Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Review: Snap Laces speed lacing system.

As a triathlete, I've always loved any kind of laces that allow me to easily slip on a pair of shoes without having to go through the hassle of having to tie them over and over again.  Actually, scratch that.  AS AN INCREDIBLY LAZY PERSON, I've always loved the convenience of just throwing on a pair of shoes and not having to worry about the laces.

Outside of the aforementioned ease of putting shoes on - having laces that allow someone to put a shoe on without having to tie them up do have additional benefits.

- It allows for quick transitions in triathlons.  Having to stop and spend 10 - 60 seconds tying your shoes in transitions can be the difference in a race.
- It allows you to retain the fit of the shoe.  If you are constantly having to tie and untie your shoes - you run the risk of the fit of the shoe "changing" depending on how you tie them - which can have negative effects on your run.
- It completely negates (for the most part) the possibility of your shoe laces coming untied in the middle of the run.  That, in turn, negates the possibility of you tripping over said shoe lace, having to stop to re-tie said shoe lace, or from looking like a dork because you're running with your shoe lace untied.
- MOST speed lacing systems are tight to the shoe - which prevent laces from snagging on things - which can cause trips, falls, and disasters of unimagined proportions.

It's because of these benefits that I have had some form of speed lacing system on just about every pair of running shoes I own.  It's just become synonymous with how I run (there are a few exceptions to this - mostly dealing with shoes that have a specific type of lacing system built in that can't easily accommodate special laces).

The downsides I've had with some of the speed lacing systems I've tried are mainly two-fold:
- Some of the lacing systems have "stuff" hanging off to the side (either the laces themselves which are positioned off to the side or "overfray" from where you cut the laces).  Not only does this (imo) not look very clean, but it also presents the "snag hazard" that I spoke about briefly above.
- Some of the systems rely on a "clamping mechanism" to hold the elastic laces - and that can, at times, put pressure on the foot where that clamp is.  At least, that's been a problem for me on a lot of the laces and one I've actively tried to solve.

With all of that said, enter the latest contender to the speed lacing realm, Snap Laces.

The Snap Laces card that comes in the pack with the laces.
I was fortunate enough to have been offered two trial pairs of these to see how they work for me and give my thoughts and opinions on them.  So keep that in mind with the following review - but please know that I would have happily bought them to try them out (I've paid for a variety of different laces which all have worked and not worked to various degrees for me).

Before I get in to the ins and outs of the system and how they work - I thought I'd briefly give a glimpse to what I thought with them.  I really liked the system.  The clamp didn't put any pressure on my foot (despite my initial thoughts to the contrary), the laces hold firm and don't move (again, despite my initial thoughts to the contrary), and the system looks and feels great.

HOW THEY WORK
Snap Laces are pretty unique in the way they approach how to lace a shoe.  Instead of using one piece of cord through each eyelet of the shoe, they instead use two (or three, if you prefer) separate cords and lace them through eyelets on the shoes.  

The "How to" instruction card that comes with each pair.
Basically, as the card above explains, you loop a "smaller" (compared to a "full" lace) cord through two of the eyelets and attach the cord to their clasp.  Then, you bring the clasp over and across the shoe and attach it to the loop to secure the lacing.  

See below for "step by step" pictures featuring my new pair of Skora Fits.  

Simply lace in the bottom two (or any two - depending on how you want it to fit) eyelets and attach the clasp to the cord.

Closer look at the clasp and how the cords attach.

Once looped through, you want to insert the cord as shown....

.....and pull it through so there's a bit of "slack."  This slack will allow you to adjust the laces so that they tighten to comfort.

Once adjusted, you simply fold the clasp over and hook it to the other side - as shown.  The leftover lace can be cut or tucked as needed, but be sure to leave a bit for future adjustments if necessary.
One option is to tuck the lace into the opposing eyelet.

Another is to simply cut the lace off.


Lace the top loop in much the same way as the bottom. Ideally, you want the clasp working the same way on the top as it does on the bottom.
So, as shown above, installation is a breeze.  You don't even need any other tools (i.e. no scissors or a knife or anything) as tucking the access strap is just as comfortable and easy as cutting it is.  

Once installed, it slides on nice and easy and looks pretty sweet as well.

Laces are tucked for this picture - which I found didn't interfere with the fit of the shoe.

Side view of how it looks with the laces installed.

I opted for the reflective laces for this pair and they really show when you take a picture with the flash on.  You can see I have both shoes going the same way - this was done thinking I could easily "swipe" them off in transition (which I'll get into later).

Showing how they fit once put on.  Full disclosure:  I ended up slightly loosening the laces from this picture.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS AND RUN TEST

To be completely honest - I had a few negative first impressions of the lacing system when I received my sets.

First and foremost - I thought that the laces would put the dreaded "undue pressure" on the top of my foot.  Just the way the clasps situate seemed to indicate this would happen for sure.

Secondly - the clasp itself looks like something that would come undone fairly easily - resulting in the shoe loosening up and having to stop to "re-clasp" it.  That would kind of kill the point of speed laces.

Lastly, I thought that the way the cord hooks into the clasp would not hold.  It just seemed that - with a bit of effort - the clasp would easily come undone from the cord and would fall off mid-run to be lost forever.

I've put around 120 or so miles in these in the month or so that I've had them (between this pair of Skora Fits and a pair of Skora Phases that another set is on) and I'm happy to report that none of the above first impressions came into play in any real shape or form.  
I've not had a single time where the clasp came undone - and that is with some light trail running mixed in.  Perhaps with some heavier trail stuff (I might lace up my trail shoes with a pair of these to try it out in the future), you may run into sections where roots, bushes, etc will snap and unclasp the lace.
As for the foot pressure - I think Snap Laces has a real solution to people who were experiencing similar issues to me (where the tightening mechanism on other speed lacing systems would produce a "pressure point" on the top of your foot).  Despite the visual evidence which seems to indicate that having two mechanisms resting on top of your foot would produce pressure - I actually found that to not be the case.  In fact, I didn't feel the clasp at all (no pressure, no extra weight).  They're an extremely comfortable lacing system.

