USAT - Vote NO!

A few weeks back I got a back door notification that there were some changes afoot at USA Triathlon. I talked with a couple of people who had inside knowledge, and one who had heard change was coming. The discussions didn't lead anywhere and I didn't get specifics.

Then 10-days or so I got an innocuous email from USAT announcing what looked like their annual voting. I either didn't read it, or did and didn't realize the significance. Thanks to Ben Hoffman, and to TRS Radio for the interview, available here and slowtwitch to read, here.

I won't repeat Ben's descriptions, but net net, I can't support these proposed bylaw and process changes. They have a significant impact on both the composition of the USAT Board, and the process for composing the board. It took me only two clicks to vote against the changes after I'd found the email. As discussed, you've not been counted until you've voted.

My link looked like this

Where MMMMMM is my USAT membership number, and PPPPPP is a member unique password.

For research, the changes are all listed in the documents, here.

Bicyclists, numbers, infractions

I got back from my early morning swim today, settled on the front porch with coffee, granola and the latest edition of the Colorado Home Town Weekly, to enjoy the sun coming up over the houses in front of me. I was astounded by a letter on page-5 that was suggesting that all cyclist should be required to wear bibs with some form of registration number. You can read a copy of the letter on the Boulder DailyCamera, and a report of the incident that prompted the letter here.

I couldn't let this pass without a response, apart from costly to implement, and impractical, it's also unnecessary. I've sent it to both the DailyCamera and the Hometown Weekly, here is my take. Share the road.

With respect to James Thurbers letter, June 8th Edition.

It is unacceptable for this woman to be punched by anyone, let alone a cyclist. Common assault happens all the time, the solution isn’t to pass more laws in the hope that “perhaps” the perpetrator “could” be caught.

It’s not clear from the letter if Mr Thurber is the same James Thurber that is a licensed attorney in Lafayette? If he is, then it’s not surprising he would prefer more legal malaise to make money from.

Mr Thurber seems to have overlooked that in February this year, Gregory Zolnick was hit and critically injured on Highway 36 by a driver who was presumably licensed, in a vehicle that was presumably registered, we don’t know as the assailant was never caught. Let’s not forget that almost exactly a year ago John Jacoby, in Windsor, Colorado was cycling, and was shot and killed, presumably with a licensed weapon, again we don’t know, the assailant was never caught.

On June 8th, 5 cyclists were killed, and four more seriously injured in Michigan. While those who ride bicycles do break the laws from time to time, their crimes are relatively harmless and when they do they put themselves at most risk. When did you last read about a car that crashed, caused by a cyclist? When did the news feature a driver who died as a result of a cyclist not paying attention, or when the cyclist was texting while riding?

Demonizing cyclists isn’t helpful. Increasingly as Boulder becomes more and more populated, and more expensive, many people will resort to cycling, especially those on low income to travel short distances.

It is for us all to be more polite, more civil, more patient, more vigilant and use the laws we have to prosecute any criminal behavior.
  • Current Location: Colorado
  • Current Mood: Optimistic
  • Current Music: Afterlife Live at Cafe Mambo

Stroke and Stride #1

(if you listen carefully, you can hear Kate sniggering)

Last Thursday was the 1st running of the annual Without limits race series out at the Boulder Reservoir. I'd attempted to race one of the series last year, oly I forgot my run shoes. So rather than race the 750m swim, 5k run, last year I did the 1500m swim and DNF'd.

So, I wasn't hopeful this year, I'd only swum twice since November 11th, and my running had suffered a similar fate. Come race day I was busy running around doing chores. We'd had a late a breakfast, so I skipped lunch and later picked up some dried fruit mix from Sprouts. Thats a mistake I'll never make again. Come race time I felt lethargic, and out of the water after what was choppy swim, I had stomach cramps. I guess it takes much longer for rock hard dried fruit to get digested.

I blew up(and possibly off) a few times on the run, and it was hot. Thankfully after a last walk towards the only part of the course to have any elevation, it was downhill to the finish. I got 2nd in Age Group, and fortunately that wasn't DFL in age group, there were three of us.

