An open letter to Andrew Messick, CEO of World Triathlon Corporation

Mr. Messick,

First of all, I want to applaud you for overseeing the implementation of WTC’s anti-doping program. As the first major racing series outside of ITU racing to test at any level, your first steps should be applauded. However, I have to say I disagree with you over some of your recent comments on the IM Talk podcast regarding WTC’s anti-doping program and your stance on the events that occurred at Panama 70.3 in regards to the testing of the pro podium.

In the discussion which begins around 46:30 in the podcast, you state “…Part of the whole intention of a drug testing program is to be unpredictable in who you test. We tested, we continue to test, and we believe as a WADA signatory, our testing is going to be a strong and compelling part of our program. I think that having predictability in who you’re going test is wrong, and in fact we work hard to make sure athletes do not know whether they’ll be tested or not tested at an event or out of competition. Surprise is the greatest deterrent, and ultimately a testing program like ours is the deterrent effect is enormously powerful. We don’t want athletes to know who is going to get tested or when the tests are going to occur…”

I absolutely agree with your stance that in regards to out of competition testing surprise is absolutely your strongest weapon. The only way out of competition testing can be truly successful is if the athlete has no idea when the test is going to occur and therefore cannot plan doping cycles around visit times. However, I could not disagree more about testing that occurs at events. Random testing alone could encourage athletes on the fence about doping to take the risk, considering there is a chance they won’t be tested even if they win. Further, automatically testing every podium does not preclude random testing for the lower placings. If anything, automatically testing every podium would act as a strong deterrent for those considering doping, pro racers dope to win, not to PR or brag to their friends about their time. They dope to get on the podium and take home money they don’t think they can earn on training and talent alone. Not testing the podium leaves a potential that you’re rewarding a cheat.

Further, you go on to say “…I think it’s crazy to imply that we would do something as silly as to exempt any one athlete from our anti-doping program. We understand that Lance in particular is a guy who has been tested a lot, there has been a lot of press in the last few weeks, and months, and years, leading all the way back to Floyd Landis’ allegations at what was then my race the Amgen Tour of California, and the notion that we would have a different protocol for one athlete is crazy cause there’s no way we could destroy our own credibility and have a different set of rules for one of our athletes. Everyone is in the same program and follows the same rules, and frankly I’m not going to tell you who we’re going to test at for example Texas 70.3…”

I think with the rampant rumors and abundant circumstantial evidence about Lance’s alleged doping past have made a lot of people wary of his impact on triathlon. I’m certain I would have paid less attention to Rasmus Hennings tweet had someone else been on the podium in Lance’s place. In fact it may not have even been retweeted, and therefore I might never have seen it. But frankly, put any other athlete with the cloud of suspicion that has followed Lance for the past several years (Barry Bonds, Carl Lewis, etc.) in that place, and you likely would have seen a similar response from many people, including your own WTC pros.

To me, Lance was the indicator, not the actual problem. I find it difficult to believe Mr. Armstrong would be so foolish as to use performance enhancing substances at this point in his career. But I hope you can see why pros sounding concerned about the lack of testing on the Panama podium would cause many fans to be concerned as well. Perhaps it’s simply that your own pros don’t know how your anti-doping process works and should be made better informed? For those of us on the outside, it certainly does look like an unusual situation, and I hope you’ll find it worth your time to consider alternatives to your current plan.

Your next statement I found difficult to swallow: “There’s a lot of people who don’t know very much about anti-doping programs, and consequently they believe there should be strict rules about who does get tested and who doesn’t get tested. Look at races like the Tour de France, where they are focusing much more on randomly testing athletes and not necessarily have traceability…”

While the Tour de France does indeed test randomly, they automatically test their stage winners, usually the full podium, and then the random testing of the rest of the field. I think it’s a disservice to the fans of your sport to think that just because we don’t understand your anti-doping program doesn’t mean we don’t understand anti-doping efforts in general. And just because you don’t believe there is value in testing the winners and podiums doesn’t mean other people don’t as well. From merely a PR value, testing the podium tells your fans and other pros “This was a clean race, and the people who won did so fairly”. That alone should be a strong enough reason for you to consider changing your opinion on the matter.

Finally, the last point you made on Lance and the anti-doping program was the one I really took umbrage with: “The last thing I want to say on the anti-doping program, is that some of the people who are talking about who was and wasnt tested on the podium were the same people saying there was no chance whatsoever Lance would make the podium…”

As you’re probably aware, Rasmus Henning was the athlete who pointed out that the podium was not tested. Here is Rasmus Henning’s version of “smack talk” about Lance leading up to Panama. That doesn’t sound like someone to me who is putting Lance down in any way. IFurther, I think most people really into the sport know that Lance has been training hard for quite a while, whether though the swim times he’s been posting on his @juanpelota twitter, or bike and run efforts he’s been posting under the Strava account with the same name. I think to even most of us with concerns about what happened at Panama could see he was likely going to perform well. Your last point comes off as essentially “haters gonna hate” in today’s vernacular, and really it cheapens the rest of your argument that you wouldn’t change rules for a specific athlete when you’re going out of your way to point out how much you feel Lance exceeded expectations.