Here's a video of me running in the laces.  You'll have to excuse the complete amateurism cell phone video.  Unfortunately, this blog's budget doesn't allow for a professional photographer (at least, not until *I* become a professional photographer - which is never going to happen), so we make due with what we have (which is my shoddy attempt at filming a video haha).

I think Snap Laces does just about everything you need in a lacing system.  They're comfortable, lightweight, easy to install, come in a variety of colors (for people who need to match), easily adjustable, and allow for the shoe to come off and on easily without having to relace or re-do the who system.  

It's not really rocket science - they're shoe laces.  But, with that said, there's a whole host of lacing systems out there that don't really fit all of those needs - so it's pretty cool to find one that's a bit different that works absolutely perfectly.

Now, I did overthink things a bit when installing them on my shoe.  I figured that if I put the laces in the same direction - I could simply swipe them off allowing for an easy take off.  Turns out - it's completely unnecessary to do that.  The shoes slide right off without requiring you to mess with the clamping mechanism at all.

One thing I did run into while doing a duathlon was that - if you're not careful - the clamping mechanism can "unclasp" while the shoes are untied.  Meaning if there is no pressure on the shoe and it gets tossed around, the clasp can come undone.  I found this out the hard way as when I came back for the second run, the top clasp on the right shoe was undone.  Not a huge deal (it took all of .25 seconds to clasp it back on), but something to keep in mind.

All in all, this is an outstanding lacing system that will grace just about every pair of racing and training shoes I own.  I couldn't be happier with it and would recommend it to anyone (runner or triathlete) who is in a need of a speed lace system.  To top everything else off, they're not expensive either.  So that's always a bonus too.

Check them out at https://snaplaces.com/ and see if they're right for you.







Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ironman 70.3 California Race Report

The race that kicks off the North American Ironman season (and attracts literally everyone on the west coast) has come and gone and, for me, it was interesting to say the least.  Before I get into the whats and whys of everything - I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the race.  It was my first time racing Oceanside (under the Ironman banner - I've done Lifetime's Olympic course on - roughly - the same venue) and it was a heck of an experience.  To anyone who has ever been on the fence as to whether or not it's worth it - it absolutely is.

As to the race itself for me - the short story is that my day didn't go as planned and I didn't perform nearly as well as I wanted to.  That, in turn, falls squarely on my own shoulders for a myriad of reasons that I'll touch on as this blog progresses.  With that said, I took away some good stuff from the race that I think will make me better down the road.  Also, this wasn't an "A Race" or anything for me and it accomplished it's job of giving me an indication of where I'm at, what I need to work on, and how much work I have to put in to reach where I want to be.  So I'm happy overall with how things went, all things considered, even though I was way over where I wanted to be results wise.  So, while this whole post may sound bitter and whiny, keep in mind I'm still stoked that I was able to get out there and have fun - regardless of whatever the result was.

Everything all packed up and ready for the drive down to North County.  Bike - check, transition bag that holds everything and then some - check, stroller - check!  We're good to go!

Was really pleased with the bike set up heading into the race - even though it looks a bit overloaded for a half.

Pre-race layout shot with my semi-matching team gear.


As for the race itself:

PRE RACE:
Transition set up was a breeze.  It was a single transition race and all you needed was a bag to set up all your stuff on.  Security was easy to get in and out - but strict enough that you didn't have people in the area who weren't supposed to be there.  Great all around experience.
The weather wasn't too bad either.  It wasn't ridiculously cold that morning, and the ride to transition from where I was staying was about as easy as it could be (my wife and I were at a condo about a 5 minute walk from the finish line) - so getting there in the morning was perfect.  Set up went smooth and I was pretty quickly ready to race.

Getting going in transition was easy - and the Orange Mud towel that I use works like a breeze for changing.


THE SWIM:
Short story on the swim:  It sucked for me and I had one of the worst swims I've had in a triathlon here.
Long story:  Towards the end of last year the fruits of the labor I put in to improve my swim were beginning to show.  I was having great times for me in my workouts and had some races where I was able to put together times that were acceptable and not a gigantic hindrance for me reaching my goals.  Then, suddenly, it all stopped.  Why did it stop?  The answer is simple:  Because *I* stopped. I stopped putting in the effort on the swim, and - in fact - stopped swimming altogether.  It's like my wife said after the race when I told her how bad my swim was - she said "Well of course it was going to be bad.  What did you expect?  You haven't been swimming!"  And, while that's brutally simple, it makes perfect sense.  No one to blame here but myself and this is the obvious area where I need to make some vast improvements.

In any case, the swim is an open water start (swim to the start buoy and start racing with your wave when you hear the horn) and was pretty straight forward.  It was basically an out and back that wasn't overly complicated.

In terms of how I performed, nothing really held me back here other than how slow I was swimming. At the turn-around buoy it goes diagonal towards the route you swim back on - and I did follow someone who made a 90 degree angle thinking the next buoy was over there.  So, while I lost some time following him, it wasn't anything significant and my main problem is simply that I wasn't trained for the swim and hadn't put in the work to put together a good swim here.
My swim ended up 48:07 - which is pathetic and agonizingly slow, even for me.

Hopping out of the swim and getting into transition.

One of my favorite things about the Zone 3 wetsuit is how easily it comes off.  I've had problems with this on some of the suits I've used in the past and it isn't a problem here.


THE BIKE:
Out of the water I started the long march/run to transition to get on the bike.  My T1 time was 5:43 and that was due to a combination of things that delayed me.  I wasn't too tired from the swim (to the contrary - I actually felt quite fresh).  However - the (slightly) overzealous transition staff were doing waaaaaaaaay too good of a job keeping things clean.  My bike top (which I laid out on top of my transition bag next to my bike shoes) was put away into my bag by one of the volunteers attempting to keep the transition area clean, and I looked through other people's transition areas before figuring that out. Once I got that done, I strapped everything on, put my jacket on (which was a lot tougher to get on wet than I thought), and took off on the bike.