I don't plan on running the series, but will do probably one other race towards the end of the series as a comparison. Talking of comparisions, my 16:34 swim, was better than both my laps from last year, where I clocked 16:46 and 17:34.
  • Current Location: Colorado
  • Current Mood: Circumspect
  • Current Music: SomaFM

T-shirt etiquette redux

Kate and I went to a pre-memorial day party/bbq held by Boulder Triathlon Club, I met a guy there called Steve. The first thing Steve said was "You are that Mark that wrote the t-shirt etiquette article, right?" and he was.

It was one of the first proper articles that I'd written for Triathlon, back in late 1998/9. I sent it into Henry for posting on the old triathletes-uk Homepage, which was merged into the website back in 2007. Well, after it surfaced in Boulder last week following Steves confirmation it was mine, it's been posted to the 303 Triathlon website.

While some of the races have long gone, it's still like the humour, and the sentiment is still the same, enjoy.
  • Current Location: Colorado
  • Current Mood: Training
  • Current Music: Todays Robert Elms on BBC Radio London

Just like starting over

After last years decision to only race short course(aka sprint) with all that was going on, come November, I decided to take a complete break in training and racing. Changing career, moving 1,000 miles to Colorado, and getting a complete family was enough.

My last workout was the 5k Turkey Trot in Lincoln Nebraska, freezing cold rain, running with a 7-year old on her bike. Time 36:01. I managed to get a few trail rides in February, nothing to report. I did my first run of the year on March 4th, 3:59 miles and boy did I struggle.

My assumption was that after 6-months, I'd have completely rehabilitated any lingering soft tissue injuries, also that some of the sensitivity in my right knee, from the bone on bone contact would have gone away. Well it hasn't, along with potentially increased pain, now from both knees, swelling from osteo-arthritis, muscular weakness, and high altitude, reminds me very much of starting training after 15-years of mostly inactivity.

A couple of months on and things are definitely starting to come together. I've actually swum twice in the last week, surprisingly, my pace was faster than my last swims in November 2015. I've got comfortable biking close to 50-miles again; and while my running is way off, I've can push through 4.5-miles now.

I've committed to a few races so far.

Thursday I'm doing the without limits Stroke and Stride. I really have no objectives or expectations, just to get through the 750m wetsuit swim and 5k run. After that, I'm committed to the Boulder Sunrise Triathlon on June 26th and the Boulder Sunset Triathlon on August 27th. Both races are over the same course, so will give me a great benchmark on how I'm doing. I'm only entered for the sprint distance races, 750m open water swim; 17.3 mile swim; 5k run.

Since I have a legacy of posting targets here going back 13-years, I'll start with my objectives for the Sunrise race, survive the swim, fast T1, Bike with average highrer that 18MPH; run in less than 30-mins. Seems doable. A long way from where I've been, both geographically and speed wise. The thing about racing for some 18-years and having easy access to results via Athlinks is that it's esy to see where you've been.

Almost 10-years to the day, I was racing the original Florida Half Ironman (70.3) course for the first time, and averaged the 56-mile bike course at 20.58 MPH; I averaged 19.04 MPH for the full 112-miles of Ironman Arizona in 2009; and last September 21.95 MPH for the sprint distance at the ITU Worlds, so average >18MPH it is. For the run, my second ever triathlon, the Flashman Triathlon in September 1999, was 30:13, so <30-mins is on.

Just like starting over.

  • Current Location: Colorado
  • Current Mood: enjoying life
  • Current Music:

A letter from IRONMAN CEO

i just received this via email, its posted here verbatim without commentary


Dear Mark

Two months ago we announced our acquisition of the endurance division of Lagardère Sports—which includes more than 20 races throughout three continents and eight countries - including the Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds. Today, we are excited to share that the transaction is complete and IRONMAN, a Wanda Sport Holding company, now officially owns this portfolio of events, which includes five International Triathlon Union (ITU) races, four marathons, and six road cycling events.  With the addition of Wanda Sports Holdings events including the B2RUN, Tour de Suisse Challenge and the Happy 10K runs in China, more than 680,000 participants experience the benefits of endurance sports through the company’s portfolio.

The iconic IRONMAN series of events is the largest participation sports platform in the world. Recognized for excellence through distinguished events, IRONMAN has grown from a single race to a global sensation with more than 250 events. In 2016, we will have more than 125 IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 races spanning six continents and 33 countries. This year we will have inaugural events in China, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Indonesia, Uruguay, Ecuador, Poland, Croatia and Turkey.

