» Aaron Hersh Triathlon Training, Gear, Nutrition, Photos, Race Results & Calendars Sun, 01 May 2016 14:58:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 5 Causes Of A Recurring Flat Tire Wed, 23 Dec 2015 14:20:31 +0000


Do you keep getting flat tire after flat tire and can’t figure out why? Odds are it isn't just bad luck.

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Q:  I keep getting flat tire after flat tire and I can’t really figure out why. Is it just bad luck or is there something wrong with my tire?

A: It’s possible that you keep getting punctures from new sharp things poking through the tire, but that’s unlikely. There’s probably something wrong with your tire, wheel or the way you are putting a new tube into the tire. These are the things that could be causing your recurring flats and how to fix them.

Option 1: Something sharp is stuck in the tire.

The problem: If you don’t remove the object that poked the hole in your first tube, it will probably poke through the replacement tube as well.

The fix: After getting a flat, inspect the outside of the tire for the offending object. Pull out any shards of glass or other sharp things that are stuck in the tire. Next, run your hand along the inside of the tire to check for small items that are poking through. The tire is ready for a new tube once you have removed all the sharp things from it.

RELATED: Buying Aero Wheels On A Budget

Option 2: Your tire is worn out.

The problem: If the tire rubber is extremely overused, the threads—fibers that make the backbone of the tire—can be exposed. When that happens, the tire is much more susceptible to tearing and puncture. If the casing does tear, flat protection is reduced and the tube can stretch beyond its usual dimensions. Both of these cases can lead to flats.

The fix: A tire is dead once the threads are exposed. Switch it. You will be better off changing the tire well before it gets to that point. Swap your tires when the rubber at the crest starts to crown and looses its round shape. Your rear tire will always wear faster than the front, but swapping them both at the same time is the best practice.

RELATED: Picking The Right Tire For Your Wheels

Option 3: The tube is getting pinched while it is being changed.

The problem: If the tire gets poked with the lever or caught between the tire and the brake track, it can puncture before it is even inflated.

The fix: Inflate the new tube a tiny bit so it holds its round shape before you put it on the wheel. Pass the valve through the valve hole and then press the tube in between the brake track walls so it sits in the wheel. Do not allow any part of the tube to rest outside the brake track while reinstalling the tire. Once the tube is seated in the wheel, use your hands, not a lever, to snap the tire back on the wheel. If you use a lever to lift the tire onto the wheel, the lever itself can swing around and poke a hole in the tube by pinching it against the metal sidewall. Reseating the tire with your hands eliminates that possibility.

RELATED – Tri’d And Tested: Stan’s Tubeless System

Option 4: Riding with low tire pressure or hitting an object in the road.

The problem: Pinch flats. If you tire is under-inflated and you slam into a pothole or other object in the road, the tire will bottom out against the rim and puncture from the impact between the wheel and the road.

The fix: Inflate your tires regularly. Wide wheels and broad tires can run a lower pressure–down to 80PSI or so depending on rider weight–but standard narrow wheels with 23c tires (check the label) need to be inflated  higher, typically 100PSI or more. And keep an eye on the road. Avoiding potholes and other obstacles is the best way to prevent pinch flats. If an object is unavoidable, lift the front wheel off the road slightly to hop over the object or stand on the pedals and lift your weight off the saddle to use your joints as suspension to absorb the blow.

RELATED: Cutting The Guesswork From Tire Development

Option 5: Rim tape isn’t covering the spoke holes.

The problem: The spoke holes’ sharp metal corners jab against the tube and can cause a puncture if they aren’t completely covered with rim tape. Old rim tape can depress into the spoke holes even if they are completely covered, again creating a sharp edge that can puncture the tube.

The fix: New rim tape goes for about $3 a wheel. Get two new rolls that are wide enough to stretch across the entire tire bed. Lay it flat in the wheel and make sure it covers the spoke holes entirely.

No more flats!

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Your Bike Maintenance Schedule Fri, 25 Sep 2015 16:00:04 +0000


Wondering when to replace your bike’s components? Follow this guide to find the ideal replacement time to keep your ride smooth.

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Wondering when to replace your bike’s components? Follow this guide to find the ideal replacement time to keep your ride smooth.

There are two important milestones in the life of a bike part. The first marks when it should be replaced if you want your bike to work perfectly. The second milestone is when a part needs to be replaced to avoid unnecessary wear on the rest of the bike. Whether you’re a type-A bike maintainer or simply want to get the most miles out of your gear, these are the signals that it’s time for a replacement.


Type-A: Replace it annually or with every second new chain.

Procrastinator: When small indentations start to appear on the backside of the teeth, it’s time for a new one. An excessively worn cassette will shorten the lifespan of the chain, so don’t take it too far.

RELATED – Rookie In Training: Bike Maintenance

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6 Race-Day Gear Blunders To Avoid Fri, 07 Aug 2015 16:30:35 +0000

Photo: John Segesta

A checklist of triathlon gear errors that could derail your next race.

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Inspired by Joe Friel’s article “Six Common Mistakes Triathletes Make,” Aaron Hersh provides a checklist of triathlon gear errors that could derail your next race.

Never training in your race shoes

If you’ve ever experimented with minimalist shoes, you know the toll they take on calf muscles. Even a short workout in a pair of Vibrams can thrash your legs. The biggest reason these shoes are so much harder on the calf muscles than typical trainers is the drop from the heel to the toe. Typical cushioned training shoes have a fairly substantial ramp that lets the forefoot sit lower than the heel, taking strain off the calf muscles and Achilles tendon. Minimalist shoes have a tiny (or zero) drop from the heel to the toe and leveling the shoe lifts your forefoot, putting tension back on the calf muscles.

