Putting a Little Iron in my Diet

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Many of you are no doubt aware that I’ve gotten a bit of a racing bug in the past couple years. Since joining the public service, I’ve had much more predictable hours in my work week, which has lent itself well to being able to put in a lot of extra hours training and racing. As a result, last year, I raced in a record-setting 15 different races in the span of 10 months! Not only did I greatly increase my race volume, but my results have been dramatically improving as well. On the adventure racing front, I managed to podium finish a few times, including 2nd place in the 48-hour Quest For a Cure (2-person male category). In the triathlon world, I decided to take a stab at a 1/2 Iron-distance race, and finished with a time of 5 hrs. 11mins, which was a great time for a first try! I’m hoping that this year will find me able to put in just as much passion into racing again, and I’ve decided to yet again try to raise the bar for racing. I don’t mean racing more often, but taking on greater challenges and trying to podium every chance I get 😉 It’s only February, and I’ve already raced in 3 different events! A leg injury has been somewhat hampering my podium chances, but I’m addressing that. So can you guess what the title of my posting means yet? Read on.

Yup, as you may have guessed, I’ve jumped into the deep end and already comitted myself to racing a full Iron distance triathlon on September 1st this year! For the uninitiated, that’s a 3.9km swim, followed by a 180km bike, followed by a 42.2km run. Fast as you can go! My modest goal for this year (apart from simply finishing in one piece) is a time of 11.5 hours. That gives me roughly 1.5 hours for the swim, 6 hours for the bike, and 4 hours for the marathon. Will I attain it? You bet your ass I plan on not only making it, but hopefully beating it! This of course leads us to the image to the left of the article. Those who are familiar with my gear will notice that the bike I’m pictured on is one that I didn’t own (as of 2 days ago anyway!). I decided that in order to give myself every possible advantage in this race, I would have to move up from a simple road bike to a full-blown triathlon-specific racing machine!

Another thing people probably know about me is that I love hunting for deals on equipment. Especially expensive equipment. In my mind, the best time to find a bike is always the cold of winter! You can find last year’s models at rock-bottom prices. Of course, it means not getting full use of the machine until later in the year, but who can argue the savings? One of the days that I was spinning at Cyclelogik (boxing day actually!), my eyes spied a nice blue tri-bike, size small. Hmm, that would fit me. The price was attractive, as was the set-up of the bike, but I’d never heard of this model. I went home and did some quick research, which actually turned up an ebay listing that Cyclelogik had posted, and that hadn’t garnered a high enough bid to meet the reserve. It did however list all the specs. I was hooked. It sounded like the right bike at the right price to me. I went about contacting the store to get more information about it.

Well, it turns out the bike was used by a sponsored rider for last season only (so a 2006), and although it was an Opus Triton by name, most of the components had been swapped out and upgraded. Long story short, the entire drivetrain is Ultegra. Cranks, front and rear derailleur, chain. Brakes were 105 series, and wheels were also shimano. The bar-end shifters are Dura-Ace. Very nice equipment indeed for this price point. The bike was fully maintained by the store, and had a new chain, cables, and bar tape put on at season’s end. Cool! Sadly, although I really liked it, I wasn’t sure I should commit the funds to a tri bike just yet.

That decision was revisited the day I signed up for the full iron (and the fact that I’d be changing job soon, resulting in a handy raise). I decided I wanted a worthy steed for the challenge, and checked back with Ian at Cyclelogik. The bike was still there, and still looking for a new owner. So I told Ian I’d be popping in on Saturday to get the ball rolling. Meaning, I was looking for a fitting, and in all likelihood, would be walking out with a new bike! We hammered out some pricing details which were more than reasonable, so I just had to get in and try it out. After the winter-lewd triathlon (and brunch), I headed over to the store. Ian got the bike set up on a trainer, and I changed into bike shorts and shoes. Hopped on the Triton, and didn’t look back. We spent about an hour getting things totally dialled in for my size. It’s very important to have the right position on a tri bike for long races, and Ian, being a former pro rider, is very meticulous about the positioning of everything. Thanks for all the help Ian!

After spinning on it for a while (and working up a nice little sweat), I really was hooked. There was really now way I was going to give up the chance to get a sweet ride like this at that price. Mind you, it’s a fairly obscure bike model, that you won’t see at too many start lines, but that was part of the appeal. It may not be the bike the pros would choose, but that suits me and my philosophy just fine. Sure, I could’ve gotten a reasonably priced Cervelo, which is the runaway dominator at events like Ironman in Kona, but it just would’ve been harder to find my bike among all the clones in the rack in the transition zones ;-). This will be a bike that will truly be mine. We’ll grow together in the sport, and no doubt have good and bad times. Yup, looks like I’m starting a new relationship.

One of my concerns was the fact that I was going to a dual chain ring set-up from a triple-ring on my road bike. Roughly translated, it meant I wouldn’t have a ‘granny gear’ option for climbing hills. I’m used to mountain bikes, and even my Trek, where if the going gets tough up hill, you drop to a small ring in front, and spin up the hill with less power needs. Well, this new bike will be a little tougher in that department. You can get what’s called compact cranks to help address that, but it would’ve been more money, and I might lose some of the top end speed as a result. Another option is to change casettes in the rear. The bike was stocked with a 12-23 cog setup. After discussing with Ian for a little bit, I asked if we could swap that out for a 12-27 cog. That would give me a slightly easier gear for hills, while keeping the same top speed. The charge for this? Nada. Another great reason to buy from local bike shops. And no, it wasn’t a cheap-o casette, we swapped ultegra for ultegra! So now, not only did I have a new chain, cables, and tape, but a casette too!

Oh, remember how I was talking about Cervelo’s at Kona, and that my bike would be more rare? Well, there’s a great Kona bike survey posted each year at slowtwitch (see article here). There, you’ll see Cervelo had 257 bikes at Ironman Kona! Second was Trek, with less than half the numbers. Having a look down the list, you won’t see Opus in the top 10 at all. But you know what? Opus was represented by at least one rider. See the picture on the right? Notice the nice blue Opus Triton? Well, that is the actual bike that I now own! That racer was the sponsored athlete from last year! He managed a 5 hr. 39 min. bike split (23rd in his category). So, not only do I have a unique bike, but one with a strong race resume already. Now, to get my bike split for 180km to under 5:39:35! To see more pics of my new toy, head over to the flickr folder.

After all was said and done, I’ll gladly say I was more than happy to part with my money for this ride! The other great part of this transaction? Well, since I bought it from the store, I have lifetime basic service included. Gears chattering? Brakes loose? Wheel out of true? Just pop in the store, and they’ll fix it up for me au gratis! In fact, while Ian and I were clearing up the paper work, they put my bike on the stand, swapped out the casette for me, re-tuned the gears, and moved the computer to where I wanted it, done right on the spot so I could take the bike home! Did I mention you should buy from local shops? I also picked up a water bottle cage to put on the bike, and snagged a Cyclelogik bottle for it. I’m happy to advertise for Ian and the gang at Cyclelogik. If you’re looking for bike service, or a new bike or biking gear, pop in and visit them. They’re right beside MEC after all.

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