For 38 years, IRONMAN has been the leader in triathlon; with the acquisition of Lagardère Sports’ endurance division, we are expanding into cycling and continuing our growth in running. IRONMAN will now own and operate ITU World Triathlons in Hamburg, Leeds, Abu Dhabi, Stockholm, and Cape Town; with our current ownership of the ITU World Triathlon Gold Coast, we now own and operate six of the nine events in the ITU World Triathlon Series. IRONMAN and the ITU have worked together on unified and global standard rules for triathlon, as well as several athlete development initiatives, so we are pleased to further our long-standing relationship with the global leader in international-distance racing.

We are also proud to add a number of Lagardère’s premiere road cycling events to our portfolio. The Velothon Majors series — with events in Berlin, Wales, and Stockholm — offers the opportunity to race alongside thousands of likeminded road cyclists on some of the most stunning courses available. Each course delivers inspiring challenges in the heart of Europe's most vibrant cities. The Hamburg Cyclassics is a unique event that offers an unmatched road cycling experience on completely closed roads. There are three different distances to choose from: 55 km, 100 km, and 155 km, catering to athletes of varying levels.

In addition to these prestigious events, the breadth of racing options we have to offer you has never been greater. In Europe, we are excited to provide two old-world race experiences with marathon courses in Hamburg and Bordeaux. In New Zealand, we welcome the Hawkes Bay International Marathon and Queenstown Marathon to our family (joining the Auckland Marathon) in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. For those of you looking for an adventure, The Motatapu festival and The Pioneer mountain bike events in New Zealand both offer unique and challenging off-road racing experiences.

As a triathlete and avid cyclist myself, I hope to see you on the starting line at one of these races soon.

My very best,


President and Chief Executive Officer

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Triathlon Business International 2016

I'm just back from the annual TBI Conference, it's the 6th US Conference I've attended since they originally began as Triathlon America. I toyed with writing up the conference for a web site, as I did back in 2012 for Tri247 but got embroiled in some topical discussions toward the end of the first day, and never got notes typed up and after that, there was no catching up.

TBI2016-SCS_0594.JPGThe good news is Dana Willet, Editor of 303 Triathlon and Cycling in Colorado expertly captured the essence of the conference in her twitter and blog coverage.

I'm not an insider at TBI, I'm just the guy that sits at the front and, often laughed at, for asking what I consider pretty straight forward questions that need to be asked. For example, over on TRS Triathlon in the article covering what the WTC CEO Andrew Messick said, I asked the questions about the Kona Lottery, and the rumors about the age group rolldown, which otherwise Andrew wouldn't have addressed.

I wasn't particularly positive about the Triathlon America organization when it was formed[in 2010), and I'm still not. They've not really become "international" in the true sense; yes they've had two meetings overseas, one I attended as best I could, while working on the ITU World Championships in London in 2014; the other in Roth, along with the Challenge Roth Race.

Yes, they have key industry participants from overseas attend, Zibby Szlufcik, the head of the Challenge Family, and Dag Oliver from the Norseman triathlon, although I'm guessing Dag came to accept three awards; overall the conference remains American, attended by Americans, discussing problems and opportunities for American businesses. Yes there are foreign retailers like Dean Jackson from Huub, but to be fair Dean has business in the US, and is an exception(in many ways!).

Overall though it remained an interesting conference, better to attend than miss out. There are a number of continuing themes, including bashing "professional triathletes" which continue to trouble me. I'll come back to that in a follow-up post.

Age group drug testing

It's happening more and more. You've been warned.

The Wall Street Journal has an article covering the high level aspects and some examples of the type of testing. Since we know cheating goes on the age group ranks of triathlon and cycling, and probably many other sports, it should be welcomed as a good thing, or should it?

I remain concerned about age group testing, on a number of fronts. First, to launch into a comprehensive program of testing assumes that the people you are going to test have the knowledge and understanding about what they are being tested for, and what is legal and what isn't.

You can be sure that the real age group cheats know. They are just as savvy as professional cheats. They understand the cycles of loading, recovery and clearing your system for testing. They also know how to get around the system. But, is it safe to assume everyone knows what they need to know?