Like minimalist shoes, many racing flats have a small drop from the heel to the toe. Robust cushioned trainers typically have an 8-12mm lift, and many racing flats have only 4mm of rise.

Just as it takes time to acclimate to minimalist shoes, acclimating to racing flats doesn’t happen overnight. Wearing them just on race day will cause your lower legs to fatigue quickly. Instead of leaving your racing shoes in the closet until race day, slowly work them in to your weekly run training.

Because of their construction, racing shoes are typically best saved for days you run fast instead of slow recovery workouts. Start to acclimate to your racing shoes by swapping them in for your trainers during your weekly tempo or interval workout. As you get stronger, you can use them for an entire workout once or even twice a week.

RELATED: Nothing New On Race Day

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Become A Better Cyclist: Ride Like A Roadie Mon, 01 Jun 2015 16:05:54 +0000


Every triathlete can learn a thing or two about cycling from roadies.

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Despite the differences between tri cycling and road racing, every triathlete can up their enjoyment of the second discipline by learning a thing or two about riding from roadies.

Group rides

Drafting off a large pack of riders may seem irrelevant to tri performance, but group riding is one of the most effective and fun ways to improve your strength and bike-handling skills.

Fitness: Cycling in a pack turns every ride into an interval session. Instead of agonizing over the details of a solo interval ride—time, distance, speed, heart rate, power—simply move to the front of the group, where the wind will boost your intensity level. Slide back into the pack for protection from the wind and the pace becomes a recovery effort. Short climbs and tight corners can quickly turn into an all-out sprint and will give your legs an additional kick that solo riding simply cannot produce.

Skills: For years Andy Potts only rode outside on race day, but even he has started to train outdoors occasionally to improve his bike-handling skills. Riding in a group forces you to maintain a consistent path through corners, take bends at high speeds and ride steadily at all times so you don’t collide with another rider.

RELATED: The Benefits Of A Group Ride For Triathletes

Comfortable Gear

Swap out a few of your tri accessories in favor of comfort-oriented pieces.

Road shoes: The biggest difference between a triathlon shoe and a road shoe is the upper. Tri shoes are often lighter because of their minimalistic closure systems, but road shoes use ratcheting buckles, extra Velcro straps, additional materials or other add-ons to fine-tune the shoe’s fit, breathability and comfort.

Bib shorts: Shorts slide and bunch, which create hot spots exactly where you don’t want them. Bibs act like suspenders for your cycling shorts and keep them in their proper place to maximize comfort. Once you get past the goofy look, there’s no going back to shorts.

RELATED: Four Ways To Break A Riding Rut

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Bike Geometry Explained Wed, 18 Mar 2015 20:25:50 +0000

Cut through the clutter to really understand the bike frame fit.

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Cut through the clutter to really understand the bike frame fit.

On a bike maker’s website you’ll find a schematic called a geometry chart for each of its models. These cluttered numeric diagrams outline all the dimensions of a frame—the length of the tubes and angles between them. Every piece of data is critical for building the bike, and many impact handling, but only a select few describe the bike’s fit characteristics. The rest are red herrings in the search for a well-fitting frame. After finding your desired position—whether it’s on your current bike or through a new fit—a few simple numbers can describe the frames that will match your dimensions. Here’s how to understand which coordinates to pay attention to and which to ignore.

Frame fit

Ignore: Seat tube length, top tube length, head tube length and frame sizes.

The lengths of these tubes only tell part of the story, and frame sizes are even less helpful. “Like buying a pair of shoes, different brands are going to fit very differently,” says J.T. Lyons, F.I.S.T. fit instructor and owner of Moment Cycle Sport in San Diego. “We have bikes with a size small that is the same length as another bike’s size large.” Three critical dimensions solve all these problems and are becoming the focus of a growing number of bike makers.


1.  Stack height, the vertical distance between the bottom bracket and the top of the head tube.

2.  Reach, the horizontal distance between the bottom bracket and head tube.

3.  Seat tube angle, which determines saddle position.

These three simple measurements define a frame’s fit characteristics and should guide your bike choice. Compare your own measurements to different frames and sizes to track down a list of bikes that can accommodate your fit. Ignore the rest. Stack and reach dimensions within about 5mm of your ideal will work perfectly because components can be used to micro-adjust for these differences.

Component conundrum

Aerobar selection is the other big piece of the puzzle. “You’re not riding just a frame,” says Lyons. “You’re riding a frame plus a stem plus the bars plus the saddle.” The impact of those components is murkier than the frame because they are less easily quantified and are often adjustable. “Navigating aerobar fit is the biggest disconnecting point in bike fit right now,” Lyons says. Many adjustable bars can change fit even more than swapping frames. Using the same bar and stem is the best way to ensure your bike, not just your frame, matches your fit—although several options can match the same position. As for finding the right one, well, “to some extent, that’s what good fitters are for,” says Lyons.


Armed with bike fit data, you can make an educated decision on your next purchase by paying attention to the measurements listed here. If you want to take it a step further, both Retül and Cannondale offer systems where you simply plug in your fit numbers to compare bike frames and parts before your purchase.

RELATED – Tri Bike Basics: The Triathlon-Specific Bike Frame

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Do-It-Yourself Bike Tune-Up: A 5-Step Checklist Thu, 19 Feb 2015 14:01:59 +0000


Learn how to tune up your bike to save time and money.

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Learn how to tune up your bike to save time and money.

1. Clean the chain.
Most wet chain lubes double as excellent degreasers. Cover the chain in the lube, grip the lower segment of the chain with a towel and pedal backward. Keep scrubbing until the chain sparkles.

