Giro Di Santa 2014

The fifth annual Giro di Santa ride took place on Sunday, December 7. The Giro di Santa ride – a fun ride sponsored by Empire Tri Club which requires a full Santa suit to participate and serves as a fundraiser for CAF – has been been named The Best Cycling Event in the North East for the last two years in a row. And with good reason! This ride is a blast. IMG_0966

We started at Central Park South and 7th Avenue in Manhattan, IMG_0947and rode up the east side of Central Park. From there, we pop over to Riverside Drive and up to the George Washington Bridge. Once in New Jersey, we ride to Strictly Bicycles for a cookie stop, and then to Bunbury’s in Piermont for more cookies (and muffins, and coffee, and Fireball – wait, what?!). After a good long rest, we leisurely cruise back along the same route, and into the city. We take the west side of Central Park down and ride into Times Square, and then back around past Radio City Music Hall, before ending in Central Park again.

This is a long, easy pace ride, with about 4,000 photos and twice as many smiles. Cars slow (or stop!) to take photos and videos. Every tourist whipped out a cellphone or camera to take shots, and we snapped photos of each other while riding and at rest.

One key part of this year’s ride was Phillip’s cruiser sound system. He was dressed as what I called “Big Lebowski Santa” and rode a single speed cruiser with a tube amp speaker strapped to the back. This was no joke – that speaker was loud! It helped in keeping spirits high and letting others know we were coming. He switched from punk Christmas to Pop holidays on Spotify and powered us through nearly the entire ride. The sound went out at one point, but came back as we entered Central Park, playing “Santa Claus is Coming To Town.” It couldn’t have been more perfect.

We had 12 Santas, one reindeer, and one sassy elf this year. What a fun ride!IMG_0958IMG_0989

The “Off” Season

I just finished reading this great blog from my most favorite finishlinepttraining partner, Finish Line Physical Therapy, about the “off season”, AKA the “Get Started Season.” It led me to do a little reflecting about my off season so far.

I haven’t yet mentally wrapped up my season this year. I think sitting down and reviewing my achievements and challenges will help me better prepare for next year – which I haven’t mentally done yet either, with the exception of knowing two races I want to do… but not the dates of said races, so I obviously haven’t really started planning for next season yet either.

I believe this time is necessary. My season started very early for 2014, with my training for an A race beginning in September 2013, and my final 2014 race in September. A full year of training and racing was a lot for me. Since my final race, I’ve been running for fun, strength training, and working on mobility and imbalances. In the past month I’ve been committed to fixing some of the kinks that came from my long season through stretching, trigger point, foam rolling, and functional movement training. And now that marathon is over, I’ve been able to get in at Finish Line to get some real work done.

My goals for the early off season are:
1. address heel pain/plantar fasciitis in left foot (an issue since this time last year)
2. improve hip mobility and increase range of motion in hip extension
3. return left shoulder to normal range of motion and remove the sticks around my clavicle scar
4. prioritize posterior & strengthen my backside

Later, probably (although again, not fully thought out yet)
1. private swim coaching
2. cycling heavy block
3. core strength

The “off season” is a nice time to do fun activities, move away from the rigidity of a schedule, and not beat myself up for sleeping in or not working out if I need an off day. It’s also been great to explore bike messengering, spend more time at home, and work on GO! Athletes work. I haven’t yet hit that restless feeling, so I know we’re still in phase one.

Check out the Finish Line blog post and think about your off season!

Re-injured / rejected

Simply put: I thought I was over an emotional injury, but with a few recent triggerings, I think it’s safe to say I still have some lingering feelings. Marathon season and big sporting events and expos seem to re-injure this particular hurt all over again (read original post below).

At a recent race, there was an instance where I interacted with a company rep from this nutrition brand, which was painful at best (I was still kind). I’m conflicted because I’m happy for my friends; I’ve sent my friends photos of their faces in ads from email blasts to my inbox, and in magazines I subscribe to. And this isn’t about them – my friends should enjoy this, because it’s pretty cool. I would have been pumped to be picked, and I want to celebrate their good moments as well. But it’s still true, even five months after writing the post below: An overwhelming rush of sadness sweeps over me every time a teammate releases one of these photos. This is more about me not being good enough because of who I am, and trying to figure that out.