Coming out of transition to start the bike.

Making sure everything is sorted and my shoes are all the way on before dropping into aero and taking off.


The bike was going pretty well.  I felt really good with my position and was feeling equally as good with my conditioning.  I was passing all of the people who swam a lot faster than me and felt really good about making up a lot of that lost time on the bike.

Going pretty good somewhere on the course.



For all the stuff on the bike, it appeared to be nice and tidy aerowise - although I was up a bit on my position (not sure why at this particular point).  Possible this was later in the race because the front tire appears to have lost a bit of air.


Until mile 10.

At mile 10 - there is this huge bump/divet/road split type thing and I wasn't paying attention and just rode right into it.  As soon as I did - everything on my bike launched off and my front tire made a hissing noise similar to how I imagine the Michelin man would make if you stabbed it with a sword. No bueno. I pulled over  and went back to get my bottles and tool kit that had launched off of my bike (one of the bottles was actually my spare tubular tire holder).  Like Hercules using all his strength to hold up the pillars of the temple (or was that Samson?  I have no idea) - I grabbed the tubular and tugged with all my might. Pulling, prodding, tearing, doing everything I could until it was finally off.  My replacement tire went on like a breeze and after a couple of minutes of careful riding to make sure it was seated and in place - I was good to go and not worrying about it anymore. Total time lost:  15 minutes or so.  And, like an idiot, I felt I could I could make that time up by laying the hammer down.  So I did.  I cranked down hard and went as hard I could go hoping to catch up to the people that passed me (although I had no idea who those people were, as I didn't pay attention - I was just trying to get back to a reasonable time).
I paid for that.  By the time the hills came (around mile 30ish or so), I had pretty much already cooked my legs and it became a ton of work just for me to get up the hills.  It was right about at this point that I knew the day was more or less going to be a wash and that any hope I had of overcoming my horrific swim was pretty much done.
This was all but confirmed after the "speed trap" hill.  There is a hill you go down where they limit the speed to 25 miles per hour and do not allow any passing (and they determine this via using timing wires at the beginning and the end of the speed zone and retroactively disqualify people who go over the time or pass).  On this hill, the guy in front of us (obviously terrified of getting disqualified), braked down to about 18 miles per hour going down this hill and created a long line of people behind him coasting down waiting for the speed zone to end so they could pass.  A bit frustrating, but at least no one in our group got DQed.  However, as soon as I passed him (after the "speed trap" ended), my tire "bumped" and - yet again - I got a flat.  A small shard of glass was stuck in there.  Except this time I did not have a spare tubular (I used the one on my previous flat).  I was so frustrated I wanted to throw my bike over the hill and just walk home.  However, some kind, kind, kind soul on a newer Trek Speed Concept (I didn't catch your race number - but if you're reading this - CONTACT ME and I'll hook you up with some goodies from my sponsors!) slowed down and asked if I needed help.  I told him I was on tubular and he yelled "Try this!" and tossed me one of those mini flat patch kits.  I used the cement in the kit and put the patch over where the glass had embedded itself in the tire (I actually put some cement in the hole as well) and pumped it up and it held!  Well, it didn't really hold - but the air it leaked was slow enough that it allowed me to finish the bike leg without having to stop and repump it or anything.

Again - not sure where this was on the course but thinking this is at the top of one of the hills.

Coming into the transition area, fully upright and out of aero.  At this point I just wanted to be off the bike.


I thought the bike course, other than my mishaps and mismanagement on it, was awesome.  The course has a perfect array of hills and flat sections, and didn't rely on loops or anything.  With that said, there's a couple things I'd want to change about it.  First, I'd get rid of the rule requiring a race number to be worn during the bike leg.  Part of me thinks that this is just something that's being carried over after the USAT rule change and they (the WTC or Camp Pendleton) just don't want to change with it.  Secondly, while I fully realize the reasoning and purpose of the "speed zone" on the course - I don't necessarily agree with it.  I don't think the hill is that technical, steep, or otherwise hard to navigate to the point where it warrants putting a speed limit on it.  Lots of people were inadvertently DQed on that hill because they couldn't control their speed (i.e. they clocked in at 27 mph or whatnot).  Rules are rules, and they knew it in advance - but I just think it's taking things slightly to the extreme.  Last, and certainly not least, is the ride to transition.  When you get to transition - they keep you on your bike as you ride through a path going through transition, dismounting at the other end.  When I came through - there were ~6 other bikes with me and it became a mess of people riding at 10 mph not sure where they were going or what was happening.  I just see a huge potential for disaster there, although I didn't hear of any incidents at this race.

My total bike time was 2:58:33 - which is MASSIVELY disappointing to me on its face - but a lot less disappointing when you consider I had to deal with two stops and basically cruised
the last 1/4 of the bike leg or so.  So while pretty much everything that slowed me down was MY FAULT (i.e. mismanagement of race strategy, not paying attention to the circumstances which put me in the situation to get flats, lack of training leaving me tired out after going to hard, etc) - they all seem fairly easily correctable and I came away somewhat happy with my performance here.  My equipment set up was pretty good in my mind, my bike rode beautifully, position felt great - it was just one of those bike legs where things just didn't piece together for me.  Which is fine, it happens sometimes.

On a side note - I wanted to give a quick note about my hydration set up.  The Torhans Aero 30 was perfect for a race like this and I was really happy to have switched over to it.  I hadn't used it before the race (except on the trainer), so I was a bit worried about splashing (having read reviews from other people that there was a lot of splash back) - but I didn't have any issues whatsoever with it.  Personally, I couldn't be more happy with it.  It may not be for everyone - but it's worth looking into as an option if you're toying around with front end hydration setups.

THE RUN:
Rolling into T2 (via the awkward "ride through transition" that they had us do), I was ready to put the bad bike leg and horrific swim behind me.  My initial thought was "Ok - if you throw down a great half marathon split - you're good to go with a semi-decent time.  Let's do this."