RELATED: Your Bike Race-Ready Checklist

2. Clean the cassette.
Take the rear wheel off the bike and squirt lube on the cassette. Floss between the cogs with a towel to remove the tenacious black grease.

RELATED: Your Bike Maintenance Schedule

3. Center the brakes.
Loosen the 5mm bolt securing the brake caliper to the frame and reposition the caliper so the brake pads are roughly evenly spaced on either side of the rim. Retighten the bolt. Most calipers have a micro-adjuster bolt on top of the brake arm. Use a wrench to screw this bolt in or out to finely adjust the pad position until they are evenly spaced on either side of the rim.

RELATED – Rookie In Training: Bike Maintenance

4. Adjust the rear derailleur cable tension.
Put the chain into the smallest (hardest) cog and upshift once. Look down from above the cassette to see if the upper derailleur pulley lines up with the second cog. If it is closer to the wheel, turn the barrel adjuster—the black plastic piece the housing inserts into—clockwise. If the pulley is further from the wheel, turn the barrel adjuster counter-clockwise.

RELATED – TriWorkBench: Adjusting A Rear Derailleur

5. Check the bolt torque.
Even a properly tensioned bolt can loosen itself over time. Use a torque wrench to check every bolt on the bike, paying particular attention to the stem bolts.

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Quick Look: SeatSkull Seat Protector Thu, 15 Jan 2015 23:47:43 +0000

Photo: John David Becker

While you may still be basking in a post-workout afterglow when you climb back into your car, your driver’s seat shouldn’t.

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While you may still be basking in a post-workout afterglow when you climb back into your car, your driver’s seat shouldn’t. This simple plastic wrap from SeatSkull is like a rain jacket for your car’s upholstery, except instead of protecting from rain, it defends against post-workout grime. The cover slips into place in a few seconds and packs away just as quickly into a small ball. A necessity if you often drive to workout spots.

SeatSkull Seat Protector


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Winter-Proof Your Bike Wed, 07 Jan 2015 19:23:10 +0000

A guide to defending your ride through the icy months.

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A guide to defending your ride through the icy months.

Keeping your bike pristinely clean through a “real” winter is a little unrealistic. Simply maintain the parts that suffer most from messy roads and wait until spring for the non-essentials. Here’s what to fix—or forget—when it comes to winter maintenance.

Greasy Chain
Fix it: Clean the chain before grease starts to clump. Scrubbing it after every ride, though, is overkill.

Sticky Housing
Forget it: Road grime is going to seep into your housing and degrade shifting accuracy, so save your new set of housing until the roads clear.

Stained Bar Tape
Forget it: It’s just going to get filthy again. Wait till spring.

Road Salt
Fix it: Road salt is corrosive, and bearings are particularly sensitive. Wash it off with water.

Stretched Chain
Fix it: Use a chain-checker to measure its wear and swap it after it reaches its limit to preserve your cassette, chainrings and shift quality.

Dirty Frame
Forget it: Dirt will collect on your bike nearly every time you ride outside through the winter. It’s unsightly, but a little dirt won’t hurt.

Worn Tires
Fix it: Riding on wet, sandy and icy roads is difficult enough with fresh rubber. Swapping tires will help maintain traction and prevent flats.

RELATED – Road Tested: Winter Cycling Gloves

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Beam Me Up: A Look At The Dimond Tri Bike Tue, 23 Dec 2014 13:04:15 +0000

Photo: John David Becker

Dimond has revived an old bike design that can significantly reduce drag.

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Dimond has revived an old bike design that can significantly reduce drag.

A quick history lesson: For more than a decade, Softride successfully made beam bikes that were raced by top pros—including one-time Kona bike record holder Jürgen Zack—and sold in many tri shops across the country. Then they went out of business, and the beam bike basically disappeared.

The idea of the beam bike was to eliminate the seat tube and chainstays to provide an opportunity to reduce aero drag and road vibration, but versions in the early 2000s were flawed and couldn’t compete with the first wave of truly exceptional carbon tri bikes. Much like neon colors, beam bikes are back after a decade away. Composites expert David Morse left Zipp’s advanced design engineering group to team up with Ironman pro T.J. Tollakson to create a modernized beam bike that is functionally equivalent to the top current tri bikes, yet faster. Their creation—called the Dimond—is not only fast but also extremely practical.

RELATED – T.J. Tollakson: The Idea Man

Designing the Dimond

As a tiny startup, Dimond didn’t have the funds to test a set of designs and pick the fastest one. Morse used his extensive aero experience to dream up the most efficient frame he could, then took it to the wind tunnel to see how he had done. This isn’t the ideal way to build a bike. With a bigger budget, Morse and Tollakson could have created an even faster design with the help of CFD and a wind tunnel. Eliminating the rear portion of the bike increases their margin for error, however. Through their own tests (with a legitimate and fair protocol), Dimond’s creators assert its frame tested faster than the two elite tri bikes Morse put through the same test at the Faster Wind Tunnel in Arizona.

Ride Feel
First and most importantly: This bike doesn’t bob. Some older beam bikes with a metal appendage have an annoying habit of bouncing up and down in sync with the pedal stroke. Riding the Dimond is solid and stable, in stark contrast to those bikes. It feels like riding a normal frame, but a little bit smoother. It still responds to steering input from the hips and moves as predictably as a typical tri bike. Ride feel is one of the Dimond’s biggest triumphs.

There isn’t a single bottle mount on this frame. All accessories must be carried by aftermarket systems. While this method keeps the bike streamlined, it limits the options for a rider. Bringing more than one bottle requires a rear carrier.

