Monday, September 28, 2009

DZ Nuts Chamois Cream Preview

Chamois Creams aren't created equal, even though it seems that providing undercarriage lubricant for male cyclists (do women use these products? Speak up, ladies) would be pretty easy engineering. Who hasn't, no cream left in the tub, reached for that pot of aging Vaseline in the medicine chest, the one sitting right next to rusting nail clippers and toenail scissors?

I'm still quite surprised by the number of cyclists and triathletes who don't use chamois cream. My excellent fiance, Amy, burns through several tubes of lip balm/chapstick a season, and I usually say something to the effect of "I hear that that stuff just makes your lips dry out faster afterward." She shrugs and says "So I'm addicted—my lips are moist, though." Chamois cream is the same way. Apply once and you're hooked forever.

In honor of the Blogs with Balls shout-out last week, I'm dedicating this whole week to that phrase's second noun. We're starting, of course, with DZ Nuts, a wag's title if I've ever heard one. I'm gonna give you a preview today based mostly on scent, and then take the embrocation through its paces. Each cream is going to get a short ride, a hard ride, and long ride, so you'll unfortunately be hearing about this stuff for some time. I'll give you all the details for Dave Zabriske's product, and then give you summaries for the other contenders (Assos, of course, and then other less PRO applications such as Chamois Budd'r and its ilk).

DZ Nuts comes in a stylish black tube apropos of a high end hair salon. It describes itself as a "High Viscosity" chamois cream. I wonder if this title is a misnomer. Could you have a "Low Viscosity" cream? Maybe heavy cream is low viscosity, since it still flows, but I think we all assume these products to be of a consistency that will allow them to spread but

On the nose you definitely get a lot of tea tree oil, which I like, and perhaps some menthol. It's a pleasing scent, one you probably wouldn't mind spreading through your hair until remembering that it's meant for a whole other region. I've got high hopes for this one, especially since it came recommended.

Tomorrow: the short ride!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Well, now, THIS is weird

When Fantasy Cyclocross kicked off last fall, I blogged about it (can someone remove "blogged" from the dictionary as a viable verb?) in that kind of ironic but earnest manner. Sure, Fantasy Cyclocross is worthy of irony...but it's just the kind of thing you might sink your proverbial embrocated nuts into (I sure did—came in 37th out of thousands last year, and my team is looking better—and more Belgium—than ever). I have discovered, however, Fantasy Triathlon, and, wouldn't you know it, as a card-carrying professional triathlete, I am eligible for YOUR TEAM. Just head on over to Fantasy Tri and pick out your team. No worries about the particular rules, just make sure that I am on your squad. For real, I'll get you "underrated value" (or whatever it was they were talking about on 95.5. THE GAME today while going through fantasy picks for the weekend—who are some of these guys?) when I post a top twenty at Clearwater this year. Oh yeah, you heard it here first.

Top Twenty? Top Fifteen.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Bigtime

There's a Tom Waits tune off of Mule Variations Called "Big in Japan," and it's more or less an ironic rant about bands, artists, and people who can't really make it in the mainstream, but are big elsewhere. Big in Japan has long been the cry of those who feel that they're undervalued at home. Of course, this is Waits we're talking about, so any kind of attempt at labeling him as ironic or earnest or post-modern slips off him the way light slips off a convex mirror. Where is all this maundering going? I've hit a patch of good luck, recently, publishing-wise, getting notified by four separate magazines that I'll be in their publications come 20101 (Surfer's Journal, Wend, Mountain Flyer, and another story in Cyclocross Magazine. This blog, too, has gotten some notice, on Blogs With Balls, a venture that seems attached to ESPN. Check out the publicity here. In honor of that website, in a Waits-ian turn, I'll be doing a review special of chamois creams over the weekend. I know every PRO loves Assos, but there are a host of other products out there, such as the even more suggestively named DZ Nuts, courtesy of, of course, David Zabriske. I'll go and pick up an armload of the different types and post a review over the next few days, to justify my "Blog of the Week" status at BwB.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Guest Blogger: Introducing Ben Russell

I don't know why I never thought of asking others to send me submissions...perhaps it was my sense that no one was actually reading. Well, that may still be the case, but a former student read an earlier post and sent me a note on FB. His response was so well written, and so better captured the ideas I was trying to explain, that I felt I had to post his excellent reply. His musings remind us that, no matter how often we tell ourselves that we can see new stories, all the stories in the world have been told again and again, were old even by the time of Homer.


