2013 Triathlete Gift Giving Guide


Perhaps you’re a last minute shopper like me? Yes, I generally wait until December 24th to do my holiday shopping. Nothing like a little procrastination, right? I think grad school taught me that…

Triathletes are usually pretty easy to shop for since we typically like the latest and greatest technology that will make us fitter, stronger, and faster. Many triathletes have no problem shelling out $10,000 for the top of the line tri bike. I wish I had that problem…

However, sometimes it may be hard to shop for a triathlete because we tend to buy the newest technology as it comes out. If a triathlete has been in the sport for several years they may also have just about all the core equipment and some of the bells and whistles already, so what do you buy them?

Here is a list of items of various price tags to meet anyone’s budget and the needs of the triathlete in your life:

  1. Coaching – Perhaps your triathlete already has a coach or is thinking about hiring a coach in the New Year to help them meet their triathlon goals. Hint, hint – I’m still accepting athletes for 2014! Coaching is a great investment that any triathlete will see huge rewards from. Consider paying their coaching fees for a month or two or even the whole year!
  2. Race Entry Fee – Race entries can be expensive for any triathlete, especially if they are racing multiple events in a season. Ironman races can cost up to $700, while even the smaller local races can still cost about $100. Paying a race entry fee for your athlete will sure make them happier and more driven to do well in that race, just for you of course!
  3. Gift Certificate for a Bike Tune-up – Regular bike cleaning and tune ups are part of every bike owner’s yearly maintenance. Unfortunately, many of us tend to skip these very important things in favor of buying gear. A bike tune up several weeks before a big race can ensure that the triathlete’s bike is in working order and can make them faster! Who doesn’t love free speed!?
  4. New Tires – Bike tires are like car tires – they need to be changed when they become too worn out. If you live in an area where in snows a lot then chances are the triathlete in your life has to spend countless hours on the trainer riding to nowhere. Some triathletes buy special trainer tires (which are a great holiday gift idea too!) or just use their regular tire, which will be completely worn by the beginning of spring. They would love a new set of tires for race season! Make sure you check their current tires on their bike to ensure you buy the correct ones.
  5. Swim Pass or Swim Lessons – Little known fact… swimming is expensive! Living in Maine, I personally don’t have a lot of options for indoor swimming pools. I would estimate that we have about 15 pools across the entire state. For those of you living in Boston or New York, you probably have 15 pools in one block! Lap swimming adds up quickly! Most pools in the Greater Portland area average $3-$5 a pop and if you swim 3 times a week that’s about $60 a month! Consider buying your triathlete a swim pass at their local swimming hole and/or swimming lessons. Even the most advanced swimmers can gain something from a swim coach.
  6. Gift Certificate to a Running Store – Support your local running store by getting your triathlete a gift certificate! That way your athlete can pick out their favorite running shoes, winter running clothes, or even stock up on sports nutrition. Win, win for everyone!
  7. Race Wheels – Every triathlete dreams of having fancy race wheels, myself included! Race wheels are expensive, hence why I don’t have any. If you don’t have $2000 to purchase your favorite triathlete some new wheels then consider paying their race wheel rental fee at their big race this season. TriBike Transport, Rev3, and many bike shops offer race wheel rentals on the big day for a fraction of the cost of purchasing a set.
  8. Body Glide – Every triathlete needs some Body Glide! It’s a tough job squeezing into your wetsuit on race day. Body Glide makes the perfect stocking stuffer!
  9. IronWar – Matt Fitzgerald’s book on the 1989 Ironman World Championships tells the grueling story of the battle between the world’s two best athletes – Mark Allen and Dave Scott. This book is an epic page-turner and your favorite triathlete won’t want to put it down until it’s done!
  10. Massage – Triathletes often spend too much money on buying the best gear and technology and not enough on the stuff that matters the most – proper recovery! Massage is a great and proven effective recovery tool. Consider buying your triathlete a gift certificate to their favorite sports massage therapist. Your triathlete will thank you later!

~ Happy Training & Happy Holidays!  

