Rudy Project Slinger Helmet Review

I’ve mentioned before that one of my big Christmas presents was a new iPod Nano. One of the side benefits of this new generation is that it does video recording. It’s not why I bought it (my 2nd generation iPod died after a particularly rainy race), but it’s starting to come in handy.
I started this blog to tell the story of my preparation for Timberman and to keep myself honest in terms of weight loss and eating. Some of my readers will hopefully come from sites like Beginner Triathlete and Bike Forums, where I talk triathlon with some of my Clydesdale and Athena friends. One of the interesting things about cyclists and triathletes is that both groups are hopelessly addicted to their gear. While we’re willing to train vigorously to improve our results, we’re also interested in whatever new thing can (legally) shave a few seconds off our time. I have seriously considered buying gear I didn’t need just so that I’d have extra.

My other major hobby aside from triathlons is video games. One of my best friends, indeed the best man at my recent wedding, is the editor-in-chief for Gaming Nexus. I have been helping write reviews for the site for the past several years. I find it allows me to do more than just enjoy my hobby, but share my enjoyment with others, and have my experiences help those who read my work make good decisions on what games to buy.

I figure this blog gives me an opportunity to occasionally do the same with triathlon gear. So, I bring you my first video gear review: The Rudy Project Slinger Helmet.
Only 1 rule as you watch the video: No laughing. This is my first attempt at a video review.
You can find all the specs for the helmet at e-rudy.com.
As I mentioned during the video (and as soon to be required by law for all bloggers), I received a discount from Rudy Project on the purchase of the helmet as part of my sponsorship deal. But I can assure you all this did was hasten the purchase. Nor did they ask me to speak out about the helmet. I’m sharing what I see and feel about this item because I like it. I have been eyeing this helmet for almost a year, and had always planned to buy it.

"Pain don’t hurt"

“Sparky” Anderson, the first manager to win a World Series as head of both an American and National League team once attempted to motivate one of his star players with the line “Pain don’t hurt”. Well, no offense to Sparky, but baseball is a summer sport, and you don’t have to go outside in winter to prepare for it.

It’s late December and it’s no surprise that it’s cold. But this is a serious kind of cold. Last night it was 12 degrees with a wind chill that makes it feel like -6. This wouldn’t be a big deal except that the BU FitRec, the gym Rach and I belong to, is on a limited schedule because of the holidays. So, between our work schedules, dinner, and getting some stuff done around the house, the gym has been basically off limits.

But time waits for no man, especially with a race coming up in 3 days. So, out into the cold I went. I had a 55 minute workout planned initially, but I knew I wouldn’t get through that. I was shooting for 20 minutes, and wound up at 22. And, I was able to manage a 13:15 pace, which is pretty good considering the conditions.

A key point to working out in the cold is of course proper clothing. Layers and protect from the wind are key, while still being able to wick away sweat from the body. I hadn’t given much thought to my outfit for the New Year’s Day race. But last night in my attempt to protect myself from the wind, I may have found just the right combination:

  • UnderArmour Cold Gear long sleeve top: Very warm top with sweat wicking capabilities
  • Nike Pro Running Tights: For being thin, these are quite warm. Also, I got them at Marshall’s for a mere $12!
  • Columbia Sportswear parka shell – Windproof and breathable! My most important christmas present for winter workouts, keeps me warm and lets some excess heat out
  • Tooks Sportec Skully – One of my sponsors, and my parents bought me the “Took” I most wanted as a Christmas present! I’ll be talking more about this in a later post.
  • Balaclava – While the Tooks skully is great and let’s me wear headphones in the cold, it doesn’t protect the face. I got the balaclava last year for christmas, but wore it only sparingly as Ohio winters haven’t been this cold. It’s going to be a staple of my running gear for the foreseeable future
  • gloves – I have a pair of tech gloves from 180 that I wear for running. Not the warmest, but they stop me from getting too hot.
  • warm socks – especially if there’s any chance of rain or snow. Shoes are not windproof and the breathability leads to a lot of air passing through. Thick socks keep your feet warm, and can make you more comfortable.

We’re supposed to swim today, but I’m also going back into the cold to get the rest of that run in from yesterday. Now that I know I’ve got the right wardrobe picked out, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Vacations and resolutions

The blog has been dark the past few days as I visited with in-laws in Wisconsin and ate my way to about a 10 pound gain (yep, last night the scale read 340). Nothing like Christmas holidays in the land of cheese, beef, and beer to expand the waistline. Of course, it was worth it to have a week to just enjoy yourself with family around you.