I don't follow tennis actively but I do like to read about genius. Regardless, I had a thought while reading your piece that I wanted to run past you. I couldn't help but compare these players to Homeric heroes. It's not just their physical prowess or the "warfare" on the tennis court but also the nature of these players. Federer is obviously Achilleus. His skill, manner and confidence on the court completely mirrors the swift footed half-god in battle. You even describe his shot as sublime. This is a just word.

But what really stamped this idea in verification was your depiction of Djokovic in the wake of the godlike shot. "I'm not going to win this match—even if I am at my best, and I am, there is no way for me to defeat or even come close to this man. " For your interest (whether it be large or small), look at this passage from the Iliad where Hector is fighting Achilleus in front of the walls of Troy. "And Hector knew the truth inside his heart, and spoke outloud: 'No use. Here at last the gods have summoned me deathward... So it must long since have been pleasing to Zeus, and Zeus' son who strikes from afar (Apollo) this way; though before this they defended me gladly. But now my death is upon me.'" Though Hector credits his strength to the gods and Djokovic credits his skill to himself, the feeling of helplessness in the face of divinity is mutual.

Federer's jump of unabashed celebration of his shot also harkens back to the vaunting that Achilleus does over bodies that he has slain. "But what I can do with hands and feet and strength I tell you I will do, and I shall not hang back even a little... I think that no man of the Trojans will be glad when he comes within my spear's range"


Monday, September 21, 2009

Week In Review—9/13-9/20

Quality, not's a theme pounded into us by our coaches, teachers, and parents. When I used to run, though, I really did believe that some of the quality of long-distance training came from its quantity. It's easy to fall back into quantity as just a number to hit, but we have to remember that there's a reason (beyond our physiology!) we like long-distance racing: we like long-distance training. That said, my week in review comment is that I spent fewer hours training this week than I would like to, but the workouts were all high quality. I've updated my training profile link on the right, so you can see what I'm up to. The long and short, however, is below:

Tuesday: 3.5k swim with group; strength workout, lots of pulling. 45 minute recovery run.
Wednesday: 4k swim with TriDamian; MS 15x100 at 1500M pace (1:05-1:10) leaving on 1:40. 2 hour ride with 5x12' @ 40K pace (330-360W).
Thursday: 1.5 hour recovery ride. 1.5 hour run w/9x800M on 5:30 pace.
Friday: 4.1k swim with TriDamian; 6x200 on 2:40 into 6x100 on 1:30 hold 1500M pace.
Saturday: repeat Wednesday's ride; 45 minute recovery swim.
Sunday: 1.5 hour run with 4x8' @10k pace. Did this workout at altitude. It was hard.

My total time was only 13 hours this week, but plenty of fast, hard stuff. This week goes up to a more normal 20 hour number.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pure Sweet Sweet

Short post today. The week is going well: back to full time training (1 quality ride, 1 quality run, and 2 quality swims so far among the standard endurance swims, bikes, and runs), but a couple of days ago brought two pieces of sweet news: Athlete's Lounge will be sponsoring me during the Cyclocross season and Cyclocross Magazine asked me to write a profile of Brian Vernor, 'Cross filmmaker extraordinaire (of Pure Sweet Hell fame). Vernor has a new film that he will debut at Cyclocross Nationals, and yours truly gets to chat with him about it, filmmaking, and 'Cross in general (is there such a thing?) in the upcoming weeks and months. Oh, and I'm on my way to see Amy!