Mechanical Ease
Despite looking as eccentric as any integrated super-bike, the Dimond is deceivingly simple mechanically. Cable routing isn’t overly complicated; saddle adjustments are a cinch; moving the aerobar is easy and even removing the beam for travel requires tinkering with just one bolt. Keeping this bike in top working order is surprisingly easy.

Riding in the aerobars feels secure and stable. The bike wants to hold a straight line and never feels wobbly or loose, even when reaching into a jersey pocket. It evenly tracks a swooping line through technical descents but isn’t quite as quick as some bikes when quickly changing course.

RELATED – 2014 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Bikes

Dimond Bike


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Guidelines for Breaking In New Gear Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:30:47 +0000

Race day is never the time to test out a new piece of gear. Here are some suggestions to follow.

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“Don’t try anything new on race day” is a piece of advice just about every triathlete has heard. But this suggestion really isn’t very helpful on its own because the amount of time needed to adapt depends on what change you’re making — for example, adapting to a new helmet takes less time than getting comfortable with a fit change. Follow these guidelines to calculate the proper time period to maximize your comfort on race day.


Both brakes and derailleurs must be readjusted when wheels are swapped, and braking performance can change, especially when swapping to carbon rims.

Break-In Time
Minimum: One ride. Make sure the bike is tuned to the new wheels.
Ideal: One week. Get accustomed to different braking and ride feel.

RELATED: Buying Aero Wheels On A Budget

Bike Fit

Cycling ability isn’t universal — fitness is tied in part to a position. Change an aspect of fit, and muscles have to retrain to function while stretched to a different length.

Break-In Time
Minimum: For small tweaks, two weeks is enough time to adapt.
Ideal: Changes like dropping the bars or major adjustments require four weeks before becoming totally comfortable.

Running Shoes

A new shoe can be a little stiffer, and different models impact gait.

Break-In Time
Minimum: When swapping to a fresh pair of shoes you’ve been using, five runs is enough to break the new set in and discover if there are any blister-inducing seams.
Ideal: Changing shoe model takes a big adjustment. Heel height differential, for example, can dramatically alter stride, so give yourself five weeks to adapt to an entirely new race shoe.

RELATED: Shoe-Fitting Advice From The Experts

Aero Helmet

Vision, heat dissipation, fit and transition are impacted.

Break-In Time
Minimum: One brief trip around the block is enough to see if a helmet is a problem.
Ideal: Studies have shown that five days of heat training is enough to acclimate, so shoot for five rides in the helmet if temperature is a concern.


Fit, friction and flexibility are all hard to assess from dry land.

Break-In Time
Minimum: A single swim will alert you to any severe problems, which are often less harmful to a race than swimming without a wetsuit.
Ideal: Building strength to overcome a wetsuit’s restriction takes weeks. One swim a week for three weeks is enough to start developing resiliency.

RELATED: 14 Triathlon Wetsuits Revealed

Follow Triathlete on Twitter @Triathletemag for inspiration, new workout ideas, gear reviews from our editors and more.

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Specialized S-Works Evade Helmet Review Wed, 22 Oct 2014 17:23:30 +0000

The Specialized S-Works Evade. Photo: John David Becker

This semi-aero helmet strikes a perfect balance between speed and comfort.

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This semi-aero helmet strikes a perfect balance between speed and comfort.

Specialized S-Works Evade


Finding balance is one of the biggest challenges of triathlon—among three sports, between training and other life commitments and even between speed and comfort—and usually leads to some kind of compromise. But you don’t have to choose between fast and comfortably functional with the Specialized Evade helmet. It fits just as well as a road helmet, blows cooling air over the rider and still cuts aero drag. Wind tunnel testing on this semi-aero helmet (conducted by Specialized and others) demonstrated that many riders are nearly as fast in this helmet as in a full-blown aero option. The biggest difference is in comfort. In hot conditions, the Evade provides a significant perceived cooling effect compared to many dedicated aero helmets.

RELATED – 2014 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Aero Helmets

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Kienle, Carfrae Comebacks Were Biggest In Kona History Mon, 13 Oct 2014 00:54:41 +0000

Both Sebastian Kienle and Mirinda Carfrae overcame significant deficits to claim the Ironman World Championship titles.

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Both Sebastian Kienle and Mirinda Carfrae overcame significant deficits to claim the Ironman World Championship titles.

Carfrae’s Comeback Off of the Bike

Recently crowned Ironman 70.3 world champion Daniela Ryf (SUI) made Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) question her ability to win another Ironman World Championship. The Kona rookie stomped the bike course and started the marathon 14:30 ahead of the defending champion. Even for the run course record holder, this seemed like an insurmountable deficit. As you already know, Carfrae caught and passed Ryf to earn her third Ironman world title with the fastest run in the race’s history (2:50:26). But just how improbable was Carfrae’s comeback? To answer that question, we compiled the biggest comebacks after the bike in the Ironman World Championship since 1986 when Dave Scott brought the race into the modern era by breaking 8:30. History shows that Carfrae’s charge to the front was as rare as it seemed.