Well, that was delayed a hair during transition.  Upon arriving back to transition, I found my run stuff gone (shoes, hat, glasses, etc).  My wetsuit was also gone.  "WTF?  Where is all my stuff?"  Well, it's in my bag, of course.  The overzealous transition cleaning crew struck again - and not only did they put stuff in my bag - but they put stuff in all the individual pockets (i.e. my transition bag has areas for my wetsuit, goggles, glasses, shoes, etc - and they put everything back into it's proper place).  While I appreciate the tidiness, I do have a few problems with that (namely - please don't go through all my stuff while I'm away racing - but also the fact that now I have to dig everything out before continuing).  Anyway, I got suited up and ready to run but couldn't find my run number.  After freaking out for about 15 seconds or so - I realized I was wearing it (because of the requirement to have it on during the bike).  I laughed at myself and started running out of transition and onto the run course.

My plan for the run is how I approach any run off the bike in a triathlon.  Take the first half mile 30 seconds slower than what you want your race pace to be and then slowly build to race pace over the next half mile and hold it till you finish.  Sometimes this doesn't always work for me - but I usually fine that it allows me to shake out my legs pretty good without falling apart early.

Run started off fairly well...

Then got worse and eventually just became a jog.


Didn't work this time.  Not because of the pace or anything, but mainly because this is where carrying the extra 15 pounds or so REALLY has an impact.   My running had been pretty good in the lead up to this event, but I hadn't done a competitive half marathon (mostly shorter stuff at race pace).  Everything added up on the run - my weight, the fact that my heart wasn't really in it despite me wanting it to be, the bad race up until that point, the heat, the skipped training days, etc etc - I could go on and on.  Regardless, by the second mile I was just in cruise mode and aiming just to finish.

Which I did.  And, while it definitely wasn't what I wanted and while I'm pretty disappointed at how everything transpired for me in this race, I'm still stoked to cross the finish line and happy to finish.  Run time ended up being 1:44:35 - which is the slowest half marathon I've ever run (not counting my half split from Vineman last year where I walked the whole race).

When the tri suit unzips and #burtreynolds comes out - you know it's a hot day.

The course, however, was beautiful.

Not a lot to smile about on the run - especially with my gut hanging over my race belt - but my BSR teammates on the course racing and those cheering and spectating brought a huge smile to my face.


A couple of great things from the run:
-The on course support was awesome and the volunteers were top notch.  There were more aid stations than you could shake a stick at - so no one would ever be in a position of not being able to get through the run course due to nutrition.
-The crowd was awesome.  Nothing like an Ironman where complete strangers are rooting you on and pushing you to finish.

On the last 2 miles or so, I picked up the pace a bit and just pushed in for a finish.  Which meant zipping up and putting the #burtreynolds away.

Coming down the finish chute to the finish line.


So I finished in 5:41:28 - which, all things considered, isn't THAT bad even though it's way more time than I wanted to be on the course.  I knew I wouldn't PR this race (I wasn't in the shape to do it and this wasn't the course to do it on), but I was hoping to break 5 hours.  I feel if I tackled this course again with a bit better preparation (i.e. actually swimming, not carrying all of this extra weight with me, not having mishaps on the bike) - I could probably do that.  So I'll hang my hat on that, smile about the race, and live to fight another day.

Looking extra triumphant here - although the time on the clock is about an hour higher than I'd like.

Disappointing race for me - but still had fun, enjoyed it, and learned a lot.

A special thank you to everyone that's supported me - the Big Sexy Racing triathlon team, all of my sponsors/supporters (see the banner on the right with links to everyone - check them out!  They're all great companies and helped get me to where I am in endurance sports), my coach Lori Abbey (who put together a great plan to get me ready for this race that I just didn't live up to), and last - but certainly not least - my wife and family and friends who put up with my training BS day in and day out and still supported me through the race regardless of the disappointing outcome.

So, things I took away from this race (in a summary nutshell):
- I'm at the age where I can no longer out-train a bad diet.  Eating tons of crap day in and day out isn't going to work anymore no matter how hard I train - so I have to clean things up a bit.
- I have to buckle down and be more consistent with my training.  The missed session here, the missed session there, combined with the sessions that I HAVE to miss (due to family stuff, emergencies, etc) all add up.  I just have to buckle down and get it all in without making excuses.
- It's time to put in a serious effort into my swimming.  I've nearly completely regressed from the training that led to a 1:10:xx (by my watch, the chip time was 1:14:xx) split at Vineman.  Hell, I almost equaled that at that race going half the distance!  So more pool time and more beach time is needed for sure.
- Regardless of the bike split result - I'm actually pretty pleased with the bike time and it shows that I'm making strides finally with my cycling leg.  Still a lot of room for improvement but, all things considered, I'm pretty happy with the upward trend.

Medals don't mean a lot to a lot of people - but I love them, and this one from Ashworth Awards is outstanding.  Really love their work.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

So how do I get sponsored?

This is a question I get quite often from people on social media or sometimes through people I'm talking with at races:

"How did you get your sponsors?  How do I get sponsors?"

It's a simple question with both simple and complicated answers (which I'll get into on this post).  I'll definitely sound like I'm rambling throughout this post - as the vast majority of ideas are tossed together in no particular order - but hopefully I can hit on a couple of things and ideas that might make understanding sponsorship a bit easier.  Keep in mind this is just my point of view and it will, obviously, differ wildly from another person.

First off, let me say that I am NOT a professional triathlete/runner.  I do not have the talent or ability to compete on that level in any shape or form - nor do I have the time, ambition, or drive to put in the effort that those guys put in on a day to day basis.  So, when you take this post into consideration, please realize it's coming from the perspective of a sponsored amateur athlete.  The professionals (while there are probably several parallels to the ideas this post covers) operate on a different level with a different set of rules.

With that said - let's get the simple answer out of the way.

"How do I get sponsored?"

"Make it worth your sponsor's while to send you free/discounted products/services."