In closing, I hope you understand that while I believe your company is doing more testing than any other non-ITU race series, I think there are areas where that program can improve and should continue to do so, including education of your pros and the public at large as to the process you have in place. I also think you may have been wise to further think out your approach to anti-doping now that you’ve tied WTC’s rope to Lance Armstrong’s star and the concerns that many people have about what that means for the sport.

Sincerely,

Ben Berry

USA Triathlon response to my anti-doping questions

THe folks over at USA Triathlon, specifically COO Tim Yount were kind enough to answer a few of my questions regarding the current and future state of anti-doping in our sport. I also included a question clarifying how an athlete like Lance Armstrong who comes from another sport without first building a current triathlon resume qualifies for a USAT Elite card. I was familiar with the rule, but several people not as familiar with the intricacies of USAT rules had asked me, and I wanted to confirm I was correct in my assumption.

As a side note, since my original opinion piece ran on my hopes and fears for Lance Armstrong’s foray into triathlon, I’ve been able to confirm both that the podium was not tested that day (thanks to Richie Cunningham who finished 3rd) and that USADA was responsible for the testing that did occur that day for the random pros below the podium (thanks again to Rasmus Henning). I have not yet been able to confirm how atypical the podium not being tested is, but from all indications it’s certainly curious, and numerous pros I have spoken with have said they were very surprised the men’s pro podium was not tested.

One last topic before I get to the responses, I’m extending the raffle ending 2 days to 3/2/12 so that it falls on a Friday and gives me a better chance to make the changes to the site I need to once it ends, as well as the weekend to contact all the entrants to determine which prizes they want their entries to go towards.

Now here are my questions and the responses from USA Triathlon COO Tim Yount.

As the sports governing body, does USAT currently provide any anti-doping training, guidelines, or regulations to race organizers? If so, can you describe them at a high level? If USAT does not, can you provide an answer as to why?

With USADA in place to manage the race-day testing process for USA Triathlon, race directors do not necessarily need to become technically proficient in the actual execution of doping control procedures at their events.  For events in which testing will be present, the race director is provided an overview of what is expected of them in advance of race day. Expectations of race directors include: securing the testing area, providing sealed fluids (water, electrolyte drink, etc.) at the defined level, credentials for couriers to be in the finish chute to manage the process, allowing access to timers to identify selected athletes, etc.  The fewer encroachments for race directors, the better.  If there are race directors who wish to learn more on the testing process and race-day expectations, USA Triathlon will facilitate an introduction with USADA.

Does USAT provide doping controls at its championship events? If so, how are these carried out? Do they apply only to Elite participants or to age group athletes as well? If no doping protocols are provided at USAT championship events, why not?

All USA Triathlon members and sanctioned-event participants are subject to testing for performance-enhancing drugs by USADA both In-Competition and Out-of-Competition. This is addressed in the USA Triathlon Competitive Rules and in the participant waiver executed by all USA Triathlon annual members and every participant in a USA Triathlon-sanctioned event. It is important for all competitors to understand that testing is currently in effect and can include athletes of any level, from elite national team members to age group athletes to paratriathletes. USA Triathlon administered support in the testing of age group competitors at its Age Group National Championship for the first time in 2010. USADA works with USA Triathlon to develop a plan for testing, which at a competition can often include specific place finishers as well as random selections from the field. So, as an example, that plan may be the top finishers in given categories, and then places such as 10th, 12th, 15th, 18th, 25th, 42nd, 87th, etc. All athletes, however, should understand that they are subject to testing.

Can you describe the relationship between USAT and USADA?

USA Triathlon works closely with USADA to ensure that doping has no place in the sport of triathlon. USADA partners with USA Triathlon, as well as all National Governing Bodies, in its anti-doping efforts. USA Triathlon utilizes many of USADA’s educational resources throughout its varied communications platforms to provide its members with the most up-do-date anti-doping information. As stated above, USADA works with USA Triathlon to develop a plan for in-competition testing. USADA Doping Control Officers (DCOs) conduct all testing. As USADA Staff, DCOs conduct both In-Competition and Out-of-Competition testing of athletes involved in the Olympic and Paralympic Movement within the United States. Testing is administered under USADA’s mandate, under contract with the USOC, on a year-round basis. As a National Governing Body, USA Triathlon works with USADA and the other anti-doping agencies on an ongoing, indefinite basis.

Anti-doping is an expensive proposition, with even WTC as the most established (and expensive) race series adopting testing as recently as late 2009, and Rev 3 yet to begin testing even its pro field. With USAT bringing in roughly $6.5 million annually in revenue from just membership fees, does USAT have any plans to financially support the testing efforts for larger races allowing testing to occur without significantly raising entry fees for age group athletes?

