Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Let's Talk About This Wetsuit Business.

I submitted this to the Triathlon Nova Scotia (TNS) newsletter a month or so back but I don't think it made the cut.  Still, I think (IMHO) it has an important message.  Feel free to repost etc etc.

This esrtwhile part of the TA has been lucky enough to take a bit of a cross-country triathlon trip recently and work events in three provinces, two languages and interact with both Olympic-bound athletes and officials as well as with the sport's grass-roots. None of these races has been wet-suit legal. What was of interest to us was the response to these wetsuit calls (in three provinces and two languages).

The title is, verbatim, a direct question asked to us by an age-grouper, together with “why don't you guys just follow the rules?”. Let's look at these statements.

Let's Talk About This Wetsuit Business”. We weren't sure here if the competitor was trying to negotiate the no wet-suit ruling or cut us a deal. There is no room to negotiate. We (the officials) don't make this up you know. Instead, the wetsuit calls are regulated by the International Triathlon Union (ITU) Competition Rules,which TNS has adopted. These rules are here for your safety. If the water is too cold, you may get hypothermic, if it is too warm, you may overheat. Just try using your wetsuit in a swimming pool! In between these extremes lies the “wetsuits optional” butter-zone we're mostly familiar with. Outside of these comfort zones, there be monsters for some people. These rules are not kept secret by some triple-headed guardian and available only to the initiated after repeating some shibboleth. Rather they are available to download by all at the ITU or Triathlon Canada websites.

As for cut a deal, sure, we'll cut you a deal. Fifty bucks gets you into the Competition Jury. To protest a wetsuit ruling is going to cost you 30 minutes of form-filling as well as the aforementioned $50, both of which you will likely loose, with the $50 going to enrich the Junior Development Team.

why don't you guys just follow the rules?” This made us laugh. We do follow the rules, those same rules we just talked about. Those rules govern all triathlons from the highest to the lowest. For example. the same rookie transition helmet mistake penalty Paula Findlay made in London was the same rookie transition helmet mistake penalty one of our own got in Guysborough and the penalty was was managed in the same way. Here's the thing though. There are two governing bodies for triathlon. The ITU and the World Triathlon Corporation, or WTC, aka the Ironman people. They, WTC, have their own rules. Mostly they are the same rules but with some differences. These differences are mainly of the “you say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to” variety. But some are more significant. Such as the wetsuit rules. Confusingly, many WTC events in North America are sanctioned by TriCan or USAT and so follow the ITU rules. So, on race-morning before you start harassing some poor, be-vested dude with a radio in their ear in the language of your choice, check the logo on their vest. They are following the rules, but they may not be the rules you think they're following.

A quick word about those temperature maxima and minima. There are tables and tables in the rules; a far cry from the days of the Race Director just sticking his finger in the lake and thinking about it. These max and min are different for long course and short course, for able-bodied and and parathletes, for age-groupers and elites. So just because you get to race-site for the Sprint and see long-course or parathletes in 'suits doesn't mean you can wear one.

As an athlete you should always be prepared for the eventuality of a non-wetsuit swim. Check the history of the event. Historically, are there wetsuits? As well as the obvious, no wetsuits, there are other considerations. Can you swim in that T-shirt? What about your dossard? Don't be in a panic twenty minutes before the start because you just realized not only can you not wear your wetsuit but you can't swim with your number safety-pinned to your cycling-jersey. Invest in a number belt, bring a piece of string. Both will work! Just like disc-wheels, which the TD can rule on depending on the prevailing environmental conditions, the TD will make the wetsuit call an hour before the event when you're pumping your wheels, not when you're packing the car the day before. So be ready. You wouldn't go to the Hypothermic Half with only shorts and a singlet and be surprised to find it too cold to use either, so don't come to a triathlon with a rear-disc and a wetsuit and be totally unprepared to not be able to use neither.