Book Review: The Powermeter Handbook


So I like to read if you haven’t figured that out. Especially about triathlon and exercise physiology related things. Yes, I am a total geek and I will own it! 🙂

Last April I decided to spend a lot of money to buy this little thing called a powermeter for my bike. Best investment ever! So in an effort to better understand what my powermeter tells me when I upload data to TrainingPeaks, I decided to invest in a couple of books. My first purchase was Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan’s Training and Racing with a Powermeter. I excitedly told my coach about my purchase and she suggested that I read Joe Friel’s The Powermeter Handbook because it is easier to read and geared slightly more towards the triathlete. I have yet to read Allen and Coggan’s book, but it is in my ever increase stack of books to read. I’m current reading Joe Friel and Jim Vance’s Triathlon Science book. It was just released a couple of weeks ago and I am already over half way through it. Definitely a worth while investment if you’re a coach and/or serious athlete. And perhaps a total trigeek like myself! 🙂

One of my favorite quotes thus far in Triathlon Science is from Hunter Allen’s chapter on Triathlon Training Technologies. According to him “the powermeter does not lie, so workouts can be mentally challenging when fitness is not high as desired. Triathletes tend to be critical of themselves, so having a ‘truth meter’ on the bike might not be the best idea for hyper-self-critical triathletes (page 150). So fucking true. My powermeter is certainly my “truth meter.” I whined over and over again last year to my coach (and really anyone who would listen) about how crappy a cyclist I truly am. I always thought that I was a strong cyclist and easily finished in the top percentage of my age group, but through riding with a powermeter I learned that I completely suck at actually riding a bicycle. I was a gear-masher. My cadence was way too low. And I just plain sucked at riding consistently. We’ll talk about this at another time. Let’s get to the book review!

I’ve always been a huge fan of Friel. I like his writing style. It’s easy to follow and he explains things well. The book is divided into three parts: (1) what is a powermeter and how can it help me?, (2) how can I train more effectively using my power meter?, and (3) how can I use my power meter to improve my competitive performance?.


The first section was good. It discussed how a powermeter works. Exactly what I needed. So what is a powermeter and what does it do? Well, lets first answer why power. Training based on heart rate and intensity or rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is fine, but power on the bike is really the top dog. Most athletes believe that heart rate is proactive, but in fact it is reactive. It responds to what the muscles are doing. As Friel says, it is not the “engine”, but is simply the “fuel pump.” Friel points out that muscle is where nearly all the fitness changes take place and focusing on the rate at which the blood is pumped to the muscles is not the most effective way to train. Heart rate can also vary on a day-to-day-basis because of outside forces such as diet, race-day excitement, and psychological stress. Heart rate is also delayed meaning that if you are doing intervals then your heart rate will lag slightly behind the intensity pick up. Certainly heart rate is good to train with if that’s all you have. Speed is not the best way to gauge your fitness because obviously it varies on a multitude of factors, namely wind and hills. Feel or RPE is another method of training. Some people just prefer training by feel. It works for some, but for a majority of us, we prefer numbers. Most of us train by a combination of the above indicators.


So what is power? Friel defines power as “how much work you are doing and how fast you are doing it.” To physicists power is equal to work divided by time. However, in cycling terms we can define power as “power equals force times velocity.” We can break it down to “force is what you put into the pedals and velocity is how fast you are turning the pedals” (page 24). So power essentially tells you how much work you are doing at any given moment. As I mentioned above, powermeters are “truth meters.” A powermeter works by detecting force and cadence. Most powermeters have a magnet that is placed on a crank arm and a magnetic sensor on the frame or some combination of the above. Cadence is measured by how long it takes for the cranks to make one full revolution. Some do it electronically by measuring sine wave. Yeah, don’t ask me how. I only got a C+ in calculus. To calculate force, a powermeter has this thing called a “strain gauge” and is the most expensive part of the powermeter. According to Friel, “a strain gauge is a thin, flexible strip of material with a metallic foil pattern inlaid on it. As force (torque) is increased on the pedal, the strain gauge is very slightly stretched, thus changing the shape of the metallic foil pattern. When the pattern deforms, its electrical resistance changes. The amount of this change is an indication of how much force (torque) is being applied” (page 26). Okay Friel, I’ll take your word for it since physics is not my thang.