At this time, no. However, USA Triathlon is firmly committed to ensuring that doping has no place in our sport. We will consider any options in the future that that help us work toward this goal.

Has there been any thought to tying the sanctioning of larger or signature events to a requirement that race organizers provide anti-doping protocols?

In the USA Triathlon event sanctioning agreement, we work to avoid forcing additional costs on race directors. However, USA Triathlon, in conjunction with USADA, is currently supporting the testing of events outside of WTC jurisdiction. Event directors are welcome to pursue testing through an independent team and may request that USADA test at their event. USA Triathlon is available to facilitate an introduction to USADA if an event director has such a request.

Before we get into the topic of what happened this past weekend at Ironman Panama 70, there seems to be a lot of confusion on how exactly Lance Armstrong was able to race as a professional WTC triathlete. WTC’s primary qualification is that the athlete must have their National Triathlon Federation (in this case USAT) elite status card. Can you provide which rule under which Lance qualified for that status with USAT?

Below is the USA Triathlon Elite Membership Qualification Standard met by Lance Armstrong. Armstrong finished fifth at the 2011 XTERRA USA Championship, and was a three-time U.S. Olympian in cycling.

Special Consideration

Special consideration for exceptions to all elite membership rules will be granted by the Athlete Advisory Council, who will only consider exceptions for athletes who meet the following criteria:
Applying athlete has been on a USA Swimming, USA Cycling or USA Track and Field Olympic or Pan Am Team or National Elite Team (recognized by that NGB). And the athlete must have finished top-10 overall and within 10 percent of the overall winner’s time in at least one (1) USA Triathlon sanctioned event that occurred within the past 12 months and had at least 200 participants.

At Ironman Panama 70.3, it has been widely reported that no doping protocols occurred for the men’s podium, even though it has been WTC’s protocol to test podium athletes at 70.3 and 140.6. While this event falls outside of the jurisdiction of USAT as the race was not in US territory, US athletes (in particular Lance Armstrong) were involved. In recent years, several athletes with significant doping questions in their prior sporting lives have made a foray into triathlon. What does USAT hope its race organizers will do to help make sure that triathlon doesn’t garner the same stigma in regards to doping as say professional cycling?

Through its educational efforts and existing testing endeavors, USA Triathlon has taken a strong and proactive stance when it comes to anti-doping. We believe that our sanctioned race directors and annual members alike also are committed to competing clean, and we have full faith in the USADA doping control process in place in the U.S.

 

I want to thank USAT for taking the time to respond to my questions and I’ll continue looking into this issue hoping that the WTC will decide to respond to my request for a response to a few questions regarding their general anti-doping process and specifically the events in Panama.

The bravado playlist and an impromptu triathlon

I apologize again for the delay in getting the response from USA Triathlon. They’re working on it, and I get emails every day thanking me for my patience. I’m just happy they’re responding, as opposed to USADA and WTC who have decided I’m too small a fish. Thanks for being patient on this topic if it is indeed the one you’re interested in. 

Now onto more personal matters. Today i was scheduled for a run and a swim. I always do them in that order because I can run at the cemetery just near the house, but I need to travel a few miles to swim. (On a side note, i saw someone else exercising on the cemetery path the other day so I feel less creepy and inappropriate about it now). My work day schedule was packed today so I couldnt run until after 4, so I planned on a 4 PM run and a 7 PM swim. It was around 2:30 when Rach texted to tell me the pool was closing at 6, too late in the day for me to move my workouts up. So, at 4, I hurried out for my run, during which today I started extending my run intervals to 1:30 of running at a time. I was pretty tired when the 30 minutes was up but i was really happy with the results.

Then I dropped Stanley off at the house, got on my bike and busted my butt to get up to the pool in time to get my whole swim in, only to find out the pool wasn’t closing early until Thursday. I have an amazing, incredible wife, but she’s not very good with dates and I should have remembered that. So I stood there in the pool shower in my tri suit, eating energy chews to try and recover from my efforts before I got in the pool. The swim was less than my best but Im proud I gutted it out, and even fought off cramps in both feet for the last 100 yards to finish.

So today’s first place in the 2 mi run – 4 mile bike – 1400 yard swim was… me! My times need some work but just that I had the endurance to do this and then come home and rip up a rooms worth of carpet tells me the training is working.

I know I mentioned false bravado the other day, but I’m pushing that topic out a couple more days (and learned that the false is not needed, bravado is already false)

Finally, if you haven’t yet donated to my raffle, please consider doing so, with now just 7 days left before it ends, I’d sure like to get closer to the $500 mark. And if you have already donated, thank you and I’ll be reaching out at the end of the raffle to confirm which prizes you’d like your entries put towards.

progress comes in tiny pieces and yet ANOTHER raffle prize! Yay Infinit!