It's that simple.  It works like that across the board with next to no exceptions (one exception could be that you're good friends or family members with someone that can "gift" you a sponsorship - but if that's the case, you wouldn't be asking the question in the first place).  I've been on both ends of this - as a sponsored athlete and working through a company setting up sponsorships/teams.  In both cases, the bottom line is ALWAYS whether an athlete can offer value that justifies a sponsorship.

The complicated answer is a bit different - as many different companies have many different wants, needs, requirements, hopes, etc for the athletes they sponsor.  However, in the end, it all comes back to the simple answer.

It's about what you can do for them - not what they can do for you.  Companies who sponsor athletes want exposure for their product that can translate into sales.  They want this any way possible and it's YOUR responsibility, as the athlete, to show them how you can give them the exposure that they need.

I've been on varying ends of setting up sponsorships with companies - whether it was through me seeking them out directly, applying for a sponsorship/team through a submission process, "winning" sponsorships through contests, or being approached by a representative of the company to represent their brand.  While all of these are different to varying degrees, the end results is the same.  You have to show what you can do for them and whether or not that fits with what they're looking for.

So what tips can I give to someone who is seeking out sponsorship?  In no particular order, keep the following in mind:
Actually use the product and believe in the product.  
Nothing comes off more hypocritical than someone who receives product from one company, is actively promoting that company's product, etc - but uses a completely different product (whether it's through training, racing, whatever).  It drives companies nuts to see someone promoting one thing only to find a picture of them racing with something completely different posted online or whatnot. In my mind, this can't be stressed enough:  If you have a relationship with a company where you're receiving product in exchange for exposure - then you cannot promote (directly or indirectly) their competitors.  It paints a bad image for the company (Why is one of "their athletes" using a different product instead of there own?) and a bad image for the athlete (Why are they receiving free/discounted product and still using something completely different?).
In my opinion, why would someone who is serious enough about their sport even WANT to get "sponsored" by a company that they don't use the product for?  For me, I'd only want to receive product from a company if I was actually going to use it.  If I'm not - then there's no point (either for me as the athlete, or for them as the company).
I can also say that companies look for this.  If you're sponsored by shoe company A and you're competing in a race while wearing shoe company B's shoe - they won't be happy.  Oftentimes, it's grounds for them to end the sponsorship.  Also - the sponsorship directors for companies are, more often than not, all chummy with one another.  Don't think that it goes unnoticed that an athlete got free product from one company just to get free product and then "jumped ship" to another company.
Have something to offer the company that sets you apart from the rest.
So you won your age group at your local sprint triathlon?  You set a PR at your local 10k?  That's great and all - but guess how much value that has to the vast majority of companies out there?  0.  Zero.  Nada.  Zilch.  Do you know why?  It's because EVERY SINGLE RACE has a winner.  Every single age group in every single race has someone who placed first place and can claim that they won their age group.  All of them do.  Do you know what means?  It means that there are millions of people out there who "won their age group."  So, while it doesn't belittle your accomplishment any, it just means that there are so many people who have done the same thing - and a placing in a race doesn't set you apart.  Granted, there ARE exceptions to that (i.e. "I won my age group at the Ironman World Championships", or "I always win my age group and I'm always on the podium") - and sometimes, with a long history of success, race results alone will get you sponsored (or at least in the door - but we'll touch on that later).
So what does someone who isn't an elite athlete do to get sponsored?  Again, the simple answer is show that you can provide exposure for the company.  Maybe you have a million twitter followers and you can save them advertising revenue by simply sharing company advertisements.  Maybe you're a coach or manager or group leader with a direct line to people that the company is wanting to get their product out to.  Maybe you're a gorgeous super model who a company would love to have their product on and they can save money by "sponsoring" you rather than paying a model who doesn't know anything about their product.  There's lot of ways that a company can have value in a sponsored athlete outside of just being a great athlete.  Get creative and find what works for you.
Race results don't matter, but they still do kind of.
As I said above - winning isn't everything when it comes to getting sponsored.  Winning races will not get you sponsored alone simply because there are so many people winning races that you don't get set apart.  With that said, it doesn't hurt.  A company likes to have their product represented on the podium at a race, or through race pictures.  Or through any kind of exposure, really - but doing well at races definitely doesn't hurt.
It's important to keep in mind that a race result doesn't necessarily mean a win or a podium for a lot of athletes.  Most companies will be happy to promote you using their product and having success in your race - whatever that may mean to you.  The inverse of that can be true too.  If you have a string of races where it looks like you're having a miserable time and bringing those around you down - it can have a negative impact on a sponsor.  That's never any good.
I would imagine it's very rare for the amateur athlete to be dropped because they aren't doing as well in races as they typically do - but it's possible that, for sponsorships that put a heavy emphasis on that kind of thing, an athlete won't be renewed the following year during the application process with poor race results.
The bottom line is this:  Race results don't matter in the grand scheme of things in most cases - but they don't hurt.
Social Media is great - but only if used the right way.
Many companies (or endurance sports teams) who sponsor people will do so in the form of creating a "team" or a "group."  This is a really good way to get everyone together so that people are on the same page in going in the direction the company wants the group to go in.  Using a social media platform like Facebook as an example, a company will often create a "Facebook group" to put all of its athletes in.  Oftentimes, you'll have people posting content, pictures, reviews, etc to that group - but not out in the public.
Brutal honest news flash:  If you're posting how much you love a certain product (through pictures, reviews, whatever) to a private group on Facebook where the only people in that group are sponsored athletes and employees of that company - you are NOT using social media correctly.  The whole point is to promote the brand.  If you're preaching to the choir - you're not doing that.  You should be posting publicly about the brand - otherwise it does no good.
Social media interaction is something that a lot of companies value very much - and it doesn't do them a whole lot of good if your postings are set to "Private mode" where only you and your friends can see them.  While there are some exceptions to this (like if you have 10 trillion friends or something), most companies want that to be public for everyone to see.
Another social media thought:  If you're just going to be a regurgitater of statuses and never actually provide any social media content - then you'll likely need another avenue from which you can provide value to a company (again - this thought doesn't apply if you have a massive followers/friend list).  Having been on the other side of things (helping run a team of athletes), I can say that when you post something - there should be something personal FROM YOU about how you enjoy the product.  Not simply clicking the "retweet" or "share" button.  That kind of social interaction, with very few exceptions, has little value to a company.  Even a quick line like:  "Look at what *company A* is doing to change the industry!" or "Check out how my teammates are doing in their races on our blog!" goes a long way to showing that you actually care and represent the company - and not that you're just clicking a button to fulfill your obligation after getting free stuff.
Companies - and the general public - see through your bullshit.
This won't apply to everyone - but it does apply to a lot of people who I've been on teams with, sponsored with by the same company, or have seen sponsored through various companies.
Companies know that people want free stuff.  It's just that simple.  No one would apply for a sponsorship if they weren't getting free or discounted product.
However, most companies can see right through it when someone is just trying to get their hands on free product for whatever reason with no intention of doing anything to earn that product.  This is why companies will turn down way more applications than they receive.
However, occasionally, one of those applications slips through the cracks and you get someone who tells people how great a product is - only to jump to the next product in a couple of months.  This is usually followed by a slew of badmouthing on the original product they left, and they will usually jump ship to the next product afterwards.  These type of people typically don't last long and are weeded our pretty quickly - mainly because the public just isn't buying (both figuratively and literally) it.
This touches a bit on believing in a product you're representing.  The type of people I allude to above obviously don't.  I can guarantee you that it will become apparent VERY quickly in the sponsoring company's eyes whether or not you are fulfilling your obligation to the company and they will know, and rather quickly, whether you're just doing it for "free product."  Furthermore, the general public will catch on quick as well.  If one product is the best thing in the world one day, and then terrible the next as you promote their competitors - the general public will look at anything you say with a questioning eye.
In fact, to be honest - whenever someone is sponsored by a company - people will assume that anything the sponsored athlete says or writes about that product is incredibly biased.  Or they'll just assume it's complete bullshit because the sponsored athlete is just trying to fulfill some kind of obligation.
It's the sponsored athlete's job to show the general public that they truly are invested and love the product and that it is a vital part of their day to day athletic life (or life in general).  The ability to do that changes the sponsored athlete from "someone just trying to please their sponsors" to "someone who I can talk to about this product and see if it's right for me".
There are lots of ways to do this.  First and foremost - be honest about your assessment of a product. Point out the flaws and the strengths.  Remember, when you're exposing the public to a product - your job isn't just to get them to buy the product.  If someone buys the product and hates it - you haven't done your job.  I've steered people away from products I use because, after talking with them, I've thought a product wouldn't work for them or they would ultimately be unhappy with it.  Your ultimate goal should be the same goal as the company you are representing - to have happy customers.  You don't get that by lying to them about a product you received for free.
My motto always has been:  I will only represent something if I believe in it and would spend my hard earned money to buy it without a discount anyway.