Friel then goes into describing the different training zones, etc. But, what really interested me was his section on economy. Economy is HUGE in Ironman training and racing and thus it peaked my interest because it’s relevant to my goals this year. Economy is a huge determiner of performance in Ironman racing. An Ironman is generally raced at about 70% of anaerobic threshold (AT), possibly less for triathletes new to the distance (as in Moi!). Obviously, 112 miles on the bike requires a constant pace and effort. Burning matches is an extremely bad thing and can lead to a horrible run and a possible DNF. A powermeter can reign in an athlete from doing stupid things.


Part two of the book gets more into the nitty-gritty stuff of the powermeter and training with one. The first chapter of this section is on power zones and how to determine your functional threshold power (FTP), which happens to be one of my favorite things to do. NOT! Power zones are very similar to heart rate zones: active recovery (zone 1), aerobic endurance (zone 2), tempo (zone 3), lactate threshold (zone 4), VO2 max (zone 5), anaerobic capacity (zone 6), and sprint power (zone 7). The primary difference between heart rate zones and power zones is that power zones are a percentage of the FTP instead of the percentage of maximal heart rate.


Friel tells you how to determine your FTP. Once you have calculated this then he tells you how to ride with intensity. The biggest thing that I learned about in this chapter was the variability index (VI). I knew a little bit about it via my coach who yells at me about my piss-poor VI. VI is the comparison of your normalized power and average power. What is normalized power? According to Friel it is the “average power normalized to reflect the metabolic cost or sensations of fatigue experience during a ride” (page 79). In other words, NP compares the range of variability of power during a ride with the average power of the ride. So if you ride inconsistently then your normal power will reflect this. It is actually telling you what the workout felt like. A perfect VI is 1.0, meaning that you rode very consistently at the same average power. If you a bad cyclist like me then your average VI for rides tends to be in th 1.15-1.25 range. I get a big fat F for my VI. My horrible VI tells me that I ride inconsistently and I often burn too many matches. My workouts feel a lot harder than they actually should be. This is very bad for Ironman racing. My big goal this is year is to learn to ride my bicycle better and work on having a “perfect” VI.


The most interesting thing I found in this book is Friel’s 50-40-30-20-10 Rule. The concept actually came from Alan Couzens, an exercise physiologist and triathlon coach. The essence of the rule is to conserve energy when the bike is going fast (i.e. downhills; think descend into Keene on IMLP bike course!) and expend energy when the bike is going slow (i.e. uphill; climbing the Three Bears). Friel then goes on to talk about this theory on burning matches. I highly suggest you pick up the book for these two tidbits. Burning too many matches = bad bad bad!


The remaining part of the book discusses how to design workouts using power zones and Friel gives examples of workouts for the triathlete at various distances and the cyclist for various sorts of races. Again, I suggest picking up the book if your interested in this portion of the book. Overall, I do believe it is a worthwhile investment if you have a powermeter. I certainly learned a lot about my powermeter and how it works. Friel doesn’t get super technical like I guess the Allen and Coggan’s book does; however, I think it’s great for someone like me who isn’t really a fan of calculus and physics. I still am looking forward to the Allen and Coggan book though. Friel’s book definitely answered a majority of my questions and also made me understand and connect the dots of why my coach assigns certain workouts for me. I’m very much a “why person” so I like to know the why behind everything. Yes, I was totally that kid who would constantly ask why. 🙂


Verdict: Buy the book if you have a powermeter!

~ Happy Training









Book Review: The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery


Last month I read the book The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery by Sage Rountree. The book is all about recovery methods for athletes, primarily endurance-based athletes. Rountree is an experience yoga teacher and is also a certified USA Triathlon and Road Runners Club of America coach. She teaches regular yoga classes popular among athletes of all levels and is a frequent contributor to many publications, including Runner’s World, Yoga Journal, and USA Triathlon Life.

The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery is described on the back of the book as:

“The Athlete’s Gudie to Recovery is the first comprehensive, practical exploration of the art and science of athletic rest. Certified cycling, triathlon, and running coach Sage Rountree guides you to full recovery and improved performance, exploring how much rest athletes need, how to measure fatigue, and how to make the best use of recovery tools.

Drawing on her own experience along with interviews with coaches, trainers, and elite athletes, Rountree details daily recovery techniques and demystifies common aids such as ice baths, compression apparel, and supplements. She explains in detail how to employ restorative practices, including massage, meditation, and yoga. You will learn which methods work best and how and when they are most effective.”