I’ve been training and training, and while I’ve lost almost 10 pounds, sometimes the progress doesn’t come as fast as I’d like it to either on the scale or on the road. My training has been ramping up, I’m eating better, and I’m drinking a ton more water, but some days it feels like I’m gaining only seconds, and some days like today I’m losing minutes. If it weren’t for tools like Strava that let me see that I had my 2nd best effort yet on some really hard climbs today, I would have felt like todays workout was a major letdown. I’m shooting for 15 MPH average on a 15 mile ride with ~500 feet of climbing. I just have to keep pushing I guess, because I’ve seen the good stuff happening in the past 7 weeks, and I know it’s going to continue.

I guess what I need to remember is that it’s still just February and I’m already working harder on hills than I have in a lot of midseason rides.

On the raffle front just 8 more days for folks to contribute and be eligible for this months raffle prizes. So I’m adding yet another one. INFINIT Nutrition is a primary sponsor of the Eleonore Rocks Triathlon Team and they’re kind enough to provide us with some product to power our workouts. I ordered a custom mix for myself which I named “Orange you jealous you’re not as fast as me?” Yes, I know a little false bravado (more on false bravado tomorrow), but still funny because it’s orange flavored. And since I had enough goodies for me, I ordered some INFINIT for you guys too! I tried out one of the single serving pouches after todays ride and it was REALLY good. I hope my custom mix turned out as well as the standard mix. I went a little stronger on the flavor, and increased the sodium to balance for my high sweat rate.

INFINIT-LY good nutrition that tastes... INFINIT-LY good

The big bag is my custom mix of INFINIT, but everything else you see on the table is the newest addition to the raffle: 4 single serve packs of INFINIT Ride, 2 packs of INFINIT Run, and an INFINIT water bottle! I’m probably going to rearrange the prize groupings yet to get them organized in a way that makes more sense.

Recovery week progress report, USAT response update, and a new prize

Well, recovery week has come and gone, and today I get back to work at building mileage, and hopefully building speed. I wasn’t exactly sitting still last week but with a couple extra days off and mostly shorter workouts, I definitely had an easier week. Of course that oasis of recreation has dried up, and today’s run/swim duo (I wont say brick because they’ll be a few hours apart) will get me going again quickly. While I enjoyed the rest, I was tempted Friday to pop on my mountain bike for a bit, but I decided I would take full advantage because who knows when Dr. Pain will see fit to give me another rest.

Last week was also a challenge on the motivational front, but not just on the bike. I have a lot going on with work, and some family stuff coming up that seems like everything is happening all at once, which is exactly the kind of situation that makes me want to shut down. I struggled to be effective at work, at home, and I really had to push myself to get in all my workouts. The take away from last week is that I need to make some further simplifications in my life if I’m going to be able to focus on the truly important things. There are places I’m devoting time and effort right now, and frankly my hearts just not in those things. I’ll have to make some tough decisions about where I’m spending time and/or money, but it’s going to be worth it in the long haul. The good news is that with everything going on, I managed to get some key learning done at work, a little cleaning done at home, and all of my workouts in. So I was able to persevere, but if I can make my life less complicated, the better off I’ll be.

My follow ups on my Lance Armstrong opinion blog from last week are still on their way. I’ve reached out to WTC, USADA, and USAT. USAT had hoped to provide answers by Friday, but with the holiday today, a few people took Friday off to make a long weekend of it, so they’re expecting to have responses to me tomorrow or Wednesday.

Finally, I’m adding another prize to the raffle. One of the things I’ve learned through countless rides, is that skincare for triathletes is important. Whether it’s just forgetting to put on sunscreen up to that 2 hour ride without any anti-chafing, hopefully you’re a faster learner than I am. Because I have often forgotten, it’s meant on more than one occasion I’ve stopped at the bike shop mid-ride to pick up various items. So much so, that we have a bit of a back stock when it comes to triathlete skin care. So, when I won an Everstride gift pack, I couldn’t decided whether to keep it or give it away. In the end I decided that I need to keep sharing my good fortune, so I’m including the Everstride gift pack in the raffle.  Instead of making it a standalone prize though, I’m going to include it with the 2 boxes of Peeled Snacks, and make it the “Care and feeding of a triathlete” prize pack. So in addition to 2 boxes of Peeled Snacks, you’ll now get the following Everstride products: Cooling Muscle Balm, Pro Therapy Foot Treatment, Skin Defense (SPF29) spray, and Facial Defense cream. I’m also adding in a Performance Bike water bottle with the energy gel prize pack. It was included in the box and I didn’t notice it right away. We’re now just 10 days from the end of the raffle, and I’m really hoping to make the $500 mark by then, so if you haven’t donated yet, please consider doing so. Thanks!

More good stuff for you to win

 

Finally, it basically rained the entire day yesterday, which made getting Stanley out for bathroom breaks into a bit of an adventure. He’s now mostly outgrown the sweaters we bought him a couple months ago, but fortunately there was a coat I ordered that was way too big at the time. It still doesn’t fit quite right, and you can almost make out the look of confusion on poor Stanleys face as to why it feels funny to walk in this big thing, but it kept him warm while he was out to do his business (and frankly he looked pretty funny trying to run in it, so I had to snap a pic).