Here’s a repost from Original Plumbing about the initial hurt.

Sports Sponsorships And Someone Like Me

As an athlete who is serious about competing but also needs a real job to feed myself, I’m always looking for sponsorship opportunities and companies to support me. I’m not a pro, but sponsorship and acting as a brand ambassador for companies provides me with ways to offset my training. I work full-time and I’m not making money from being an athlete, so anything that I get from companies in terms of products or support is helpful. In the past, this has come in the form of financial support, training equipment, gear, race entries, and nutritional products.
Since coming out, I’ve been fortunate enough to find companies that have supported me as a person and as an athlete. I have not shied away from the fact that I am a trans* guy. I write about my identity on my applications, and as the founder of transathlete.com, my bio is on the website and the content itself is a pretty clear reflection of who I am and what I stand for.
I know with sponsorships that “you win some and you lose some.” That is, some companies will be a good fit and some companies will have values that do not align with mine and we won’t be a good match. In those cases, I’m pretty happy to not promote their company or their products. But usually this comes as a surprise to me; I typically don’t apply for things that I don’t think I’m a good fit for (who wants rejection?). However, I’ve been surprised a few times, although wisely, few will outright name my identity as a reason and I can’t tell why I don’t get chosen.
It’s similar to applying for a job and being a highly qualified candidate and not getting the position. It could be my identity and it could also be that someone just doesn’t like me. It could be any number of things but when I don’t know the answer, and nothing else seems really clear, I can’t help but to wonder if my identity as a trans* guy played a role in me not getting the position.
Such is the case with a recent sponsor opportunity. My triathlon club has a long-standing relationship with a large sports nutrition company, which I had been great about promoting online and at events – I’ve volunteered to work their table at expo events and posted prolifically on social media for them. About six months ago there was an opportunity to be a part of a photo shoot for their national advertising campaign for posters and print ads, and the casting company was working specifically with my triathlon club to find folks for the shoot. The requirements were to send in photos of yourself, a brief bio, and a short video introduction. I completed all of the requirements; there was a very small number of us who replied. I was excited about the opportunity for myself, but I was also excited about what it would say about the company to have a trans* guy in their marketing. It seemed like progress; it seemed like it would be a major breakthrough.
Just before the date of the shoot, I received a brief email that said they would not be able to accept me. I started to hear from my friends on the team about how happy they were that they had been accepted to be a part of the shoot. I didn’t want to steal anyone else’s opportunity to be excited about it. I was, as far as I know, the only person rejected from the photo shoot.
When I spoke to someone on the phone about it they plainly said, “You have to think, what would it say about our company to have someone like you in our ad? We just can’t have someone like you.”
I was devastated. What exactly is “someone like me?”
I was upset about it for a while. And then I let it go and found a great nutrition company who presumably read my application for sponsorship and therefore knew about my identity. I didn’t say anything else about it for a while and didn’t really tell my club about it; I felt ashamed. I also wasn’t sure if I had been speaking with the actual company or their casting agency. I didn’t want to put anybody publicly on blast by name if it wasn’t them.
Several months have passed since the photo shoot and admittedly I have thought about it a few times when applying to new things. I thought I made my peace with it until the company released the ads that my teammates are in – they are awesome. They are amazing professional photos, great quality, good imaging, and a great marketing campaign. They are online and in magazines and were on banners at the Boston Marathon. An overwhelming rush of sadness sweeps over me every time a teammate releases one of these photos (they’re being released in stages not all at once).
Rejection sucks. Rejection for who I am and who I will unapologetically continue to be sucks. But it’s a take it or leave it deal: I definitely do not want to promote a company that can’t have “someone like me” represent them.
I am a hardworking, dedicated, strong, and fast athlete. I am a fierce competitor and contender. I give back to the multisport community and devote time to helping other athletes succeed. I am a teammate, a leader, a coach, and a trans* guy.
Anyone willing to sponsor “someone like me”, please contact me.