But now that we’re back to reality, it’s time to face some facts:
- Timberman is mere 235 days away. That may seem like a long time, but I’m going to need every bit of that time to get into a shape that will make competitive for anything other than last place.
- Lowell 1st Run is a mere 4 days away. I did 4 miles on Wednesday, and it feels like a month ago. So I’ll be running every day this week to be ready. It’s cold and windy out, but I’m still going to be shooting for a PR. (Sadly, anything under 1:25 is a PR). If I can just manage to run the whole thing, I should be able to PR. My previous 10ks were either walking or in the most recent Nike Human Race, a mix of running and walking.
- I have gained weight rather than losing it since starting the blog. While I have been training somewhat aggressively and probably gotten both stronger and faster, I’m not going to make real progress until the belly begins to recede. Sure, some of that is intentional lack of training during the holidays, but it’s time to really get serious about making this a total body, no, total lifestyle transformation.
To that end, I am following the Weight Watchers protocol that I used to get down to the rotund shape I have managed to maintain for most of the past 2 years. If you aren’t familiar with the current WW math, it’s pretty straightforward. It’s based on points. You get a certain number of points per day, based on your current weight. Points are really just calories divided by 50 so that people don’t have to deal with big numbers every day. So a 600 calorie meal is 12 points (600/50). There are some additional pieces like every 12 grams of fat is 1 point. This means a 400 calorie meal with 36 grams of fat is the same amount of points (11) as a 600 calorie meal with only 12 grams of fat. There’s also a modifier for how much dietary fiber a food contains. For every 5 grams of fiber, you get to subtract 1 point. It’s really pretty simple once you get used to it.
The hard part is experiencing it after a period of eating whenever you feel like it. Because of the limitation on how much you can eat, even with proper food planning, you still wind up feeling hungry every day of the first couple weeks of the plan. It takes time for the body to adapt to having less food, and in that time, you can go a bit crazy fighting off the urges. Drinking more water helps, as does anything that takes up time (like blogging!).
I just try to remember a few things:
1. Hunger means it’s working. If you’re hungry, your body isn’t burning your last meal for food anymore. It’s burning other stuff, like protein and most importantly… fat!
2. Because your body tries to burn protein while you’re adjusting your food intake to a healthier level, you need to make sure to work out so that the weight you lose isn’t the muscle you need to perform better.
3. Eventually, I will get used to this level of intake and won’t feel hungry.
I just hope eventually comes soon!

Winter running

Winter running sucks.

Think about it: freezing winds, ice on the roads, mud muddles where there isn’t ice, and just general inhospitable conditions. Plus, this close to Christmas, drivers are in a hurry so they aren’t as willing to share the road.

But while there are many things made worse or harder by being a bigger athlete, winter running isn’t really one of them. While I’m slow, I might still be slow when I’m skinny (we’ll see). But being big also keeps me warm. I was in running tights and an UnderArmour ColdGear top and an thin UA shirt as an outer layer, just for the pockets to put my iPod in.

What doesn’t get better or worse with the cold right now is my time. I did 4 miles today, and it took me damn near an hour. It took a lot of time, but I just haven’t been running the miles I need. Plus, I think I slow down automatically when I know I’m going for a longer run.

The thing is, I am so proud of myself for going. Here we are, visiting my family, eating holiday style (bad things in large quantities), and I talked myself not just into running, but into going around the block (4 sq miles). Plus I didn’t turn back when faced with a nasty headwind.

My wife, runner that she is, did 4 miles in about 35 minutes. She’s barely out there long enough to get cold! I am really going to have to work on my running if I want to keep my run short enough that she won’t be able to blow me away after the bike section of Timberman.

Random points before vacation

Yesterday while I was on the track, I came up with a great topic for the blog. Then I forgot it before I could get back to the house. Instead, I’m going to offer up some of the random musings that I’ve had throughout the week:

- I came out of watching this weekends replay of the 2009 Ironman World Championship believing completely that Chrissie Wellington will be first overall (men and women) in a major Ironman triathlon in the next couple of years.
- In the past two days, I have put in the swimming distance I’ll swim in Timberman. Yesterday, half that distance felt like a brutal punishment to my body. Today the second half of that distance, while tiring, was not only doable but enjoyable. It’s amazing what a difference a day can make, and how truly important it is to eat properly. Yesterday, I had Chinese food for lunch. Today, I had a sandwich, a Clif bar, and a pickle. Felt so much lighter, more capable today.
- Getting back on the bike last week, even just the stationary bike, reminded me how much I love riding. It’s the discipline that got me started in triathlon, and still my favorite part. 56 miles is a long ride, but I know I can do that. Plus it’s the one spot I’m faster than the wife!
- My running has so far to go in terms of both endurance and speed. I am a little faster now than I was a couple months ago, but It’s the area that needs the most work, so I’m going to have to really put the time and effort in.
- I need new goggles. My backup pair is painful to wear, and my good pair now leaks.
- I wear my running shoes entirely too much. I only have 1 pair of sneakers right now, so I’m going to need to add a pair early ’10. I’m thinking of a pair of Nike Air Zomero +4, if i can find them in the right size for around $100.
- Finally, we’re getting a new bed in a few weeks. That’ll make a HUGE difference in our rest and recovery. I’ve had the current bed for a few years, and it’s garbage.