I enjoyed the book, but I wished that it included a bit more scienitific study results. Of course as a biochemist by training I rely on peer-reviewed studies for my knowldge; however, Rountree wrote the book for a more general population so I understand why she did not bring a lot of studies into the book.

The first part of the book dicusses why recovery is an important part of the training cycle and ways to qualitatively and quantitatively to measure it during your training cycles. One of my favorite quotes from the book is “recovery is where the gains of your training actually occur, and valuing your recovery is the key to both short-term and long-term success, no matter what your sport” (page 4). Last year I really learned the importance of recovery during my training cycles. I have always been in the mindset that no pain, no gain or go hard all the time for the biggest improvements in my performance. However, I learned that is completely the wrong mindset to have. When working with my athletes and clients I always make sure to stress the importance of recovery. For the longest time I was under the impression that during workouts is when your body gets stronger and faster, but in reality it is AFTERWARDS during periods of recovery that your body repairs itself to make it stronger and faster. Rountree stresses this in the first part of her book. She states that “it’s the balance between the work and the rest that keeps us healthy and strong” (page 5). Rountree discusses the physiogologic adaptaion process well in laymans terms for those of us that may not be a super science nerd like myself. She also breaks down the perodization training cycle in words and figures for the reader to help them understand the concept easily and how recovery fits into each part of the cycle. One point she makes in the first chapter is that “your successful approach to recovery will depend on two traits: patience and faith” (page 13). I found this to be a strong point. Lord knows that I am one of the most impatient people. When I want something I want it now. I know as an athlete that I need to take the time and put the work in and I will see results. I will not become a top of the podium athlete overnight. I may never become one, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t put the work in and have a little faith that if I am patient that it will happen. You have to be patient with recovery and trust the process. Sometimes we all need a little time off. Certainly my body told me I needed time off this past Fall to heal from my nagging right hip issue and also the plantar fasciitis that results from that damn piriformis. Can I evict my piriformis yet?

Part two of the book dicusses recovery techniques. She discusses 12 techniques, which she breaks down into time, cost, accessibility, and confidence (she calls this “Sage’s Gauge”). Here is my take on each technique:

  • Active Recovery – is exercise at a low intensity. Easy, stand-alone active recovery workouts, such as an easy zone 1 spin or jog/walk, can elevate the heart rate just effort to increase blood flow to muscles to aid in recovery. However, these workouts must be light and easy enough to not tax the muscular and cardiovascular systems, aka 65-mile “recovery” rides are not really recovery rides. Who knew? Active recovery also includes proper cool downs during more intense workouts.
  • Stress Reduction – Let’s face it, we all live in a stressful world. Work, school, family, training, etc. According to Rountree the key to reducing stress is being aware of where it comes from. Okay, so my main source of stress is work. Mainly in the past month not knowing if I still had a job. Now that I know my job is a little more secure now my stress levels has gone down; however, I am prone to getting stressed trying to figure out how to fit work and train clients while completing my training all within 24 hours and then rinse and repeat. Welcome to being an age-group athlete, right?! Rountree suggests learning the ability to say no (definitely a major problem I have. I can be guilt-tripped into just about anything and I will probably regret ever saying that…), making realistic goals and periodically checking in on them, and planning a head.
  • Sleep – YES PLEASE! I think we all know how important good quality sleep is! Rountree suggests that we should sleep until you wake up satisfied without the use of an alarm clock. Naps are also a good idea. All great ideas but a little unrealistic for a majority of us real people working in the real world.
  • Nutrition and Hydration – Drink water and eat real foods. Enough said right? Recovery snacks are important for our bodies.
  • Supplements – These are designed to cover deficiencies in your diet. See above for what is really important in recovery, i.e. real foods and water! However, taking a multivitamin and a fish oil pill can help. Personally, I take a multivitmain to cover my bases incase I don’t have a good eating day and I don’t eat a ton of fish so fish oil pill a day is good for me. Fish oil has been shown to help reduce inflammation. NSAIDS, such as Ibuprofen can actually interfere with the body’s recovery process so it’s best not to swallow an entire bottle (or any at all) after a tough workout.
  • Cold and Heat – Ice bath party anyone? I started to use ice baths this past season after tough long brick workouts. I think they helped some. Mostly I felt like a badass sitting in a tub of cold water and ice cubes drinking my recovery smoothie (okay, sometimes it was a beer. Don’t judge me). Cold can be used to counter inflammation and to numb pain. Ice baths help with this and also to move waste products from the muscle. Some people also use heat. Rountree suggests eating a warm snack while sitting in an ice bath.
  • Home Remedies – Compression gear. I was interested to see what her stance was on the issue because it is currently debated in the scientific literature if compression gear actually works or if it’s more psychological. Either way, I like my compression gear. Rountree suggest based on studies that compression socks are more effective than calf sleeves. She also suggests that compression gear is more beneficial during recovery than while training or racing. That is my opinion also. However, compression gear intrigues me so I plan to look more into the topic.
  • Technological Aids – Got a lot of money? Yeah, me either! Thanks SallieMae! You can buy things like ultrasound and electrostimulation therapy or Normatec MVP boots.
  • Massage – Another, yes please! I think we all know that massages are beneficial to the body.Rountree discusses when massage should be scheduled in your training and racing cycles. During training she said scheduling will much depend on your budget. Once a month is probably fine for most people. Rountree suggests a good massage at least 3 days prior to an event would be good and then a really light quick massage after the race to flush-out muscular waste. A good deeper massage should be scheduled about a week later.
  • Self-Massage – Is your foam roller your best friend? Well, it should be!
  • Restorative Yoga – Restorative yoga is a gentler form of yoga and focuses on releasing tension in the body. Poses are held as long as 10-15 minutes. I’ve done one restorative yoga class. It was tough, but my body did feel good afterwards. Rountree gives pictorial examples of poses that are beneficial to the triathlete.
  • Meditation and Breathing – Similar to restorative yoga. Just taking time out of your day to relax and forget about the stresses of the day. Rountree states that the “goal of meditation is not to stop thinking; it’s to become aware of the thinking and to return to focus without getting swept up in thought” (page 168).

