Gear Reviews

Yesterday Apple replaced its 6-months old iPad 3 with a significantly updated model iPad 4 and a Mini iPad or as they are calling it, iPad Mini.

Basically the iPad 4 comes with the following updates:

  • A6X processor, which Apple claims is twice as fast as the outgoing model’s A5X chip.
  • It supports dual-band 802.11n (2.4 GHz/5 GHz) in addition to 802.11a/b/g.
  • It is compatible with Sprint’s LTE (who cares)
  • HD Face time camera
  • 30-pin port for the Lightning port.

The iPad Mini which I was ready to pre-order come with non of that except the 30-pin port and the HD Face Time camera. But basically you are buying an old iPad but smaller. The biggest issue for me is the retina display. Not sure how Apple missed that. Apple been making the retina display for a while now and all their new products are coming out with that display. Would Steve Jobs release the new Mini with an older display? I don’t think so. I think Apple failed here. I think the new Mini will open a whole new segment for Apple but for me, I am holding my wallet until iPad Mini 2 which will most likely come with the retina display and the new A6x processor.

So for now, I am still holding on to my iPad 1 (yes I haven’t upgraded yet).

Gear Reviews, Training

As we  move toward the Fall and the off season for many, I am still gearing up for my biggest race of the year, Ironman Cozumel. The weather in the north east is getting colder and the sun doesn’t show up that often anymore. The roads are mostly wet and the sky is no longer blue.

Many people ask me how in the world do I bike indoors?  My immediate answer is usually it takes discipline and a lot of it. Biking is usually a fun activity and done outdoors. Unlike running on a treadmill, for some reason, biking indoors on a trainer or a stationary bike can even be more boring.

This year, I have only logged 25% of my total rides outdoors. Yes, only 25% (about 49 hours) and that include racing. Usually one long Sunday ride. Even those I have done indoors sometimes to  dial in a specific workout which I can never seem to do with all the distractions of outdoor riding. My longest indoor ride this year has been around 6 hours and have no problem going longer. Yes call me crazy!!!

Let’s face it, indoor riding is very easy to do. You don’t need to worry about traffic, stop signs, and you can do it early in the morning or late at night. If you are like me and get up at 5am for a 2hr workout then nothing can be more efficient and safer than indoor riding.

So how do I do it? Here are some indoor bike training tips:

1- Get a good trainer. I personally prefer having a roller and specifically e-motion rollers. These are by far the best and most comfortable rollers you can get. They are expensive but worth it. I also have your regular fluid trainer but haven’t used since I got my e-motion.

2- TrainerRoad. This is by far the best and most valuable training tool I have right now aside from my power meter. It truly made riding indoor enjoyable. TrainerRoad has been around for less than a year but been in beta for over a year now. Basically, the software you download on your PC/Mac, you create an account and select your trainer model and now you have a virtual power meter. The software will convert your speed and resistance into wattage. Or if you have a power meter with ANT+ it will display the data from that instead. Then select one of their available rides or just follow one of their workout plans and watch your FTP increase throughout the season.

Here is a quick video explaining what TrainerRoad is

3- Sufferfest. If you want more entertainment and like to put yourself in a place you’ve never experienced before, then videos from the Sufferfest might be for you. These workouts are beyond intense. TrainerRoad have all of the Sufferfest workouts so you can just follow the power recommendation and make sure you keep a bucket next to you just in case you need it if you know what I mean! Or if you are like me on rollers then keep a chair or poll right there because you will need it once you start seeing stars.

Some of my favorite Sufferfest videos:

  • Hell Hath No Furry
  • The Haunted
  • Fight Club
  • The long scream (if you want to add more pain to your workout)

And as I said earlier, you must have the discipline and dedication to make this possible. Once you get use to a routine, you will discover the many advantages of indoor training.

Having a chat with my son

My son on the elliptical. Still in his pajamas.

Do you train indoor? If you have any other tips or have any question about indoor training or any of the products mentioned in this post, please feel free to comment below or send me an email.

 

Gear Reviews

If you are tired of the Garmin ANT+ USB stick, then you are not alone. This thing is big and small. Too big to keep connected to a laptop and too small to put away somewhere and not have to spend time looking for it.

 

And since I have been using my laptop to log my bike trainer workouts, I have been using the Garmin ANT+ more often. So when I heard of the new Suunto Move Stick Mini, it didn’t take me long to order one.

As soon as it arrived, I was very impressed with how small this thing is. Just take a look at how small it is compare to the Garmin ANT+ in the photo below.

I immediately connected it to my laptop, turned on my TrainerRoad software and tested it out with my Garmin HR strap. TrainerRoad was able to recognize the new Suunto Stick Mini and displayed my HR on the screen immediately. Then took my laptop down to my trainer and tested the Garmin Speed and Cadence and everything was displayed nicely within my TrainerRoad application. On Mac OSX 10.7.3 (Lion) there was nothing to install or upgrade.