Inspiration in the dead of winter

As I mentioned yesterday, we realized we were training for an Ironman instead of a Half Ironman. Training at this time of year is a challenge, because Timberman seems so far away. Doubly so when you’re training really hard, as we had been. So far, the only thing we have officially scheduled between now and August is a 10k road race in Lowell, MA on New Year’s Day. We’ll be scheduling more races between now and then early in the year. But for now, August might as well be 5 years from now.
To say we’re on the lookout for inspiration and motivation is an understatement.

There’s nothing more inspiring than seeing someone do something you want to do. And by inspiration, I mean pure unadulterated jealousy. This afternoon we watched the “Made for TV” version of the 2009 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. The race was actually held in October, and we watched a live feed on Universal Sports that day.

There’s something special about the packaged versions of the races they show on TV. Part of it is the music, part is the melodrama in the scripted voice overs, but most of it is the ability to highlight the stories of particularly inspirational athletes. There are the stories that inspire across the spectrum: a double amputee doing his first race, a man in his 50′s or 60′s finishing his 20th consecutive Ironman, and the Naval officers who trained on a frigate and a submarine. Then there are the stories of all the folks who either couldn’t finish in time, or just couldn’t finish at all.
While it’s heartbreaking to watch the people like the heart transplant patient who missed the swim cutoff by seconds, or the 76-year-old, 10 time Ironman finisher who had to surrender 2/3rds of the way through the bike. Even more heartbreaking is seeing the people who are able to conquer the distance but fail to do it within the 17 hour time limit.
One such person was Matt Hoover. If you recognize the name, but aren’t sure why, he was the winner of season 2 of NBC’s The Biggest Loser. While he lost a lot of weight on the show, he’s still not what you’d call thin. Matt was able to conquer the distance, finishing the race in 17:03. Just 3 minutes outside of the time frame that would have allowed him to call himself Ironman.
Even though Rach and I had put in 40 minutes on the track and another 20 on the bike today, watching the race recap really made me want to go out and run. Even more, it made me want to be sure to be ready for Timberman. The distance is half an Ironman, and we have only half the time, 8 1/2 hours or less.
I am going to be ready. I may not be an Ironman, but I will be a Timberman.

The best laid plans…

Last week, when my wife started telling me about our training plan for the coming season I was a little concerned. While I’m not in great shape, I also have had enough experience over the past few years of racing to recognize when I am not training enough. I also have learned when I am training too much. And the training plan she had selected screamed that it was too much training. But it wasn’t until it started putting us on the bike for 80 minutes tonight, during the first week of training that I figured it must be a full Ironman training program.

Sure enough, when I had her go back and look into the plan we’re following, it says it’s for athletes who are training for an Ironman distance event. On the front page. I had a good laugh at that, because my wife is not very patient (except with me). But I didn’t know she was so impatient as to not read the only sentence describing the training plan.
The real kicker is that even though we figured out the training plan before we worked out tonight, we still went ahead and did the full 80 minutes on the bike tonight. Because we’re just that hard core. Or that stupid.

Fat guys making a difference the world over…

With Christmas only 8 days away, it’s the season where much of the world celebrates a fat guy in weird clothing (and coincidentally, the birth of Jesus). It seems unusual to me, that our appearance driven society hasn’t yet caused the image of Santa to be remade into a buff guy who drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon and uses too much hair gel (a la the guys on Jersey Shore).
Thankfully, our society still finds it acceptable and even comforting to celebrate a hefty guy in a strange outfit giving gifts, at least one day a year.
With that in mind I would like to celebrate another fat guy in weird clothes giving gifts; The Fat Cyclist. Here’s a guy who turned his wifes battle with cancer into a crusade to help rid the world of this horrifying disease. Through a blog, his readers, and a link to a Lance Armstrong Foundation fundraising page, “Fatty” (as he’s affectionately known) raised nearly a million dollars this year to fight cancer. His wife passed away in early August, but instead of focusing on the loss, he’s only fought harder.
I’ll let you read the story for yourself, but just this week, Fatty and friends raised over $100k to be shared between LAF & World Bicycle Relief, mostly through small personal donations. To me, that’s almost as magical as flying reindeer. As a reward for his efforts, he “got” to ride up a mountain. As you will undoubtedly read on this blog from time to time, hills are evil, and Fat Guys should not be forced to ride them. (The fact that Fatty got to ride said mountain with Lance Armstrong and Team Radio Shack is neither here nor there).
To show that I too am in on the act of Fat men who make a difference: I shopped for the White Elephant gift exchange my wife and I are participating in tonight so she could study for the finals she took this afternoon. Yes, that’s right. While Santa brings presents to about 1/2 the world, and Fatty brings hope to cancer patients the world over, I have spent 20 minutes at CVS across the street from work buying slinkys, massage pillows, and fleece throws.
What can I say, I’m a giver.