Part three of the book discusses recovery protocols. Rountree gives some ideas of how to string the techniques together along with training. Personally, I think everyone is different and different things work for different people, thus people should pick what works best for them. Overall, I did like the book and thought it was helpful. I personally would have liked to have seen more peer-reviewed studies included in more chapters, but I believe Rountree was targeting a more general population rather than the total trigeek like myself.

Have you read this book? What are your thought? What recovery methods work for you?

~ Happy Training!


Gear Review: Leg Lube

You might have noticed that The Rhyme and Reason got a bit of a makeover! I hope you like it! I’m getting her ready for some announcements and changes in the future so become a follower on my blog and you’ll be the first to know! 😉

Back in June I got the new USAT magazine and was thumbing through it. At the end of every magazine there is a small gear review. My eye was caught by Leg Lube. I immediately burst out laughing and snapped a picture to text Bike Shop Boy because obviously it was something he needed (not that he is in the picture anymore).

Fast forward a month or so I went into  Maine Running Company right before the Beach to Beacon to pick up a couple of things and low and behold there was Leg Lube staring at me on the shelf! Obviously, I bought two. One for me and one for bike shop boy.

I’ve been using Leg Lube for the past few months to shave my legs. I’ve never been a fan of shaving cream. I find it messy and annoying so I usually just shave my legs in the shower with a little soap and water. One of the main things that I really like about Leg Lube is the fact that you don’t really need water to use it. It’s a gel so you could actually use it with dry legs. I haven’t tried it so I don’t know how good it works. However, it would be great if you’re stuck on a deserted island somewhere and want to shave! 🙂

At first I wasn’t a huge fan of it. The smell was what got me. It has essential oils in it. To me the smell reminded me of the dentist office and obviously no one wants to think of the dentist. However, as their website says, the smell dissipates after use. And, it really does. The website also claims that “it leaves legs feeling fresh and tingly!” There is definitely a little bit of a tingle going on.

What I really like about the product is that it’s shaped like a chain lube bottle! What bike geek wouldn’t want that?! Overall, I do recommend the product. With a fresh (and sometimes not so fresh) razor you can get a good shave, whether legs, pits, bikini, or face (not that I know that though). You can purchase the product online on their website or better yet, see if any of your local shops carry it and buy local!

Disclaimer: This review is solely my own opinion. The product was purchased by me with my own money. However, if anyone from Leg Lube reads this and wants to give me free product I might love you forever! 🙂

~ Happy Training!