Here's the trailer for Pure Sweet Hell. You've probably all seen it before, but why not watch again?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Back at it

This week marks my first real return to training, and I'm tired! Returning to a full-time job and full-time training is difficult (I'm coaching 6th and 7th grade soccer, too!), and I find my energy lagging by, well, right around now. On the other hand, Cyclocross season is just around the corner (I've started uploading OBRA's 'Cross results to one of my favorite websites: Crossresults. A Wednesday night series has popped up here in PDXLand, reminding me of my first year tearing around the backyard of the West Hill Shop in Putney, VT. When I moved to Portland the lack of a dedicated community 'Cross practice confused me, but the world seems to have rectified the issue for me.

What's left of the tri season? Austin 70.3 and Clearwater. Hard to believe that the season is already mostly over.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I just watched Roger Federer beat Novak Djokovic convincingly, even on a day when Djokovic was good—excellent, even. Each set went to seven games for the winner (7-6, 7-5, 7-5), which just goes to show how little separates the excellent from the sublime. Djokovic managed to win 16 games to Federer's 21. If you set aside tiebreakers and advantages, that's a difference of only 20 points, a tiny margin in tennis's bizarre scoring methodology (do you need any other evidence that the sport was invented—or at least popularized—by the French court during the Renaissance?). The shot that gave Federer match point against Djokovic was something we've come to expect from him, even as the physical reality still strikes us as amazing, impossible. To see Federer hit this between-the-legs revelation is to believe, for just a moment, in the awful perfection of great athletes. The shot is, literally, sublime. Its power lies in its almost ungraspable nature. To me, though, the real revelation is the slow-motion shot that shows Djokovic's reaction. He almost sheepishly wipes his mouth in slack-jawed appreciation and then turns for the baseline, the knowledge writ all over his face: I'm not going to win this match—even if I am at my best, and I am, there is no way for me to defeat or even come close to this man. The confidence and brilliance is what we've come to expect from Federer, and even though the game has lost some subtlety as players' serves have turned the style of play into a baselining affair, we know we can turn to him for the confidence we admire (and wish to emulate) in the greatest of athletes.

I thought Melanie Oudin displayed, if not the genius of Federer, at least the same tenacity and expectation of victory. Watching her third round defeat of Maria Sharpova (she knocked out, pretty much, most of the Russians in the tournament), I was struck by how much she seemed confident that she would win. Brash, even. She kept saying "Come on, come on!" whenever she made a mistake, as if defeating some of the best players in the world were simply a matter of stirring herself to her proper abilities. Her play isn't as beautiful or as awe-inducing as Federer's, but she's still young. I found myself riveted to her matches, mostly because I enjoyed watching an athlete for whom victory is the supposed nature of things.

Any endurance athlete battles with doubt, with demons that say it would be easy to stop, that someone is catching us. These two athletes remind us that things are easier up front, especially if you expect to be there. Leading gives you confidence, which makes you better. The chicken-egg question is developing that confidence. Some athletes are born with it, as Oudin seems to have been blessed, but others like Federer, who glide through matches as if on a cushion of grace, give us the sense that confidence can be mastered, like solving a puzzle a dark.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Iron Dreams, Tin Realities

Don't let the title of this post get you down or wrong—I did finish IM Canada, and I'm more than pleased with my 9:31 finish, but I've got that Unfinished Business kinda feeling when I think about the race in Penticton.

I'm getting ahead of myself, mostly because there's just too much to talk about. So here's a short blow-by-blow of the race, and then I'll post-the-mortem.

The Swim: I can't believe I'm about to write this, but I really enjoyed the swim. The water is comfortable (just under 70 degrees) and cleaner than anything in which I've ever swam. The race organizers do a great job of never having you swim directly into the sun. I swam next to the pack for a little while and then got brave and joined the second pack. Ironman swimming differs greatly from the HIM distance, where you've still got to go pretty hard. In this race I was able to find feet and even jump from group to group. I never felt buried or even as if I was working hard. I could have gone faster, though, than my 54:08. Don't get me wrong—I'm perfectly pleased with that time, and I'm happy to know that I could go even faster.