The season of giving (gear)

The holiday season and the price discounts it brings with it make this the perfect time of year for giving (whether to others or yourself) gear. Being that 2010 will be only my second season and Rachelle’s first, we stocked up this holiday season.

But before i get into the gear; I want to explain how we do Christmas. My wife and I are terrible at keeping secrets from each other. Presents are usually opened one every few days throughout December, with the last few a couple days before we leave to visit our families out west. That’s how I’m able to relay some of our presents and it’s still 9 days before Christmas.
This year, because of our sponsorships through Loop’d, some bargain shopping at local multisport shops, and your typical pre-Christmas online sales, we got some mighty fine deals.
First, through the generosity of the folks at Rudy Project in sponsoring me for the 2010 season, we were able to save a nice chunk of change 2 of their Slinger Helmets. I’ve mentioned these before, but I bring it up again because Rachelle’s came in today. The small white, red, and blue one was on backorder, so she chose the black, red, and white one instead. Turns out she likes this one even more than the “USA” color scheme of mine.
Since they had to ship the helmet out yet anyways, I decided to bite the bullet on a pair of sunglasses I’d been eyeing. I know it’s cheesy, but Rudy makes a pair of USA Triathlon branded red and white Rydon frames with blue lenses that I just had to have. They came with the helmet today, and I assure you, pictures of me wearing the helmet and matching shades will be on this blog sooner rather than later.
Even though triathlon season is still several months away, Rach has been bugging me endlessly for a tri top to match her black Zoot tri shorts. Looking online I couldn’t find quite the deal I wanted. But in a visit to Fast:Splits Multisports, I found a 2009 top that matched her shorts perfectly at a closeout price I couldn’t pass up.
Being married only a few months ago, we get the occasional wedding present in the mail still. When a Sears gift card arrived in the mail a week ago, I hopped on the opportunity to order Rachelle a new bike computer to replace the one that we sold with her old mountain bike.
Finally, and I know I’ve mentioned this before, but Rach got me a G5 iPod Nano. Aside from providing inspiration, it also allows me to use my Nike+ system again to track running miles. I’d go crazy without the ability to really keep an eye on my speed and distance. Unless and until I get a personal GPS, you can bet I’ll be glued to my iPod for training, and any races they are legal in.

Team Fuji 2010!


Yesterday, I learned that Fuji Bicycles had begun sponsoring athletes of all levels who are fans of the brand and want to be involved. The idea is that while it will be a team, being a top competitor isn’t the only thing (or even the primary thing) they’re looking for. Cyclists and other athletes of all levels ride Fuji, from Matty Reed and his D-6 RC all the way down to me with my entry level Absolute 4.0. Fuji is looking to tap into that to increase market share, and well, help some folks pimp their rides along the way.

Being that I never grew out of getting incredibly excited about new things from companies that I love, I had to apply immediately. I told them about being fat, only being back on the bike a little over a year, commuting, getting into triathlons, the wedding, and my second place AG finish at Maumee Bay Sprint Tri. I also told them I’m a smooth talker, with a great personality, and that every triathlete I’ve ever met loves me, so they couldn’t possibly do better than having me on the team. (I left off snappy dresser and showering daily; that would have been overkill).
I waited with baited breath (I have never understood why someone would bait their breath, but whatever), and checked my email every 5 minutes (ok, maybe every hour, except when I was sleeping). My efforts were rewarded at 1:03 PM today when I got the response letting me know that I had been TEAM FUJI APPROVED!

Suddenly, it was as if all those years of being picked last for dodgeball, taking 16 years to graduate college, and having twice attended Star Trek conventions was washed away. I was now a representative for one of my favorite brands, one that I use regularly and honestly believe in.
Of course, being selected for Team Fuji isn’t just fun and happiness. I now have more than just my own personal pride on the line when I’m competing. People will also know that I’m representing Fuji (mostly because I’ll shout it to anyone who will listen). So, I’m really going to have to be serious about all the training and preparation for the coming season.
Thanks Team Fuji, looking forward to a terrific season! I won’t let you down (too much).