Panasonic made bicycles, did ya?

It’s hard to date it, but I think it’s a 1983 or 84 – only 2 or 3 years younger than me! It was an entry level road bike back in the day and it might have been the oldest bike there today, that I saw, anyway. I got it used about six years ago and used it in the triathlon, too. I ride once or twice a week for exercise over the summers, and it’s been reliable and okay enough for that, but I’d really like to upgrade. It’s heavy, has out dated components, and is a little too small for me. I’m not sure how much faster a nice modern bike would be, but I’m sure it wouldn’t make me any slower. Bikes are expensive though, and when considering my other hobbies and lack of extra funds, I probably won’t be getting one soon. But you never know, I see deals for used bikes on craigslist…

Biking is definitely my weak area. I definitely could improve in running, too, but I got passed a lot out on the bike course. It’s something to work on I guess. And though I know my legs and conditioning are the root of it (strength in the gym does not necessarily transfer to being a good biker!), the old bike doesn’t help anything, and I likely won’t do another one of these races with this bike. I’d want to upgrade first. With all that said though, a lot of people were using less than ideal bikes. I even saw a few people on mountain bikes, so actually I probably don’t have anything to complain about.

I did have one small mishap in the race: Roughly a 3rd of the way through the biking leg I dropped my water (Gatorade) bottle. It just slipped from my hand while I was putting it back in the bottle holder, I tried to reach down for it quickly, and not only did I not catch it, but I shoved my hand down into the chain.

Cut Fingers

The cuts really weren’t that bad, it just took skin off in a few places and kept bleeding while I was biking, so till I was all done my two fingers were caked in dried blood. I didn’t stop or try to clean it up or anything, just kept on going. The worst part was having to do the rest (most) of the race without anything to drink. I did get a swallow of water at a water station halfway through the run, and I made it okay, but a drink would have been nice. Will have to be more careful, though I’ve never done that before.

Overall it was a good experience and I had fun. It’s funny how I can be satisfied with my overall time, but at the same time am upset at myself that I didn’t do a few of the things faster. That’s just my personality though, I’m hardly ever satisfied. If I were to ever decide to stop lifting my legs heavy, and get a decent bike, I could see myself getting into these. I don’t think I’ll ever be an exceptional endurance athlete, but I found this fun, and could see myself doing more.

Written by Jim

April 14, 2013 at 9:05 pm