The Endorsement: The Elements of Style

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Screenshot from The Sufferfest video The Elements of Style

You may know that I’m a proud Knight of Sufferlandria, and thereby a huge fan of The Sufferfest videos for indoor training.Today marks the release of a totally different but totally awesome video, The Elements of Style

This is a 39-minute drill session to train you to get the most out of your cycling. Intended on “making your Suffering look effortless,” the video give six drills to improve form, posture and efficiency, as well as a great nine-point checklist to improve body position. It features the usual great cycling footage – this time specially filmed for this particular video – and perfect soundtrack, along with commentary from Eurosport’s Carlton Kirby, one of the best cycling commentators in the world (with a wonderful accent). 

This is not the usual suffering; it is a compliment to make you suffer better. I’d say this is a must-have for anyone looking to improve their pedal stroke and efficiency on the bike.

This morning I tested my own style and it was excellent. While this isn’t a hammer ’til it’s over type of session, it will help you hammer harder in the future. This was a great video for my taper week as well.

Well done, Sir David! I approve.

One Year Follow Up

So much of my writing recently has been about my nagging leg injuries, but today I have news about my upper body! May 15 was one year since I fractured my left clavicle, and May 22 was one year since the surgery to repair it. I went to Dr. Frank Cordasco‘s office at the Hospital for Special Surgery (#1 in orthopedics in the nation!) to get a one year xray and follow up to make sure everything is okay.Image

First, the accident: May 15, 2013, I was riding my commuter fixed gear bike home from work. One and a half blocks away from my apartment, I flew over the handlebars unexpectedly. I landed on my left shoulder and helmet, rolled onto my back, skid for 10 or so feet, and then rolled toward the sidewalk in a panic. I was in the bus lane and I wasn’t sure why I flew over my handlebars, but I thought I might get run over by a car or bus. When I stopped sliding and rolling, I lifted my head and saw two bikes. And a person. With no helmet on. He lifted his face off the ground, spit out teeth, and oozed blood from his nose. I was in much better shape than he was after the crash; I walked my bike to the curb and locked it, I waited while people collected my keys and items that flew from the pockets of my bag, and I watched the EMTs treat the other guy. I knew my collarbone was broken and my season was over. Then I was sad. I had a weird interaction with the EMTs, and then I Googled specialists for athletes and found Dr. Cordasco. I was in surgery one week later.

On September 6 I was cleared for take off and I started training for HITS Naples. Cue my triumphant comeback! You know the rest. So today was to make sure healing was fine and the hardware was okay. The scar looks great, and my strength in my arm and shoulder is back to normal. My swimming is fine, and I never experience range of motion issues. I do, however, know when it’s going to rain by the pain in my bone. I also have pain when I wear a back pack or bag, or anything touches my left shoulder. Massage on my shoulders even sucks. You can see the hardware through my skin, so I brought this up. 

I did a quick few xrays, and then saw Dr. Cordasco. He said the ridge I can feel and see probably isn’t a screw head, but is the edge of the plate. If it were a screw, it would be easier to deal with – a quick incision, drill it out, and don’t sweat for a week. But removing the plate would leave one plate (the front plate is fine) on the bone, but would leave five Imagescrew holes like swiss cheese through the top of my bone (the screws stick all the way through), making the bone more susceptible to fracture should I ever crash. It would also be a few weeks of recovery time and not training, and I’m in the middle of training for my season right now, so this is not ideal.

I said it’s something I can live with for the time being, and he suggested removing it in the off season (“if there is such a thing”) or whenever it bothers me too much. He said the goal is not to have to “live with it,” but to have it be as good as possible. 

I chose to leave it for now, and revisit it later. 

My favorite part was at the end of the visit, standing with my shirt off, when he enthusiastically said, “you look fantastic!”

I believe that is surgeon code for, “I did a damn good job on that scar!” (and he did!)

Product Review: First Endurance EFS Electrolyte Drink

As an athlete, I’ve been somewhat of a connoisseur of sports nutrition over the past several years. When I started training for iron-distance triathlons, I figured out rather quickly that I needed to find something that would fuel me without making me feel like a ton of bricks or like I wanted to expel said nutrition from some part of my body. Seems easy enough, right? 

Wrong.