The medium sized boy in the big boy coat

 

Jordan made me do it…

Note: For those here about the Armstrong opinion piece, it’s the post below this one. To everyone, thank you for taking the time to read yesterday in what was/is easily the biggest 24 hour period for this blog to date. USA Triathlon has agreed to answer some questions on the state of anti-doping in our sport for me, and that interview will run on Friday or Monday, depending on when they get it back to me.

With the rare exception (like yesterday), this blog is all about me (and my dog, and sometimes my wife, and often about food, or whining about how hard my workouts are, and occasionaly often Star Wars). I mean after all, someone needs to talk about the awesomeness I bring to the world just by waking up in the morning. So, though it is hard work, I do it. But in all the time I’ve been spouting my praises (someone has to) I’ve done my best to avoid Blog memes. Unfortunately, someone I respect and admire greatly (he is both a terrific person and a fast triathlete) gave into peer pressure from another one of our nice and fast friends and in responding to it, “tagged” me. Still, I would have avoided it if he didn’t ask such good questions. So, beware, below is my (hopefully) one and only ever trip into blog meme-ery.

  1. Post these rules
  2. You must post 11 random things about yourself
  3. Answer the questions set for you in their post
  4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer
  5. Go to their blog and tell them you’ve tagged them
  6. No stuff in the tagging section about you are tagged if you are reading this. You legitimately have to tag 11 people

Random things about me:

  1. I only have 3 salivary glands.
  2. I am easily inspired by movies. (I took karate as a teen because of the Karate Kid, and I applied for a Naval ROTC scholarship because of Top Gun. )
  3. I almost never read anymore. As a child I was fascinated with books and read whenever I wasn’t watching baseball, Star Wars, or playing outside. Either my ADD has gotten worse as an adult, or the amount I read for work has overtaken my love of the printed word. If it’s not on the internet or a magazine, I probably won’t read it.
  4. I once wrote and illustrated a short story about aliens bringing jelly beans to President Ronald Reagan.
  5. To me hockey, triathlon are the only sports that really get me going, and will watch no matter who is playing. I love baseball and football but only when my teams are on the field
  6. I am a serious procrastinator.
  7. I was in band in high school, and loved jazz band in particular. So much so that I was even a member of a select youth jazz ensemble for a year.
  8. This will come as a shock to almost no one, but I am lazy. LAZY. I almost didn’t write this today.
  9. The view out my window each day is of my side yard and a small school bus for the daycare the folks next door runs. Stanley hates that school bus, and barks/growls at it often but only when it pulls away.
  10. I long dreamed of owning RC airplanes and now I own 2. The first one I crashed into a tree, and the second is waiting for me to put its replacement wing on. I have had 1 semi-successful flight and will pick it up again once spring gets here.
  11. I just found out one of my best friends in high school lives only 2 hours from here in Charlotte and am now planning a visit.

Jordan’s Questions:

  1. What book did you last read? As I mentioned above I don’t read books much anymore, but I did read a couple books my friend Bengi bought me for my birthday a couple years ago. Specifically a humorous one on how to be a superhero and the Dean Koontz novel Lightning.
  2. What’s your best birthday memory? On the weekend of my 9th birthday, Return of the Jedi came out. My parents let me have 9 of my friends stay over and took us all to see the movie the next morning. I got a boat load of Return of the Jedi action figures, and we all stood in a line that went all the way around the building to see the movie. The greatest day of my life to that point for sure.
  3. What’s your favorite race distance? Im split on this. The Half-Iron seems like just the right distance to test yourself in terms of endurance, and still have dinner at a reasonable time after, but sprints are just so much fun to go, race, really just go all out, saving nothing in the tank and being done, maybe having a beer after.
  4. What’s your favorite race? I named the blog after Timberman, and it’s still my favorite race. So hard, and so much fun, and the first time I ever saw Chrissie Wellington in person.
  5. What’s your worst injury ever? I hate to say this for fear of jinxing myself, but the worst thing I’ve ever done was taken a slow speed spill from my bike at the end of my parents driveway and got a 1/2 inch diameter rock stuck in my knee and some bloody palms. Had to interrupt the end of Rachelle’s wedding shower with my side of the family to have her look at it. Only other real injury from racing was a concussion I got crashing during Landmine Classic.
  6. What’s your dream job? To be retired. Seriously, I’ve been working at least part time since I was 15 years old other than 1 summer in college and 3 months following 9/11, I’m ready to be done already. If I have to stay employed, it’s the job I’m currently doing now, working from home, but with a management role over a team of business analysts.
  7. If you could change one event that happened in your life, what would it be? I attempted suicide in my senior year of high school, so the easy answer would be to say that. Not putting my parents through the stress and worry of it, something they truly didn’t deserve. But I learned so much from that, and many of my other mistakes (my first marriage, goofing off in college which led me to programming which started my career, etc.) that it’s hard to say I’d change much of what has happened in my life. I guess the one thing I can think of is I got a really big check one time and I mostly blew it on stuff, some of which I don’t even own anymore. If I could have that back, I would probably be significantly better off financially right now.
  8. Chipotle or something else? Is it wrong to actually like Taco Bell?
  9. Five Guys or In and Out Burger? I’ll say 5 Guys, but it really should be Jack n’ the box.
  10. What is your favorite color? Blue
  11. What teacher/class inspired you the most? I was lucky I had several (remember Im easily inspired) My 8th and 9th grade science teacher, my 7th and 9th grade english teachers, my 10th grade history teacher, my 6th grade band teacher and 7th grade geography teacher (who were the same guy), and my 10th-12th grade band teacher. All of them were wonderful, inspiring, kind and warm teachers who really made learning enjoyable and pushed me. At some point in both the 7th grade geography classes and 8th & 9th grade science classes, it was me against the rest of the class in either NewsQuiz, which was a weekly test on current events in the world or in science class, our reviews for tests. I was a natural test taker and enjoyed the positive reinforcement of knowing the right answer. I won often, even against the whole class, and was really disappointed when an entire classroom of kids would beat me by a point or two.