The typical cheat, if there is such a thing, isn't likely to be the aspiring 28-year old who is desperate to make the pro' ranks. While there are likely to be some of those who come under suspicion, like Matt Bach in the WSJ article. The typical age groupers likely to cheat are more likely to be those in their 40's and older. We've certainly seen that to be the case for men, you are an age group winner, you could go faster, you could train more if only you could recover better. Ben Greenfield has the transcript of an interview with age grouper Kevin Moates, who tested positive about his experience.

You are a woman in your early 40's, you take up triathlon, having been a decent runner since High School. After a few races your qualify for and get some decent results at major age group races, then an ITU race, and later that year after winning a 70.3 race, win a full Ironman race. In the following year, in the lead up to the Ironman World Championships, the testers arrive. Test taken, results published, you get banned, and not for cutting the run course, but for illegal substances. You've been taking HRT prescribed by your GP since your late 30's, when your menstrual cycle went nuts probably due to the excessive run training.

Then there is the athlete who just can't shake off that knee injury. Someone suggests coxcomb injections, but the science seems suspicious, a guy at your swim club says he's had great success with Hyaluronan Injections for his shoulder injury; you try it, you think thats fixed your problem and you are advised to keep using it. Later that year you win your age group at Kona and get busted and banned. Was it the injections, were they tainted?

Yes, you can apply for a Theraputic Use Exemption, but why, when, what for? A TUE is not a passport to cheat, despite its use for asthma among the ranks of triathletes. I'm not making excuses for cheats. But there are some serious implications to be consdered before endorsing and launching into an acceptable age group testing program.

  1. USAT, British Triathlon, Federación Española de Triatlón, Deutsche Triathlon Union and all the other National Federations need to do much better, much more visible and substantial job of educating age groupers of the issues, the drugs, and the types of infractions they are open too. These are quite possibly very different from those of the pro's although the obvious ones such as testoterone will be the same.

  2. We need to think through how age group athletes will defend against charges of drug cheating and the appeal and legal process. Again, unlike pro's who potentially have team and team sponsors with in-house attorneys and lawyers to defend the pro, and in many cases, have as much to lose as the cheat. For myself, I know that a random in or out of competition test that revealed any abnormal susbstance would have put not just my amatuer racing career at stake, but my 40-year professional career at stake. My company, as many Fortune 500 companies, has a zero tolerance for drugs. Executives and employees would be put on immediate unpaid leave, followed by sacking. Often the complete opposite of the cheating pro' where denial after denial, appeal after apprea happens before they finally lose their job, and with it, their income.

  3. The industry, especially Triathlon magazines, and have a voluntary code of conduct surrounding supplements that are at least giving the impression there is an ethical, natural way to to the same place that illegal drug use and injections can get you to. It's not about the legality of these supplements, its the moral, ethical and normalization of the chemicals that are the problem. This is especially true for "advertorial" pages in magazines discussing testosterone supplments. As far as I'm concerned the supplement itself could be both benine and useless, it's the culture of easy fixes that these and other adverts encorages that is the problem. It's the normalization of terms and drug names through the adverts that is wrong.

Most of all though, I'm concerned that a furor around age group testing, and a series of negativebad results, will obscure the real problem, pro drug testing. There can be no question that it goes on. The World Triathlon Corporation, owners of Ironman, do testing. Do they do enough, the right people, the right time? In the professional sport there is almost a closed loop or money, what goes around comes around. In this environment, there needs to be complete tranparency about testing, testing results etc.

I don't deny that there is a likely to be an age group problem. While there is money to be made in the age group ranks, by and large it is no where near that available in the pro ranks.

Being defeated in a single pro race at Ironman distance can be make or break to make it onto a team next year. It's not just about prize money, it's your year long travel, kit, gear an susbsitance allowance that is at stake. Often this will be more than the prize money. If you've trained clean all year, and get beaten by another pro who is "buzzed", you lose. If you are so desperate that you cheat to give yourself the best chance of staying on the team, they lose, prize money and more.

Before we whole heartedly endorse an age group testing program, we need much more transparency in the pro testing program. The integrity, and investment in the sport will be destroyed by a cycling scale Pro doping scandal. An age group scandal, not so much.