So becoming that with a company is the easy part - the hard part is getting a company to recognize what an asset you can be if they bring you on as a sponsored athlete.  Sometimes it's easy to get in front of the right people, sometimes it's not.  Each company is different is different in how they handle things and, with enough effort (which you should be willing to do) - you'll eventually find the right person to talk to and see if you're a fit.

For me - things I look out for when "getting sponsored" are:
- How much I use the product and if that use translates to the needs of the company.  Do I really want to put the effort into promoting a product I hardly use?  What use is that to me or the company I am representing?
- What requirements they have for sponsored athletes?  For example, if there are "sales requirements" then I will not accept a sponsorship with a company.  There is a difference between a salesman and a sponsored athlete - and if I am required to "sell x amount of product" in order to obtain or retain any benefits I may receive - then that's something entirely different than what I am looking for.
- Will promoting this product interfere with other sponsors or my day to day life?  If the requirements of a product require you to promote competition from another sponsor you may have - then a choice needs to be made.  For me, I will not promote a direct competitor of one of my sponsors.  This type of scenario most often presents itself when you're a member of a team (i.e. the team has one sponsor for a product and you have another sponsor for the same product).  I've found the best way to "promote" your team's sponsor is by thanking them for the support of the team and letting your personal sponsor know that's what you're doing so there is no confusion.  It's something that's doable - it just takes some creativity.  Obviously, if the requirements for a sponsorship interfere with my day to day life with my family or whatnot, then I will not accept a sponsorship.  At the end of the day, endurance sports is a hobby and an activity I use as a part of my life - it's not my entire being.  There are lots of things more important than endurance sports and if representing a company interferes with all of that, then I will simply walk away.

Just some food for thought that may or may not help people who are looking to get sponsored.  Remember - the bottom line and the key thing is:  Ask not what your sponsor can do for you, but what you can do for your sponsor.  With that mindset - you'll end up on the right track.

Also - keep in mind that the stuff above is just my general thoughts and definitely not a bible by any means.  It's just what I've found has worked based on my experience as a sponsored athlete and with helping run a triathlon team who (indirectly) sponsored athletes.  It doesn't apply across the board and there are exceptions, I'm sure.
For example - a professional athlete will be on a totally different mindset.  If they're representing one shoe company and their contract is up with that company and they have an opportunity to move to a completely different company for more money - then more power to them.  I have no problem with that in the slightest bit and it's completely different than someone being an ambassador/sponsored athlete for a company.  The main difference is - this about the pro athlete getting paid.  It puts food on the table.  They're providing a service and an advertising platform for a company and doing it strictly through athletics as their full time job.  So I understand that completely and don't fault anyone in that situation in the slightest bit.  It may come off as slightly hypocritical on my part - but whatever, it is what it is.

To end things - my first foray in "athlete sponsorship" (outside of companies sponsoring athletic teams in high school and college) was when I was dabbling in mixed martial arts.  Long story short, I wrestled in college and wanted to get my fix and thought mixed martial arts would be a good idea.  I managed to secure a fight and was approached by a guy who was trying to kickstart a business called Underratedfighter.com.  He told me that if I wore his shirt walking to my fights and immediately after the fight - he'd supply me and my gym mates with plenty of gear.  So I did that:

This is such a LOLworthy picture.