Year Eventual winner Time Back
2014 Mirinda Carfrae 14:30
2013 Mirinda Carfrae 7:30
2012 Leanda Cave 4:30
2011 Chrissie Wellington 10:30
2010 Mirinda Carfrae 11:30
2009 Chrissie Wellington LOB
2008 Chrissie Wellington LOB
2007 Chrissie Wellington LOB
2006 Michellie Jones LOB
2005 Natascha Badmann 6:00
2004 Natascha Badmann LOB
2003 Lori Bowden 7:00
2002 Natascha Badmann LOB
2001 Natascha Badmann LOB
2000 Natascha Badmann LOB
1999 Lori Bowden 2:00
1998 Natascha Badmann LOB
1997 Heather Fuhr 8:30
1996 Paula Newby-Fraser 3:00
1995 Karen Smyers 11:00
1994 Paula Newby-Fraser LOB
1993 Paula Newby-Fraser 3:00
1992 Paula Newby-Fraser LOB
1991 Paula Newby-Fraser LOB
1990 Erin Baker LOB
1989 Paula Newby-Fraser LOB
1988 Paula Newby-Fraser LOB
1987 Erin Baker 4:00
1986 Paula Newby-Fraser 5:30
LOB=Led off the bike
All times approximate


Carfrae’s comeback was by far the biggest in the history of the race. The marathon course record holder closed on Ryf at an average of 40 seconds per mile until making the pass at mile 22. Prior to this year, Carfrae’s first Ironman world title in 2010 was the biggest post-bike deficit that had ever been overcome, regaining 11:30 on her close friend Julie Dibens. Watching Carfrae run into the lead was familiar, but the magnitude of her run dominance was greater this year than any other athlete in the modern history of the Ironman World Championships.

RELATED – Mirinda Carfrae: Something Told Me To Be Patient

Kienle’s Comeback After the Swim

Losing ground in the swim in the men’s race means so much more than the time difference at the start of the ride. Athletes who come out of the water behind the large front pack are forced to face the Queen K alone while a slew of other great athletes are able to benefit from riding (at a legal distance) in the front group. Winning Ironman Hawaii is difficult enough with an even playing field, and a poor swim makes the task that much more physically and mentally challenging. To win after a poor swim, that person needs to perform so dominantly on the bike and run that the rest of the planet’s top Ironman pros can’t overcome him even with a big advantage. Since 2004, every men’s champion made the front pack; this year Kienle won after surrendering 3:45 to the lead pack. This chart shows the deficits following the swim faced by the eventual champions.

Year Eventual winner Time Back
2014 Sebastian Kienle 3:45
2013 Frederik Van Lierde LOS
2012 Pete Jacobs LOS
2011 Craig Alexander 0:20
2010 Chris McCormack 0:20
2009 Craig Alexander 0:07
2008 Craig Alexander LOS
2007 Chris McCormack 0:10
2006 Normann Stadler 0:17
2005 Faris Al Sultan LOS
2004 Normann Stadler 3:45
2003 Peter Reid LOS
2002 Tim DeBoom LOS
2001 Tim DeBoom LOS
2000 Peter Reid 1:15
1999 Luc Van Lierde 1:45
1998 Peter Reid 3:15
1997 Thomas Hellreigel 1:00
1996 Luc Van Lierde 0:15
1995 Mark Allen LOS
1994 Greg Welch LOS
1993 Mark Allen 1:50
1992 Mark Allen 3:10
1991 Mark Allen 2:10
1990 Mark Allen LOS
1989 Mark Allen 3:00
1988 Scott Molina 0:10
1987 Dave Scott LOS
1986 Dave Scott LOS
LOS= Led out of the swim
All times approximate

Less than four minutes might not seem like a make-or-break margin in an eight-hour race, but it is. No one has ever won the Ironman World Championship after losing more time in the swim than Kienle did this year. Normann Stadler equaled the feat in 2004 on a famously windy day that shattered many of the best runners in the field. To truly appreciate what he accomplished, consider that six of the other seven top finishers had the benefit of starting the ride in the lead pack. Like Carfrae’s run to the world title, Kienle’s victory was a historically great comeback.

RELATED – Sebastian Kienle: I’m Happy I Had Enough In The Tank

More from Kona.

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8 Race Factors That Made Ironman Hawaii 2014 Sun, 12 Oct 2014 06:33:24 +0000

Carfrae broke her own marathon course record. Photo: John David Becker

A look at eight stories that played a big role in the outcome of the race.

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Germany’s Sebastian Kienle and Australia’s Mirinda Carfrae will deservingly grab most of the post-race attention after the 2014 Ironman World Championship, but we noticed a few other big stories that played a big role in the outcome of the race.

Ben Hoffman’s run breakthrough
Ben Hoffman has always been a solid runner, but never spectacular. That all changed this year at Ironman Coeur D’Alene in June. The American’s breakthrough came in the form of a 2:43:59, eight minutes faster than Andy Potts ran on the same day. So when Hoffman came off the bike in the first chase group, the range of possible outcomes was incredibly broad. His best finish in Kona prior to this year was 15th in 2013. Would he be able to replicate the foot-speed he showed in Coeur D’Alene or would this year be a repeat of his past in Hawaii? A 2:51 marathon split proved that Hoffman’s improved run could translate to the more challenging conditions of the Big Island.

Surprising poor swims
James Cunnama, Tyler Butterfield and Luke McKenzie all made the front group in the swim at 2013’s Ironman Hawaii. This year, all three missed the lead group badly. So badly, in fact, that Sebastian Kienle was nearby when the trio started to ride. Kienle typically loses time in the swim, several minutes, and then jams on the gas out of the swim to catch the front group as quickly as possible. Not only does he lose time, but he is forced to spend a ton of energy chasing while the other top contenders get a mental boost from riding with a big group and a physical savings from drafting at a legal distance from other athletes. The wattage savings is subtle, but still significant.

The presence of three other top contenders not only allowed Kienle to get a minimal break, it forced him to pace more carefully in the first few miles. Cunnama, Butterfield and McKenzie underperforming in the swim saved Kienle from his own exuberance. The payoff came in the final stages of the race, when the German was able to press away alone while a series of small groups struggled behind to minimize the damage.