I have been testing the Suunto Mini Stick for the past two weeks and logged over 10 bike trainer hours with no issues at all. If anything,  the number of signal interruption has gone down. I can’t attribute this to the new Suunto Mini Stick or probably just software issues. One thing to note is the Suunto Move Stick Mini uses the new ANT+2 and USB 2 technology which can handle up to 8 channels.

For the past two weeks, the stick didn’t leave my laptop and have no plans on taking it out. It is very small and I know for sure if I do take it out I will probably have to spend hours looking for it. So if you plan on not leaving it connected to your laptop, then it might not be a good option.

Gear Reviews, Training

freezebikeThe triathlon season is winding down in the northern hemisphere. If you like to milk the racing season all the way to October and you are not one of the few lucky ones heading to Kona then you might need to take some extra layers with you in your transition bag. Few things to consider when racing in probably anything below 60ºF:

– Depending on where you are racing, there is a good chance that the water temperature is warmer than the air during Sept through Oct. Check the water temperature at NOAA and if anything above 60ºF, your wetsuit and your swim cap might be enough. A neoprene swim cap might be necessary for anything below 60ºF.

– For the bike, put on socks and get toe covers for your bike shoes. I like toe covers instead of full shoe covers because you can put them on your shoes before the race and have your shoes clipped on the bike if you wish and ready to go. Get good toe covers and use them. Trust me, your toes will freeze very quickly and if you make it to T2 without frostbite, the run will be painful.

Arm Warmers. There is some magic in arm warmers. They don’t cover much but they do keep you warm. It might be hard to put them on when you are wet. One tip is to keep them inside out and roll them up your arms.

– If it is extra cold, you might need to put on a cycling jacket. Not the best option if you are looking for speed but for the longer distance races such as half iron or full iron distance then a jacket might be necessary. I really like the Castelli Wind Blocker. Short sleeves and you can wear it with your arm warmers. It blocks wind and rainproof. Here is a the long sleeve option as well.

– Another tip is to swim without the tri top and put it on in T1. However, putting a tri top while wet might be a challenge so practice this before you do it.

Gloves on the bike is also a good option. Your fingers will get cold very fast.

Try to experiment with all this during training. Don’t be afraid to go out riding if it is raining or cold. Just like racing in hot conditions, you need to understand how your body reacts to cold and certain weather conditions.

Have you raced in cold weather? Share your experience/tips below.

Here is a company that is going from making the popular bluetooth headsets to making a health aware electronic bracelet called Jawbone Up. This bracelet will be available later this year. According to 9to5mac.com, it is set to be released later this month on 9/25.

Now, us triathletes love to keep track of how many miles, hours and yards we completed day to day. We even love to brag about it on Twitter, Facebook and every chance we get. If this product actually work as advertised, then it might just make a hit amongst triathletes.

Here is a summary to what this bracelet can do (thanks to 9to5mac.com):

The Jawbone Up uses sophisticated hardware and software to track user’s steps, distance traveled, pace, intensity level of movement, and calories burned throughout a day. In addition, the system intelligently breaks down a person’s active time versus inactive time. Perhaps the coolest feature within the device’s “Move” functionality is the ability to remind users when it’s time to get up and be active. This little bracelet can actually vibrate as an alert for the user to become active. Of course, a user reads all of the above information categories from their iPhone or Android device with a special Jawbone-built application.

Another focal point of the Jawbone Up’s iPhone integration is a very neat feature in their “Eat” category. The bracelet – along with the app – can learn what food is best for a user’s metabolism – and can create a custom diet setup for each user. As you can see in the promotional video above, a user can just snap a photo of each and every meal in order to get the “Eat” system rolling. In all, this “Eat” function promises to track your meals, measure eating responses, and improve your personal metabolism: all with the help of a comparatively (to gadgets) good looking bracelet and an iPhone app.

The third cornerstone of the Jawbone Up has to do with sleep. These sleep features are perhaps the Up’s most instrumental capabilities. The Up basically tracks everything about a user’s sleeping habits: hours slept, time to fall asleep, sleep phases/patterns, waking moments, and overall sleep quality. Within this sleep category, the most important and intutive feature is the “Silent Wakeup Alarm” mechanism. In order to allow a user to wakeup refreshed, the bracelet will send gradual vibrates to the user. Based on your natural sleep cycle, the feature will fully wake you up.

If this thing works as advertised, then it will become a hit among athletes.

Gear Reviews

Last fall as the weather started to get colder and cycling in foul weather wasn’t fun anymore, it was time to move my training indoors. One of the things that I upgraded was my indoor bicycle trainer.

After few weeks of research, I decided to go with the CycleOps Jetfluid Pro [priced at $399]. I have been using the JetFluid Pro all winter long except for that one day we had back in February where temperature reached 60ºF. I have close to 600 miles and over 50 hours on my JetFluid Pro so far.

Overall, I have been very happy with this trainer. It is very well made and feel very strong. It gives me as close to a road feel as you can probably get on a trainer. Back to that February day we had, I was able to take my bike out and was able to push on my bike in a very windy conditions and had no problems with my transition to the outdoors. I truly felt my training indoors paid off.