I’m breaking the rules though, and not sending this on any further.

Hopes and fears regarding Lance Armstrong’s foray into triathlon

Earlier today, Lance Armstrong debuted as a pro triathlete in the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC)  run Ironman Panama 70.3. He did very well for a first entry into the half-iron distance, which wasn’t unexpected considering his history as an endurance athlete. His training on Strava showed he was more than ready for the bike distance in a half, but as expected from his running history he was unable to hold off a top 70.3 distance specialist during the half-marathon, and finished 2nd overall. Finishing second against a fairly packed field is no mean feat. But just doing well isn’t doing enough. In this case, WTC has formed a major partnership with Lance and Livestrong, and I have hopes and fears in regards to what the partnership between Lance Armstrong and the WTC means for the sport.

Athlete testing: The current testing protocol in WTC events is to test the top 3 podium finishers in each of the men’s and women’s pro races for doping, and randomly testing from 4th place down. One would think that with the cloud of suspicion that has followed Lance for the past 10 years, WTC would be only prudent in making sure Lance was tested in every event, and would perhaps go so far as to put that into the partnership agreement.  I was dumbstruck to learn that not only was Lance not tested, none of the men’s podium finishers were tested at Panama today. This information came directly from Rasmus Henning, a celebrated pro who placed 4th:

I thought it was common practice to drug test Top3 and not just random from 4th and down? That was not the case at 70.3 Panama.

— Rasmus Henning (@rasmushenning) February 12, 2012

Triathlon is still a niche sport in the US, and having Lance could be a potential windfall for all triathletes and triathlon as a whole; increased interest brings new sponsors, new sponsors could mean more races to watch on TV, etc. All of that means nothing however, if those benefits come at the cost of the integrity of the sport. Seeing the first race Lance did essentially ignore doping protocols really has me concerned for exactly what kind of deal WTC struck to sign on with Lance. I earnestly believe that pro triathletes are some of the cleanest, hardworking athletes on the planet, but as Lance has proclaimed his innocence for so long, one would think he would welcome more stringent controls as he comes into the sport. This is a bad road for WTC to take, and it makes room for sponsors to put extra pressure on their athletes to do whatever it takes to beat Lance, which is exactly the wrong direction for this sport to go.

A USADA Ban: The US Anti-Doping Agency has said it is moving forward with an investigation into Lance’s alleged doping history in cycling, and is going to ask for the evidence from the recently closed federal investigation. NPR and several other credible news agencies have reported that the government believed it had the facts and testimony to prove Lance doped but the case was dropped, whether from political pressure as some would suggest, or perhaps because the case on the fraud charges were not strong enough to warrant an expensive trials in uncertain economic times. Should the USADA ban an athlete, WTC had previously indicated they would follow that ruling. Lance is racing as a WTC pro via his USA Triatlon elite standing which would certainly be stripped if USADA laid a ban on him. What would that mean to promoters and race organizers who put out additional expenses in the expectation that Lance would be participating or for fans and athletes attending an event he was involved in? Certainly WTC can’t cover the costs of those racing just because Lance was forced to withdraw, but it does lead one to think that as professional traithlete Jordan Rapp said recently on SlowTwitch.com, it is indeed curious that WTC would partner with an athlete having so recently been under federal investigation and with an ongoing USADA investigation into his doping history, and still see so many folks excited about his presence in the sport.