The Bike: I came out of the water in 23rd, 8 minutes back (Amy did some great split reporting for me). IM cycling is interesting—you've got to push enough to catch people, but you really can't bury yourself. Remember, there's a marathon lurking after all this. I did start moving through the pack, and had moved up several spots by the time I got to the other side of Richter Pass, the second climb on the course (the first climb is little more than a long hill—don't worry too much about it). I went into a little valley after the halfway point due to some long rollers and a headwind. Eventually a guy whose number belt read "Mathias" passed me and I wondered what I was doing. He and I rode together for the next two hours, almost, as we passed and re-passed each other, working hard to keep the requisite seven bike lengths between us. A small group began to form as we headed up the second climb, to Yellow Lake. At this point I started to feel tired, and decided to let the group go so I could spin my legs on the way into town. This is also where my brain started to get a bit fuzzy. I followed my nutrition plan on the bike perfectly: a gel every 25 minutes, a PowerBar at 2:30, and water with Nuun every five minutes. Five minutes may seem excessive, but I'm a big guy and it was a hot day. Still, as I rolled back into Penticton I was seeing things: I imagined a man without his shirt on, wearing blue and white camoflaged cargo shorts, standing next to TriDamian. It tured out to be CompuTrainer Kurt, but he certainly wasn't wearing those shorts—lesson: your brain does funny things during an Ironman.

The Run: Everybody told me, before the race "It's all about the run, Chris." Well, as I started to run, feeling invincible, I thought "It's all about the run, and I'm about to run down almost every one in this race!" I can't explain enough how good my legs felt. Good enough to only eat two gels in the first hour of the run. I can already hear your sharp intakes of breath. No, that wasn't enough food. After passing a bunch of people on my way south, away from Okanagan Lake, I hit the hils at mile eleven and things started to come apart a bit. I'd run 6:40s since the start of the run, and looked and felt great:

This is probably the last place where I look good. Soon, taken apart by bad nutritional decisions, hills, heat, and wind, I was walking the aid stations. I started giving up the places I'd taken. Mathias, my partner on the bike (I'd passed him two miles out of town on the run) passed me back at mile seventeen and went on to 14th place. Coming into town I pulled things back up to 8:00/miles, but the damage was done. After running 7:00s for the first half, I ran 9:00s for the second, and my marathon time was 3:30, well off my hoped for pace.

9:31 for a first IM is better than fine, of course, but what gets me is the standard "What could have been" thoughts. If I had kept running the way I felt (Was I really just 200 calories away from a much faster run? Is it really that little?) I would have charged into the top ten.

Still, put the Shoulda Woulda aside, right? Let's talk about the why.

Jordan Rapp won with a convincing victory, tearing away from the field and winning by more than 20 minutes. Jordan can be a prickly guy, a little hard to talk to sometime, but you have to respect him, and I believe that he is, at heart, a more than alright guy. Within hours of his win, he was offering advice and help to age groupers on Slowtwitch. I've always loved athletes who make themselves available to their fans, and Jordan deserves praise. He also deserves praise for his attention to detail. Anyone who knows Jordan knows that he is a details guy. He is obsessive about his preparation, and instead of slagging him, people should respect him for that. IM requires obsessiveness, I think I see now. There's so much that can go wrong, so much time for things to unravel. If you're not careful, more than careful, your times will suffer. As someone a lot smarter than me said, "Failing to plan is planning to fail." I had a great plan for the swim and the bike, and then foolishly believed that the run was just a double-HIM run. 26.2 is very different from 13.1 (as any 6th grade mathematician will tell you) and you just can't think of them the same way. I'd like to think that not too much separates me from Jordan; we turned pro about the same time, have similar strengths and weaknesses, and have had some similar results (he, of course, has dedicated himself to the sport more than I have—another good lesson). So I'm turning my eyes towards my next full Ironman eagerly, looking forward to the chance to put everything in order.

For a while, on that run, I really did feel unstoppable...