Potts’ patience
Andy Potts is the best swimmer in Ironman and has been so for several years. In 2012 he swam solo 55 seconds faster than the first group. This year, the former All-American swimmer didn’t motor away from the pack. He sat with the other fastest swimmers, including Jan Frodeno, for the 4K trip through Kailua Bay and ran into transition just steps ahead of a sizeable group. Patience paid off, as Potts was able to start the ride with the other riders instead of gassing full speed out of T1 to face the winds by himself. Like Sebastian Kienle, the American veteran saved calories and mental energy in the first hour or two of the ride because of a more advantageous swim. He was rewarded with a career-best fourth-place finish, thanks to a 2:48 marathon split. After years of emphasizing his strength, having the confidence to try another strategy yielded the result he’s searched for.

Ryf’s unseasoned legs
Daniela Ryf is new to Ironman. At the start of this summer, she had never competed over 140.6. When she started the World Championship as one of the favorites, the ITU veteran and 70.3 world champ had completed just two iron-distance races. She announced her presence to the field by riding away and establishing a solo advantage on the bike. By the time she re-entered transition to start the run, heavy favorite Mirinda Carfrae was 14 minutes down. The gap seemed insurmountable, to many spectators and Carfrae herself.

Fifteen miles into the run, Carfrae had chipped away at Ryf’s gigantic advantage. The Aussie was gaining about 40 seconds per mile, and at the rate, the pair was forecasted to arrive at the finish line at nearly the same time. It was going to be a close finish. Then the massive experience gap between the two began to show. Ryf’s coach Brett Sutton tweeted, “@ryf now in completely foreign territory as she doesn’t have the seasoning for 42km.”

After weeks of bombastic proclamations, the inevitability of Carfrae’s metronomic run had the accomplished coach hedging against his bold pre-race forecasts. Sutton knows his pupil well. Shortly after he posted this tweet, Ryf started to fade and Carfrae just kept on moving.

Ryf proved that she has the potential to unseat Carfrae, she just wasn’t ready to finish the job this year.

Carfrae’s run
In 2010, she ran 2:53:32; the following year she split 2:52:09 to break the run record; 2012 was a subpar 3:05:04 marathon; in 2013 she bettered her own course record with a 2:50:38; this year Carfrae outdid herself and set a new course record of 2:50:26. When she came off the bike 14 minutes behind Ryf, Carfrae reset her own expectations to hope for a top five, she said after crossing the line as champion. After moving through the group she upped her expectations to a top three. By the time she reached mile 21 just 2 minutes behind Ryf, the conclusion felt almost inevitable. Carfrae’s run is just too good.

Jan Frodeno’s tires
Jan Frodeno can’t catch a break. Through his brief Ironman career, he’s averaging a puncture every 56 miles. The 2008 Olympic champ suffered three flats in his Ironman debut earlier this summer and once again at the Ironman World Championship. About 30 miles into the ride, his tire blew and the German was forced to stand by the side of the road while Starykowicz powered the first group away from him. Frodeno had been an aggressor in the lead group, taking a few pulls at the front and stressing the rest of the field. As a cyclist, he was strong. His run credentials have never been in question. Frodeno was well on his way to backing up his emphatic self-confidence before the puncture derailed him. Shortly after flatting, a penalty took him back even further.

Referees played a big role in both the men’s and women’s races. Shortly after Frodeno got back on the road after his flat tire, he charged up to one of the trail groups and found himself in within the draft zone. Penalty, four minutes on the side of the road. The time lost from the consecutive delays dropped Frodeno far away from the fastest cyclists. At the 80-mile mark, he was well behind and looked broken. He rebounded admirably and only stalled out at the 23-mile mark, failing to erase Ben Hoffman’s 25-second advantage before the finish. We still don’t know just how fast an Ironman Frodeno is right now.

Jodie Swallow can’t run as fast as Mirinda Carfrae. For her to win this race, she has to do it on the bike. The Brit was dinged for not passing within the allotted time and forfeited four minutes. She started the run with lowered expectations and shouted to her coach Siri Lindley in the first steps of the run, “I didn’t [expletive] deserve that, I wasn’t drafting!” Whether she was guilty or not, Swallow’s day came up short after failing to drop the field during the ride.

Andi Raelert’s partial resurgence
Andreas Raelert came within 1K of winning a world title in 2010. He was third in 2011, second again in 2012 and DNF’ed in 2013. In both 2012 and 2013, he swam poorly and made it even harder on himself. At the age of 38, Raelert’s window to contend for the world title seemed to have closed. Then this year he came out of the water at the tail end of the front group. Raelert had solved his weakness. One hundred twelve miles later Raelert was still in contention with his strongest discipline still to come. Ten miles after that, Raelert had posted the fastest split through the early stages on the marathon. He was back in the mix, putting pressure on the top places. Unfortunately for the Ironman veteran, his charge through the field stalled out and he dropped out of the race.

RELATED PHOTOS: 2014 Ironman World Championship

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Measuring The Winds Of Hawaii Sat, 11 Oct 2014 01:02:10 +0000 Triathlete quantified the fabled wind conditions of the Ironman Hawaii bike course before last year’s Ironman World Championship.  

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Triathlete quantified the fabled wind conditions of the Ironman Hawaii bike course before last year’s Ironman World Championship.


Aerodynamic cycling gear is designed to perform best in average conditions—the wind a cyclist is most likely to face. Every engineer in the business and many techie triathletes know this to be true, but Ironman Hawaii is far from average.

The Ironman World Championship course lives up to its reputation for heat and wind. Gusts rip across the road, swirling from every direction at some point during the 112-mile trek. At the start, the wind is usually working with the athletes. Then it typically switches to one side for a stretch of road before coming from the opposite direction during the biggest climb and descent on the course. The same wind that helped during the first hour or so smacks the riders head-on during the last stretch. Some days are calm, but others are so turbulent that even the strongest riders are nearly pushed off the road.