Preparation from event teams: The positives of any major celebrity, sports or otherwise, appearing at a race range from additional spectators cheering on the participants, additional tourism dollars for the host community, and potentially more interest in participation in the local community, helping to ensure the race is secure as an annual event. Not every side effect will necessarily be positive however. Many 70.3s are held in relatively small venues, with participants and their families already struggling to find parking, dealing with long lines for restaurants, and finding safe places on the course to observe the race as just a few examples of things I witnessed personally at Timberman a couple of years ago. Take all that and throw the armada of Lance’s entrourage, media coverage, and additional fan interest and you’ve got a recipe for challenges on and off the course. How long until the first time an overzealous spectator wanting a good view of Lance does something stupid that winds up impacting, or worse, injuring another competitor who just wanted to race their race? I hope WTC is pushing every race on Lance’s announced (and unannounced as he’s posted his schedule for the first half of the season) races that they need to do a lot of work to prepare for the differences they’ll be seeing on their race courses and at their venues.

Keep the pros and the amateurs together: One of the few things you can get nearly all amateur triathletes to agree on is that we love the idea that we get to line up and “race with” the pros in our sport. Seeing your favorite pro triathlete often just hanging around the venue or transition area is a real treat. At Timberman, my bike rack was less that 100 feet from where Chrissie Wellington, Andy Potts, and all the others were racking their bikes and getting ready for their race. I enjoyed this fact, even with a couple dozen lookie-loo’s coming over and crowding our transition area to say hi to the pros or try and learn from watching them prepare. Dropping Lance onto of that will lead to one of two things happening. Either A) The folks racked near the pros will be overrun with athletes trying to get a glimpse of Lance leading to all sorts of chaos, or B) It will lead to pros being racked further away from the amateurs building a divide between amateur and pro that the majority of participants will not be happy about. Pros are entitled to the same relatively calm pre-race prep time as the rest of us, so event teams will need to find creative ways to deal with this situation without making the rest of us feel left out.

Field Sizes: Livestrong is offering additional charity race slots above and beyond what WTC had already made available at each of the races Lance has advertised as participating in. While these events haven’t yet filled, it’s highly likely the Livestrong charity slots will fill quickly, and for folks registering normally with an expectation of the general field size will likely be in for a shock. Neither Livestrong or WTC has announced how many additional slots will be made available, and I think that’s a significant error. The growth of field sizes to maximize profit (and admittedly help meet demand) has in many cases led to overcrowded transitions, clogged swim and bike finishing chutes, and an increased risk of accident on the bike course. Add into that mix an unknown quantity of racers, with a large potentiality of those racers being Lance fans who are new to the sport, and you have a potential recipe for disaster.

Some might ask why I’m worried about this; I’m not currently planning on doing any WTC races this year, and even if I were they wouldn’t be ones on Lances calendar. My concern is one that I learned a long time ago as a computer consultant: perception is reality, at least to the general public. If Lance is at the races doing well, getting a lot of attention on the sport, then everything must be great, and all races are just like the one Lance raced. The average person off the street doesn’t know the difference between an Ironman distance race and the sprint tri happening around the corner. To them it’s “Ironman, you mean the race on TV in Hawaii?”. And if some of the concerns above occur, the public won’t know the difference between WTC, Rev3, or the race in the next town over put on by a good group of folks to help out a local charity. They’ll just know something bad happened in a triathlon Lance was doing and it was on SportsCenter. The first pro that dopes to try and beat him and gets caught or gets sick because they did it wrong, the first Lance fanatic who knocks some kid into the street in front of some guy on his bike because he was trying to get a better shot of Lance speeding by; or worst of all, Lance has just won the Ironman World Championships and receives a lifetime ban from the USADA. This would throw much of the triathlon world into the kind of chaos so prevalent in the cycling world in a way that the sport has never really experienced, besmirching the name of a sport that has not risen to the worldwide prominence cycling had long before it became synonymous with doping in the view of much of the sporting world.

 

Jabra winner and my 2012 race kit!

  • Thanks so much to everyone who entered my Jabra US giveaway. Now that I’m using Rafflecopter for these it’s pretty easy to administer, and the system does all the work in picking a random winner and such. The winner of the Jabra Bluetooth headphones is Heidi (aka @bananabuzzbomb on twitter). I’m waiting on the product to arrive from the PR folks, but it will shortly and then it’ll be on it’s way to Heidi! Congratulations!
  • For those of you NOT named Heidi (or at least the specific Heidi who won the prize) you can still give yourself a chance to win a pair of Jabra Bluetooths by donating to Eleonore Rocks from my donate page!
  • Also, I’ve been bribed into giving up another of my peanut butter sample GU to be added as part of the energy gel prize in exchange for a donation today (thanks Jen!) and I’ll be adding that prize to the raffle page this evening some time. I still expect to add a few more prizes over the next couple weeks
  • The other big news is that we got the proofs of our team kit for this year that will arrive in about 2 months. A nice regal purple with understated pink highlights, so instead of looking like I robbed Barbie’s wardrobe It will look like I robbed Price’s, or maybe Grimaces.