 

The trainer feels very stable. I can do sprints, standing or sitting and push as hard as I want without having any stability or safety issues.

Setting up the trainer was very easy, as usual, I ditched the manual and was able to set it up following instructions from the video in this post, which I found on CycleOps website.

The trainer is very light, few times I moved my trainer upstairs to the family room with no problem. The quick release mechanism makes locking and unlocking the bike a snap.

As far as noise, that was one of the most important things I had to consider when shopping for a trainer. I usually do all my training early in the morning and didn’t want to wake up the kids and wife while going crazy spinning. So far hasn’t happen so this gives it an A.

 

I measured the decibels with my iPhone and spinning at 20+ mph, the app measured at 76 decibel which isn’t bad. That is equal to the noise level of living room music, radio or tv. My wife was able to workout on the treadmill right next to me and watch TV at the same time without complaining. Again, as long as it doesn’t wake up the kids at 5am, I am very happy!

The unit temprature seem to always stay under control. After using the trainer for 2+ hours, I was able to touch all parts of the unit and it felt just a little warm.

The trainer comes with one realRides training DVD. I haven’t been able to use it on a full training session but watched it briefly and seems to give you many workout options and are easy to follow.

The trainer comes with an optional stackable climbing block for $24.99 which I purchased and a training mat which retail for $59.99. I ended up getting a yoga mat instead for $10 from TJ Maxx and seems to work just as good. Plus, I think the yellow color matches better with the trainer 🙂

In summary, if you are looking for a good trainer for these cold winter months, bad weather, or just to avoid distracted drivers, the CycleOps Jetfluid pro is a very good middle of the range trainer. Unless you are out on the road or on a roller, the Jetfluid Pro gives you as good of a road like feel as you will get, it is quiet and easy to operate and comes with a lifetime warranty.

I am not sure what is scarier, getting used to the aerobars knowing you are not the only person on the road and have to watch out for fast moving cars, or still trying to get used to getting in and out of your clipless pedals or the unexpected chain drop.

This first happened to me when I was still getting used to riding my new tri bike with aero-bars and clipless pedals. I was getting ready to go up a steep hill, and dropped my chain from the big ring to the small ring and suddenly my pedal just froze. Looked down my chain to see what is going on and it was resting inside the crankset on the bottom bracket.

The feeling of not being able to pedal was actually terrifying especially when I am still recovering from my numerous falls trying to get used to clipless pedals.

The first thing in my mind was: Ok, I need to just get ready to fall again. Let’s try to avoid traffic and find a grassy area where I can just head toward and pray for no injury or damage to my new bike.

However, for some reason, I told myself, stay calm and just unclip both of my shoes and try to stop without falling and that’s what I did.

I fixed my chain and decided to just head back home at that point.

I went online and started doing research to see what I did wrong and how I can stop this from happening again. I didn’t realize it was a very common problem faced by cyclist.

Former triathlete and reigning Olympic time trial gold medalist Kristin Armstrong—co-developed, with her husband Joe Savola, a tiny product called the K-Edge Chain Catcher to eliminate front-ring chain drop.

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The product is very simple in design and easy to install. I haven’t experienced a chain dropout since and would recommend it to everyone especially if you have a tri specific bike because they seem to have steeper chain angles, and the large discrepancy in chainring sizes between the big and small rings further increases the opportunity for chain drop.

I think the product is a little overpriced. However, having that peace of mind is priceless.

You know that feeling you get when you are packing up for a race and you feel like there is something missing. You keep looking at your bag and checking everything over and over and trying to visualize transition from water to bike, then run but have no idea what is missing?

This is where I decided to make a race checklist to hopefully avoid that feeling. I started with a spreadsheet. However, I felt that the spreadsheet is not with me when I needed it so I wanted use something that is always have with me and that is my iPhone.

Luckily, few days before my last triathlon of the season, Wall Street Journal technology editor  Katherine Boehret wrote an article about new a new free service that saves and synchronizes Web content across all major browsers on Macs and PCs and mobile devices.

The service is SpringPad (SpringPadit.com). I downloaded the app and was able to create my checklist immediately. Unlike many other checklist and To Do apps I’ve used on my phone, SpringPad main attractive feature was the simplicity of synchronizing your lists across devices. Just create an account, and start using it either on the iPhone, iPad, or your web browser. As you enter new items in your phone, it automatically pushes the updates to your account so you can view it on other devices.

So here is my checklist. I have already used it for my last tri and it worked great. Some of the items I have there was because the cool temperature forecasted on race day such as arm warmer and shoe covers:

– Trisuit
– Wetsuit
– Swim goggles
– Sunglasses
– Helmet
– Bike aero drink
– Bike drink bottle
– Bike shoes
– Race belt
– Hydration belt
– Running visor
– Running shoes
– 2 Gatorade drinks
– 1Mix Protein drink
– Clif bars
– Clif energy gels
– Clif Roks
– Water bottle
– Timing chip ankle band
– Transition area towl
– Small towl
– Arm warmer
– Bike shoes cover
– Stop watch
– Socks

Did I miss anything? Do you have a list that you use?