This is more or less how the whole fight went - I lost via split decision (which was BS in my mind, but that's another story).
And my teammates got a bunch of shirts and and hats from the guy and I never heard from him again, his number was disconnected, and the website went down seemingly almost as quickly as it went up. I wore his shirts to the next couple of fights but then stopped wearing them as I just assumed the company was completely dead.  I had a couple of other sponsors during my time in MMA - but eventually quit the sport when I realized that getting punched in the face sucks, cutting weight sucks worse, and getting knocked out is scary as hell and REALLY SUCKS.  So, while I lost my first fight - it wasn't that bad.  But the second fight I lost - where I was knocked out - I knew I would never fight again.  Just not worth it, for me.  Anyway, that's getting off topic - but the moral of the story is that a sponsor asking nothing of you (i.e. just wearing a shirt to the ring of some rinky dink, smalltime MMA fight) is probably not worth that much.  So keep that in mind too.






Saturday, March 7, 2015

2015 - Goals, Aspirations, and Plans.

First post of 2015 - mainly because, for the first time that I can remember, I took a true "offseason" and didn't really race from December to March.  Last year - my first race was in January - and I went nearly full bore until November.  This resulted in being more fatigued and getting banged up throughout the year.  At least, for me it did.  I found that day to day life, combined with constant training and trying to "stay peaked" for a slew of races, just wore me out.

So, as mentioned above, I decided some time off was in order (although I still kept my training regimen - the load was lightened).    This meant not doing some of the early season races I initially planned for (which included some "warm up" races for Ironman 70.3 Oceanside).  However, I feel great physically with the training I've done, and have made quite a bit of progress from where I was at the end of last year.  So, with that said, I have high hopes for some of my goals.

My athletic specific goals, in no particular order, are:

- Have a "Kona Qualifying" caliber race at Ironman Lake Tahoe.  I'm hoping to break 10 hours on a tough course and feel if I get my swim on point it's highly doable for me.
- Go under 4:30 at a 70.3 race (either Ironman 70.3 Oceanside or Challenge Rancho Cordova).
- Qualify for USAT Duathlon Nationals.
- End the season as a USAT Duathlon All American.
- Break 3 hours at an "end of season" marathon while pushing my son in a stroller.

Outside of those, I want to represent my sponsors, team, coach, and endurance community the best I can at all times.  I hope that's something that won't be so challenging - as I have a tendency to put my foot in my mouth sometimes - but hopefully it will all be good.

With that said, my main race schedule this year revolves around Ironman Lake Tahoe. Personally, I'm hoping this race is much like it was in 2013 - with freezing temperatures, miserable weather, a tough race course, and a massive challenge to even finish the race.  First, it's my best shot at getting a top podium spot.  Secondly, I want to remember the race - much like Leadman.  I want an epic race.

Ironman 70.3 California and Rancho Cordova are the two halves I have set up for this year - and I'm thinking Rancho Cordova is the best bet I have at hitting my time goal.

I'll be doing all 3 Camarillo Duathlon Series events, and adding in the OC Duathlon.  Ideally, I can qualify for All American status and for the USAT Du Nats through these races.  If I can find a way to squeeze in a long course duathlon - I'll try to do that too.

I haven't targeted a marathon for the end of the year yet, and I haven't decided whether or not I'll be doing any "filler races" (i.e. shorter tris, 5k through half marathon runs, etc) in the interim.  I'll probably do the Magic Mountain Man race - mainly because I missed it last year and it has some sentimental value to me.  Since it's a week after Ironman Lake Tahoe - I won't be "racing" it.  I'll consider it a victory lap (regardless of how Tahoe goes).  Outside of that - it's all up in the air.

So now it's on paper for the world to see, and hopefully I can live up to it.

I'll be making a post next week getting into more detail of what's changed for me since last year, where I plan to concentrate my training, new sponsors/supporters, and some training tips that I've found have worked for me.

Friday, December 5, 2014

San Dimas Turkey Trot 5k

This was to be my final race of the season (I elected for a small 5k over the San Dimas Turkey Tri because I was just burnt out from racing and training 11 of the 12 months of the year).

The Renegade Racing San Dimas Turkey Trot is a 5k, 10k, and Kid's fun run that is held at Bonelli Park (a venue I'm very familiar with having raced there several times before).  I elected to do the 5k over the 10k - mainly because the 10k goes "off road" and I was 50/50 as to how well a stroller would handle that (not completely knowing the course) and I was 100% certain that all the jostling around wouldn't be much fun for my son.  So, the 5k it was.

The course is pretty straight forward.  It's an out and back 5k that goes straight up a hill and then back down.  Not ideal for a stroller race, but this was more of a fun run for me than anything else.

Before the race with my son all set and ready to go.
Race was about as standard as any other running race is.  The 5k group started out at the same time as the 10k group and I was able to get to "pre-park" my stroller at the front of the line.  When the signal went for us to go - I darted out ahead of everyone and just worked to keep a good pace.  

I managed to keep a lead for the first part of the race, but two things happened that made it quickly apparent that it would be difficult.

1)  There was a gigantic hill in front of me.  The amount of time you lose on a hill when pushing a stroller is huge, and the bigger and longer the hill - the more time you lose.  Again, this wasn't going to be an overly competitive race for me and I wasn't going to kill myself doing this - so it wasn't a huge deal.

2)  The bigger deal was my son gave me one of those whines.  It wasn't a "Dad, I'm bored" type of whine.  It was a "Dad, something's wrong!" kind of whine.  When they whine happens, the race/run/whatever stops and I check to see what's wrong.  In this particular case, a couple minutes into the hill - my son had snaked his arms into his chest harness and was stuck.  This was because his harness was loose (he was wearing a jacket that morning and I took the jacket off of him for the race - so there was a bit of extra room).  Again, not a huge deal - a quick pull over to the side, got his arms straightened out, and tightened the harness - and off we went!