    Tri kit on the left, Bike kit on the right. We get the tri, Im buying the bike

 

A shameless plug, my coach earns her money, and more prizes!

You have just one more day to enter the Jabra bluetooth headphones giveaway. I won’t remind you again, so if you miss out, you only have yourself to blame.

Yesterday, Rach was really sick. She’s way tougher than me so the fact that she actually took the day off to stay home and sleep was a big deal. I on the other hand am a wuss. I was tired, I didn’t feel well, I had a really sore through, blah blah blah. I was feeling really unmotivated, and so I reached out to Dr. Pain for some motivation, and at least part of me was hoping she’d say it was ok to skip it. She told me next week is in fact RECOVERY WEEK which was all the motivation I needed to get through yesterdays workout. Said workout was a 10 mile hilly bike, and while I am no fan of hills, I did my best to push hard through it. I need to learn to pace myself because around mile 8 I was in the granny gears sucking wind, just hoping to get through all 10 miles. I made it through and felt better enough today that I had one of my best short runs yet this year.

Rach and I were both feeling a lot better today, and I got some awesome stuff in the mail today!

First, I got a package that actually came yesterday but I didn’t see it until the FedEx guy came with today’s delivery.  I spoke with the folks at Outside PR regarding the launch of the GU Energy Labs peanut butter flavor gel a while back, and I finally got a chance to reach out to them late last month. They were kind enough to send me some samples, and when I opened the envelope I saw this lovely plethora of goodies:

a buffet of gooey choices

I was so excited I almost ate one of the peanut butter ones as a snack but I waited until 15 minutes before my run (as directed by the package) and had one. It was really really good. I don’t like every flavor of GU (or any other energy gel for that matter) but I do love me some peanut butter, that’s for sure. It tasted thicker than the normal GUs, but I might be imagining things. Either way, I’ll definitely be getting more of that. They also threw in some of the new Island Nectars flavor which I am probably going to have to fight over give in to letting Rach have, but I might be able to pry it away from her if I offer her the Peppermint Stick seasonals as those are definitely her kind of thing (and very much not mine!) Finally they threw in some grapefruit flavored Brew electrolyte drink, which Rach LOVES so I’ll probably be parting with most of those as well.

The other package that came today was the prize from winning the Performance Bike facebook contest late last week. I won a 12 pack box of  PowerBar energy chews and a 24 pack box of Vanilla energy gels. I even talked them into swapping out the Strawberry Banana chews for Cola flavor chews which are one of my favorite snacks for on the bike (right up there with the Honey Stinger waffles.

Cola. Energy. Chews. NOM

It just didn’t seem right not to share the love with the fine folks who have donated so far, so I built a raffle prize out of parts of the combined stuff I got in the mail today: The 24 count box of PowerBar Vanilla Energy Gels, 1 GU Peanut Butter energy gel, and 3 GU Chocolate Raspberry energy gels.  More great stuff you can win and enjoy just for donating!

No you don't get the laptop but you do get a Peanut Butter GU

Overcoming challenges, 1 meal & 1 day at a time

Note #1: PLEASE enter my giveaway for a set of Jabra SPORT bluetooth headphones. These are really nice, no strings (or wires) attached, and I get to give people something nice, SO HELP ME DO IT

Note #2: If you really want a pair of Jabras, you can bolster your odds at getting them or any of my other fabulous raffle prizes by donating to Eleonore Rocks. More prizes this week!

Yesterday I wasn’t very hungry when I woke up so I ate a small breakfast. For lunch I had a sandwich and a banana and felt full. I drank about 60 ounces of liquids throughout the day, including some gatorade.

Around 4 PM I took Stanley for my 30 minute run. An hour later I did my 1200 yard swim. By the time I got to the arena to watch Rachelle’s team play, I was starving. I ate not 1, not 2, but 3 sandwiches from the food counter, drank a powerade and a water, and was still starving. I took time between each sandwich to make sure I wasn’t just thirsty or craving. I drank another 20 ounces of water, and waited an hour before giving in and grabbing some fast food. I was deliberate, eating slowly again and thankfully I finally wasn’t hungry. I wound up only eating a few french fries and drinking about 4 – 6 ounces of soda, with exactly 1 small bite of the burger before I stopped eating. It was probably 3 extra points that I wish I hadn’t eaten but I was doing the right things and listening to my bodies needs. I think I need to increase my electrolyte intake during the earlier parts of the day and while I’m on my run to prevent this.

I’m really proud that knowing how to properly attack this kind of response from my body paid off in that I didn’t wind up devouring a cheeseburger, which as you all know is my weakness. While I’ve been mostly successful at avoiding food weaknesses and staying within points, I’m not happy with how my weight loss has been going. I have begun to notice small changes in my body, and I know this takes time. And I see from my training results I’m getting stronger/faster/better, I just need to stay with it.

Note #3: I’ve added a tracker that will display where I am in terms of fundraising. It’s off by $50 that will be coming via corporate matching, so I’m actually at $175 so far.