Applying national weather averages or meteorological stats taken in Kona produces misleading results because the wind direction and speed is so dependent on location on the course and the day’s conditions. Because of the extreme wind conditions, gear choice for Ironman Hawaii is a unique puzzle, and measuring wind everywhere on the course is the best way to determine what is effective for this specific race.

Mavic research engineer Brieuc Cretoux developed a tool to record the wind angles experienced by a cyclist. This device positions a carbon sail that moves with the passing wind about a foot in front of the rider. As the rider pedals, the system records the position of the sail every time the bike wheel makes a complete revolution. We sent a cyclist out on the Kona bike course in 2013 with this system attached to the front of his tri bike to measure the wind conditions at the Ironman World Championship three days before the race.

The device has a few shortcomings that may influence the data. First, it cannot measure wind angles wider than 30 degrees. Second, the sail that measures wind can be physically jostled by bumps in the road. Third, wind speed is not taken into account, only angle. A tailwind can create wide wind yaw angles, but has a much smaller impact on performance than a headwind that creates the same effective wind angle. Fourth, Specialized aerodynamicist Chris Yu speculated on Twitter that the rider’s body may redirect air crossing the wind vane, influencing the angle of the wind passing over the vane without reflecting the conditions impacting the rider.

Lars Finanger, a former pro triathlete and current Category 1 cyclist, volunteered to ride the Ironman Hawaii bike course with the wind vane. Cretoux equipped his bike the night before the test. Finanger started rolling from the Kona Pier close to 7:30 a.m., one hour after the start time of the professional men’s race and 30 minutes after the age group start, so he would ride the course at the same time of day that the race takes place. He covered the entire route, with five stops along the way. The first few miles twist through town, so without a closed course, he was forced to stop at a few red lights.

Conditions vary dramatically from day to day. Normann Stadler rode to two world titles during the previous decade, one on a calm day and another by punching through the stiffest winds in years. On the day with tranquil wind in 2006, Stadler set the bike course record with a 4:18:23 split. Two years earlier, he also earned the decisive lead during the ride, but split 4:37:58. The race played out the same way in both years, but the difference in conditions was so significant that even the strongest rider in the field was slowed by nearly 20 minutes. The day Finanger rode the course with the wind vane was violently windy, more similar to 2004 than 2006. Former Kona podium finisher Dirk Bockel was out training that morning and tweeted, “That was brutal out there today—wow” in response to Finanger’s description of the conditions during the test. The data supports Bockel’s perceptions: Hawaii’s winds were extreme. Cretoux said he has never recorded conditions even remotely similar.

During another test in a different location with slower than average winds, Cretoux found the rider faced primarily shallow wind angles. This ride, conducted around Mavic’s headquarters in Annecy, France at an average speed of 21 mph, showed that 75 percent of the wind experienced by the rider was within 4 degrees to either side of head-on. And 97 percent of the distance covered offered winds within 10 degrees to either side (20 degrees total). Kona couldn’t be more different. In Hawaii, the rider faced shallow wind within plus-or-minus four degrees for just 31 percent of the distance covered; expand that range to 10 degrees to either side and still only 66 percent of the ride is accounted for. The rider in Kona was fighting through crosswinds ranging from substantial to extreme for the other 34 percent.

RELATED VIDEO: Kona’s Mumuku Winds

The results are depicted in an image in the gallery.

Kona’s infamous crosswinds were on full display during the test, and the result was wind conditions (yaw angles) that are dramatically wider than average. The test conducted in Annecy with still winds doesn’t represent an average ride because many days are likely windier than that one, however. Cycling engineers typically select between 5 and 15 degrees of yaw as the most important range of wind angles, depending on the weather figures and rider speed each company decides to use when designing a product. Aiming for the average is effective if an athlete is going to use one item—wheel, bar, frame, helmet or any other component—for every ride, but this test shows that Kona requires an entirely different strategy.

The effective wind conditions also swung wildly within this one ride, and not every portion of the course is equally important, especially for the professionals. A poor swimmer who needs to chase up to the leaders early in the ride may be especially interested in the conditions during the first portion of the ride, while a breakaway specialist will be most affected by wind later in the ride. Wind angle during the 12K loop around town was very shallow.

Wind started to kick up during the next stretch of the road between town and Kona International Airport. Wind here was strong and sideways, but fairly consistent. Most of the crosswind came from the rider’s left. This type of wind greatly impacts aerodynamic performance without ripping control away from the rider since he can lean steadily against the oncoming breeze.

After crossing the airport and heading toward Kawaihae, wind became less predictable. Wind in the 4- to 10-degree range hit the rider for roughly the same amount of distance, but instead of coming from one side, it swirled from both. While the difference in direction doesn’t impact much in terms of wind tunnel performance, it makes a huge difference for a cyclist on a bike. The 180-plus-pound experienced test rider had to fight to keep the bike on the road and subjectively found this portion of the ride to be very challenging. He came out of the aerobars on a few occasions to brace against the gusting wind. The cost of these swirling conditions is difficult to quantify but has a real impact on actual performance. Gear that helps keep the bike under control can lead to more time spent in the aerobars on this section of the course.

Strong winds coming off the land pushed the yaw angle much wider between Kawaihae and Hawi compared to previous sections. Finanger had to fight to keep the bike upright, but the relative consistency of the wind angle, centered between 10 and 20 degrees, made the task a little easier.

Despite riding faster over the downhill portion of road from the Hawi turnaround to Kawaihae, which reduces effective wind angle, the test rider experienced the widest crosswinds of the entire ride during this section as well as some wind from the opposite side. The wind vane was jarred back and forth while descending from Hawi, and Cretoux speculated that the data could be skewed by disruption of the vane from sources other than the wind. The widest crosswind the vane can measure is 30 degrees of yaw, and it repeatedly topped out during this span. If the device could measure broader angles, this chart likely would have stretched even wider.