I won’t turn this into a long post about all the things that didn’t work – but I should say first what I didn’t like about my old products. Here’s my list of complaints:

1. Too sweet. I would be in the middle of workouts thinking about brushing my teeth. That’s gross.
2. Grainy. The mix wouldn’t dissolve all the way and wouldn’t mix well.
3. Chalky. Some of the “endurance” powders tasted chalky or thick.
4. Too low of electrolyte count. I would need pills on top of my drink mix. Carrying them in my jersey was a pain and fumbling with pills while sweaty was gross. 
5. Stomach distress. My stomach would feel bloated after some drinks, and bloat on the bike is awful. Sloshy stomach on the run is even worse. I set Porta Potty PRs in my second Ironman race. Not the payoff from training that I had hoped for.

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The list goes on, but I’ll focus on what did work: First Endurance EFS Liquid Shots, and EFS Electrolyte Drink

I converted last year to the First Endurance line after hearing their EFS drink worked well for a friend, and the liquid shots were intriguing to me as well because of their amazing texture (not too thick, with no gelling agents). I also saw the EFS Electrolyte drink was the highest electrolyte content available, which I believed would help with my cramping and dehydration, as well as refuel my muscles faster than drink + pills. 

My first go with EFS Electrolyte drink was with the Tart Lemon-Lime flavor. All natural flavors, no colors, and no artificial sweeteners made me wonder what it would taste like, but the taste is awesome and can be mixed at various strengths to suit one’s individual preferences. I keep mine at the recommended amount of 1.5 scoops for an 18 oz bottle, and I find it to be just right.

The first thing I noticed was the texture of the powder – it’s almost totally smooth and dissolves instantly into my bottle. No epic shaking necessary and no clumping at the bottom of the bottle. The next thing I noticed was that it tasted good cold and warm, which is not always the case (a previous nutrition choice of mine actually soured/went bad in the heat – a lesson learned the hard way…). And the calorie count is right on for me. With 96 calories per scoop, I’m getting about 150 per bottle. This can be mixed at double strength for a 300 calorie bottle, but I haven’t had to try it that way yet. 

ImageThere’s a reason why this product has almost 50 five-star reviews on its website: it really works. The gluten-free formula sits well for me, fuels me for strong efforts (I’ve used it both cycling and running), and doesn’t slosh around. It tastes great any way I make it and it mixes quickly. This one drink gives me pretty much everything I need to make the most of my performance. In both training and racing, I’ve been happy with my switch to EFS Electrolyte Drink. So happy that I applied for sponsorship from them, because this is awesome stuff. 

Jugs are sold online and in cycling and running shops. Definitely worth a shot if you’re looking for peak performance without having to think too much about timing of extra pills.

Here’s the specs from the website
THE HIGHEST ELECTROLYTE CONTENT AVAILABLE
Clinical research shows endurance athletes require much higher levels of electrolytes than most sports drinks provide to prevent cramping and dehydration (4). The new EFS drinks now contains over 1,160mg of all 5 electrolytes per serving, more than any electrolyte drink on the market. 

THE LATEST AMINO ACID TECHNOLOGY
The Amino Acids in the EFS drinks are AjiPure amino acids, the purest, most- bioavailable source of free-form amino acids available. AjiPure amino acids have purity levels of 99%-100%. This results in faster and more complete absorption. 

SUPERIOR CALCIUM BIOAVALIBILITYImage
The new EFS formulas utilize two unique sources of calcium and magnesium. DiCalcium malate and Dimagnesium malate have superior bioavailability compared to other mineral sources. In a bioavailability study, absorption rates were between 20% and 100% higher using DiCalcium and DiMagnesium malates (1). 

NOW WITH MALIC ACID
The new EFS drink contains 700mg of Malic Acid, which was not found in the previous formula. Malic acid stimulates oxygen consumption by increasing mitochondrial uptake, improving mitochondrial respiration and increasing energy producti

 

Trainer Road

This morning I did a trainer session with the website/app Trainer Road. If you are training with power, this is a phenomenal help – it keeps you in your appropriate range to get most benefits from your interval, tempo, or other non-softpedalling workouts. Trainer Road also syncs up with The Sufferfest training videos, which makes for monster workouts.

I’m getting antsy after taking a little time off. I was running earlier in the week, but had a bit of pain. February is all about recovery and working on functional strength and healing. My next scheduled event is in August, although there will certainly be more before then.