The uphill was brutal.  A combination of me not training much for this race and being somewhat out of shape, pushing a stroller, and just being plain old tired all made this race much tougher than it needed to be.  

The downhill (after the turnaround) was much better - but still difficult due to having to control the stroller.  In any case, it wasn't that bad and we ended up with a first place finish in my age group.

Podium for Brucie!
All in all a spectacular race and incredibly well run by the folks over at Renegade Racing.  

We even caught up with some friends after the race who did the 10k!





Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Renegade Terrifying Ten Miler Race Report and Surf City Long Course DNS

This was a new race put on by the folks at Renegade Race Series that couldn't possibly have a more beautiful setting.  The race takes place right by the beach in Dana Point along the Salt Creek Bike Path.  The race has everything anyone could ask for in a short course running race:  5k, 10k, and 10 mile options; some really great race swag including a sweet tech 1/4 zip long sleeve shirt for the 10 miler, a great finisher medal, and a fun after race expo.

Logo for the race.
I signed up to do this race with the understanding that it would be one final "tune up" for my 70.3 I had planned the week after.  I figured my wife could surf while I pushed my son along on the stroller and it would be a great, easy, and fun day.  Well, in the realm of "shit happens" - my wife stepped on a clam in the Philippines two weeks prior and sliced up her foot pretty bad.  So, not only was she not going to be able to surf - but she was on crutches too.  And the surf was pumping!  (I myself was slightly tempted to just ditch the race and paddle out).

View was great, surf was great, and my wife enjoyed a nice breakfast while I ran.
Even though my wife was just hanging out and not surfing, I still decided to push my son in the stroller.  I was not, however, prepared for the course.  The course itself is extremely challenging and hilly - with about 2500 feet of elevation gain over 10 miles and several sharp up and down hills.  Hills are quite possibly the worst thing for someone in a stroller race - as it never allows one to get into an even pace.  If you're going up a hill - you're expending more energy pushing the stroller and if you're going down a hill - you're expending more energy controlling the stroller and keeping it from flying out of control.  All of which slows you down.
I started the race having no idea what the course was like - not being overly familiar with the area and having not looked up the course (my mistake).

At the start line of the race.
I arrived to the start line early which accomplished two things - 1) it allowed me to get into the front so I would be able to take off ahead of the pack and allow anyone faster than me to pass by me and 2) it gave me some time to give my son some milk so (hopefully) he would nap during the run.

As the race started, success on both fronts!  He fell asleep and I managed to take off in the lead without any issues.  I was aiming for a 6:00/mile pace through the whole race - in hopes of getting a sprint finish at the end to break an hour.  That, sadly, would not happen (mainly due to the hills) - but the effort was there throughout nonetheless.

Goofing around for the camera guy while in the lead.  The guy in red eventually passed me once the hills came.

Still knocked out!  This was around mile 9 because he woke up with about half a mile to go.

Coming in to the finish. 
I was in the lead for the first mile or so - hitting it a bit faster than anticipated at about 5:45/mile but feeling solid nonetheless.  About that time, the guy who eventually would win the race shot past me right as we were hitting the first hill.  I tried to keep up - but couldn't.  I ended up losing sight of him during the race, but managed to keep a fairly good pace throughout all things considered.

I finished with a 1:11:00 - which isn't terrible considering the course and the fact I was pushing a stroller.  I truly feel that, even with the hills, I would have hit my sub 1 hour goal if I didn't have the stroller.  Without the hills - I would have hit it - stroller or not.  At least, I feel that way.  I felt really good during this race.

Now, looking at the pictures, you might be wondering WTF I was wearing during the race.  Since it was a Halloween run, I figured I'd dress up "in costume" - so a friend of mine (fellow A Runner's Circle Ambassador Myrna) did some costumes up for Bruce and I.  We were R2D2 and C3P0.  Which worked out pretty well as the costumes were creative, pretty good looking, and not cookie cutter at all (i.e. we didn't just to buy a costume at a shop).  It also was something that let me run with minimal intrusiveness (although running in sleeves is tough and it wasn't exactly cool temperature-wise that day).   In any case, I was thrilled with them.

2nd Place Overall and 1st in my Age Group



Bruce and I ended up second overall and first in my age group.  Pretty stoked with that result, even if I didn't meet my goal (time wise) during the race.  Afterwards, we stuck around for the costume contest and had some fun with the kids in the costumes.  Bruce wasn't too thrilled with showing off for people, but he had a good time outside of that.  

This kid was awesome with his costume and the way he was acting as Superman.  

Bruce wasn't thrilled with being put down in front of so many people.

Bruce's costume turned out to be pretty sweet.  And check out the waves in the background!

The Finisher medal with the division award.

The next week, we traveled up to Santa Cruz, Ca for the Surf City 70.3 race - which was the last big race of the season and one that I was super pumped for.  Everything had fallen into place for me training-wise and I was feeling great going into the race.

Stuff all laid out the day before the race.
I was fully prepared to PR on this course (as it's relatively flat) and felt that I had a very, very realistic shot at breaking 4:30:00 or coming very close to it.  

Unfortunately, it was not to be.  I spent the night before the race shivering and shaking uncontrollably and was up all night hovering over the toilet in one fashion or another (I'll spare you the details but let's just say it was coming out of both ends).  I probably notched about 30 minutes of sleep total that night and was weak, sick with a fever, and had 0 energy.  So instead of going to transition to rack up and get ready - I made the quick walk over to turn in my chip and call it a day.  

That was an extremely difficult thing for me to do - as I have never DNSed a race before.  Especially a race that I dragged the family 7 hours up the coast to go to.  However, it is what it was and I wouldn't have survived very long racing out there.  Better to pull the plug in advance and try to enjoy my day the best I could (which basically consisted of me walking around like a zombie trying to make sure my son didn't get into any mischief).  

I still haven't decided if I'm going to finish my season out (I originally had a half marathon, a 10k, a 5k, and an Olympic distance triathlon scheduled).  My gut feeling is to scratch the rest and start fresh after a few weeks of rest.  We'll see - I'll update the blog later with a year in review after I figure it out.