Over the final 35 miles from Kawaihae to the finish, the test rider started to crack, and his pace dropped substantially. Early in the ride the wind during this section of the course came off the land but eventually switched, and during the final miles he faced a crosswind from the right (off the ocean) that was working against him.

Conditions during the test were extreme, even for Hawaii. The yaw angles experienced by the rider wouldn’t be as wide if the test were conducted on a more typical day—these data represent yaw angle for a fast rider facing fearsome conditions.

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8 Impactful Kona Pro Bike Modifications Fri, 10 Oct 2014 16:44:53 +0000

A look at some of the unique changes the top pros have made to their bikes ahead of Saturday's Ironman World Championship.

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Photos: John David Becker

A look at some of the unique changes the top pros have made to their bikes ahead of Saturday’s Ironman World Championship.

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Kona Pro Bike: Mirinda Carfrae’s Felt IA Fri, 10 Oct 2014 16:31:53 +0000

Carfrae's run gets all the credit, but it was her better-than-typical ride in 2013 that set her up to break the course record.

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Photos: John David Becker

RELATED – Mirinda Carfrae: I Can Get Better On Swim, Bike And Run

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Jan Frodeno: I’m Looking To Pace Myself A Bit Better Fri, 10 Oct 2014 01:11:45 +0000

2008 Olympic gold medalist Jan Frodeno will take on the Ironman World Championship for the first time this Saturday.

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2008 Olympic gold medalist Jan Frodeno will take on the Ironman World Championship for the first time this Saturday. We sat down with him at the Asics house to discuss what he learned from his first Ironman and shares the major differences between racing short course and Ironman.

RELATED – ProFile: Jan Frodeno

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Kona Pro Bike: Frederik Van Lierde’s Cervélo P5 Thu, 09 Oct 2014 16:41:48 +0000

Van Lierde will go after his second-straight Ironman World Championship win on this unique Cervélo P5.

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Frederik Van Lierde wasn’t the best swimmer, cyclist or runner in Ironman Hawaii in 2013. He was the fastest triathlete, however, in part because he was able to stay close to the front all the way to T2 without emptying his reserves of strength. “He was the strongest [in our group late in the bike],” said Tyler Butterfield, who rode close to Van Lierde in the later miles of the ride. “You could tell he’s waiting for us. He literally would be pulling turns and look over and see that he dropped us and ease back a bit…then he took off and won the race.”

Saving energy during the ride was just as important to his strategy as saving seconds. The Belgian’s superior combination of patience and fitness is the key to making his bike split so effective, and his attention to technical detail helps save even a few extra calories that come in handy late in the race.

Van Lierde’s chain looks like a standard Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 11-speed chain. The links and pins are the same as any chain in any bike shop, but Van Lierde’s has a special lab-validated coating with a shockingly large guarantee of energy savings. Jason Smith of Boulder, Colo., founded an independent lab called Friction Facts that conducts independent test on the resistance created by moving parts on a bike, such as the chain and bearings. He found that treating a chain in paraffin wax saves watts over even the best traditional lube. Smith started buying chains, treating them and selling them as UltraFast chains. He guarantees a massive 5-watt savings.

Shimano Dura-Ace rear derailleurs pulleys come with steel bearing. CeramicSpeed has taken off as the replacement pulley of choice for many pro triathletes, including Van Lierde. The names of his sons, Aaron and Simon, are etched into the wheels.

Van Lierde rode Osymetric chainrings last year and is back again with elliptical rings. Now he is racing Rotor’s QXL Q-Rings. His big chainring is 54 teeth. Many of the top men hit speeds fast enough to spin-out a 53-tooth ring so he uses an oversized one to stay in contact with his pedals during this crucial part of the ride.

For storage, Van Lierde has two round bottle cages on his bike and nothing else. An XLab Chimp cage is mounted to his downtube and a Gorilla cage is between his forearms. Eliminating extraneous systems, bottles and cages keep his rig as sleek as possible. Many athletes have gone away from a frame bottle in favor of a rear-mounted cage behind the saddle.

Tires have overtaken rims as the most talked-about element of race wheels for some of the sport’s leading wheel designers. Mavic’s answer to tire design is extreme integration. The French company created a tire explicitly to achieve a shape that perfectly matches the rim of its CXR 80. Aerodynamically, this wheel has performed exceedingly well.

One thing Van Lierde didn’t modify in the slightest is the fit of his P5. With the 3T Aduro bars in the lowest orientation, his fit matches this frame perfectly. There isn’t a single spacer on his bike.

RELATED – Frederik Van Lierde: You Have To Be Strong To The End

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Bevan Docherty Changes Up Nutrition Ahead Of Kona Thu, 09 Oct 2014 00:35:01 +0000

Bevan Docherty explains how he's completely overhauled his nutrition ahead of Saturday's Ironman World Championship.

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New Zealand’s Bevan Docherty, a two-time Olympic medalist, explains how he’s completely overhauled his nutrition ahead of Saturday’s Ironman World Championship.

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Frederik Van Lierde: You Have To Be Strong To The End Wed, 08 Oct 2014 21:01:54 +0000

Frederik Van Lierde chats about his race strategy and what it's like to come in to the Ironman World Championship as the defending champion.

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Reigning Kona winner Frederik Van Lierde chats about his race strategy and what it’s like to come in to the Ironman World Championship as the defending champion.

RELATED – 2013 Kona Podium Performances: Frederik Van Lierde (1st)

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