The British Army has a saying called the Seven P's; Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Painfully Poor Performance. Except Painfully is usually replaced with something earthier. Same thing in triathlon. You train long enough for it, don't let your day be upset by a legitimate ruling that none-the-less puts a spanner in your works. Plan ahead. Your training wheels and a piece of string should do it, and the right mental attitude to make the switch and get your mind back in the game.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

The one where I look at lots of bikes

Just trying to have a quiet thirty minutes before leaving on another trip.  This one is bicycle-related but not triathlon related. Perhaps this is what is contributing to my general feeling of unease.  You see, practically every trip that has taken me out of HRM this year has been to officiate at a triathlon, or occasionally a running race.  

Not this time.  My rule-book, whistle and accreditation still sit on the shelf. My personal officiating kit sits in the storage-room where I chucked it after the Cobequid half and 10K.  Hell, I haven't even packed a pen.  OK, I'll go and pack a pen.

Feels weird.  Kinda naked.

Instead, I'm off to the centre of the universe, aka Torona (I understand there's a 't' in there, but it's never used) to the Bicycle Trade Association of Canada's (BTAC) annual show, Expocycle.  At the behest of the shop indeed too!  To spend two days with the owners and managers looking at bike stuff.  It's hog heaven.  A bit like Ulf giving me bike-check at the World Cup.  Who? Me? Touch all this stuff?  Sure thing boss....

I'm not sure what to expect.  I feel like a newbie undergrad or post-grad going to their first conference. Of course, at scientific conferences you spend most of your time in the talks and maybe half an hour at the expo, talking to reps and trying to score some free Eppendorfs or maybe a fridge-magnet.  This, I think, will be the other way around; spend all our time at the expo and maybe take in a talk.

So basically, just like at your first conference where you feel a bit out of water ands literally follow your supervisor around everywhere but the bathroom, I will dp the same.  Just follow the owners around, everywhere but the bathroom, and try not to break anything.  BEsides,. when Mark asked me if I wanted to go the convo went like this

Mark (pouring coffee) "What are you doing the 8th, 9th and 10th September""

"Nothing yet"

"Want to go to BTAC?"

"Wow, cool, I mean, sure"

"Great, you'll learn a lot.  Just keep your mouth shut"

So there you have it,  I have my instructions from the top: watch, listen, learn.  Wish me luck.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cowadonga II

It was especially nice to watch the Vuelta a Espana this weekend as it took place in the Asturias, where la belle and I had been last year for World Duathlon champs and spent a week afterwards bumming around the Asturias, some of it on our bikes and some of it by car.

Yesterday's stage, stage 17, which saw Contador in red and Valverde move up to second (what this says about modern cycling I do not know) finished on Fuente De,  We drove up there last year and took the cable car to the top.  I'm pretty sure the stage finished at the bottom of the cable car run!  Here's Moo at the top of the plateau;

and having a coffee waiting for the cable car on the way back.  It felt a bit On Her Majesty's Secret Service being up there!

and another one of one of Monster Factory's monsters, Bradley, at the top of the cable car station.

The day before we'd stayed overnight at Potes, which is where Stage 17's  last intermediate sprint was.

I'm pretty sure we inadvertently drove the last 50km of stage 17 last year; here is Velonews' picture of the break

and here is a picture of the Renault Sprinter we drove around the Asturias.

Looks like the same place.  Pretty impressive place to hold a bike race.

I was a bit scared driving the Sprinter down that canyon, Unipublic took a whole race down there!

Stage 16 , the one that ended on the 24% pitches of Cuito Negro started in Gijon , the host town of the 2011 World Dus.  I really liked Gijon as a city;

La belle liked the ice-cream

and Moo developed a taste for cervesa y limon after a long bike-ride!

and more ice-cream!

Stage 15 finished on Covadonga, which we rode last year also, with our friend Raul.  It was interesting to hear the cycling press talk about the climb.  The Alpe d'Huez of the Vuelta!  Maybe not in pitch but in grandeur! Nevertheless, they made it sound pretty scary.  I was glad to see La Huesera labeled not as a 10% pitch but a 15% pitch.  Made me feel less bad about stopping, although la belle hasn't stopped mentioning it all week!

Ahh, Spain.  Makes me want a holiday.