29 May 2012

An Evening with Chrissie Wellington

I'm fortunate enough to live in a larger city that attracts interesting visitors. Last year, I met Sister Madonna Buder, Iron Nun. Earlier this year I listened and learned from Andrew Skurka, Ultimate Hiker. And last night St. Louis enjoyed a visit from the reigning (4-time) Ironman Triathlon World Champion, Chrissie Wellington. Of course I went.
Chrissie answering a question!
The funny thing about these type of events is I rarely go with questions of my own. These people and their areas of expertise are on youtube enough times that I can research answers to my specific questions without too much trouble. Instead, I go to soak up their aura, see how they convey their thoughts, respond to the inevitable repetitive questions, and gather my own inspiration.
from http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/triathlon/17460802
And Chrissie is indeed an inspiration. The girl could hardly sit still on stage, flapping her feet around and changing positions every minute or so. I suspect it is this energy that, when training, she is able to channel into gaining fitness, but it an off year just sort of bubbles out of every nook and cranny. Chrissie gave a short auto-biographical talk about her ascent to the ultimate title in long-course triathlon, and then took questions from the audience. Throughout her presentation, I was impressed by her insistence that every person work to achieve the best race result for you: not stressing about the clock, but instead focusing on wringing every last ounce of courage out of yourself and leaving it on the racecourse. This inward focus extends to training as well...focus on preparing yourself the best you can given your life situation and choices. Not every age grouper has the luxury of adequate recovery, balanced nutrition, good sleep, terrific equipment. Chrissie encouraged us not to measure race performances by the depth of our aero wheels...instead measure them by the depth of our efforts.
Meeting the legend.
My biggest take-away from her talk was from a crowd question. An attendee asked "What advice would you give to a person attempting to finish their first Ironman?" Now at first I was not impressed by this question; there is advice for first-time triathletes floating all over the interwebz. But Chrissie's answer really impressed me and it is something I will incorporate into every pre-race routine from here on out. She responded "I would tell the athlete to set aside some quiet time and think about the day ahead. Think about what it would take to make you quit." She went on to describe that the only thing to make her quit would be a broken leg, so when she races and is feeling bad, she asks herself "Is my leg broken?". Then if the answer is no, then she keeps going. Simple. Perpetual forward motion.
My new book!

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23 May 2012

Training Weekend in Pictures, and Knoxville!

I guess you could call this a "Wordless Wednesday" post but that would make me seem like a real "blogger". But I had some fun with my non-smartphone-camera this weekend that I wanted to share, and the official race pics from Rev3 Knoxville just got posted!

Saturday's ride from New Town to Old Monroe and back. Oh, oh, it's magic! You know!
Sunday's ride from Queeny Park to Labadie and back. I pity the FOO!
Sunday's ride...Junction of OOF and DA!

Mid-bike at Rev3 Knoxville HIM. Dang those wheels are hot!! And the helmet! So stylish! Notice the flames!
Last third of the run at Rev3 Knoxville HIM. My first thought here was "look I have arm muscles!"
This photo also features my patented elbows-out running form, a hold-over habit from playing soccer.

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17 May 2012

The Group Dynamic

This is an issue I struggled mightily with last summer before I met my BTB. You see, before my coach got her hands on me, I was a group training devotee. Thursday morning Forest Park runs with STL Tri Club. Tuesday night track workouts with Big River Running. Wednesday night rides at Lost Valley. Weekend group rides with TrailNet.  I did it all. Then, when I started training per my coach's instructions, things got difficult. My prescribed heart rates yielded paces nowhere near (read: way slower than) my Thursday morning run group's average. Speedwork was out the window. Even group bike rides were too fast for my plan. Since most of my friends in St. Louis are athletes of some sort (tri or adventure), it made me really sad to miss out on the social aspect of training.
St. Louis Tri Club group starting out a TrailNet ride.
But since I was paying hard-earned money to my coach to make me faster, I tried to execute all of the work exactly as prescribed. At first, it was tough. I was bringing my sets to group rides/runs and trying to convince the other people there to do my workout with me. On the runs, no one wanted to go that slow. Same thing on the bike. So I would either abandon my set to ride with the group, or stick with my set only to be dropped by everyone else. Lose-lose scenario. I caught a lot of flack (is that a word?) for this too. My training buddies wanted to know why I wasn't willing to "push myself". They were not convinced that training slower would make me fitter (and would try to debate this with me). Or, they were stuck in the "every training ride/run is a race" mentality and even if they agreed to stay aerobic, by the end of the workout they would push the pace out of my HR zones.
Another TrailNet ride, another St. Louis Tri Club group!
To say the least, I was frustrated. So I accepted that training solo was the best option for me and ditched the group outings. It wasn't personal to the people I had been training with; I just needed an environment where I could get my own training done. And, it worked. Without the distraction of having to justify my aerobically-based workouts over and over, I just plugged away and got the miles in. And I actually started to prefer training by myself - I could start when and where it was convenient. I could leave gas stations immediately after refueling instead of waiting around for everyone's bathroom breaks. And I forgot about comparing myself to others' pace...my speed is my own, and I own it.
Finishing 2011 LSL Oly Tri.
I still look for swims/bikes/runs in my training schedules that are conducive to completing in a group. My rule of thumb is if there are no more than 2 pace changes, the workout is okay for inviting people along. If there are more than 2 pace changes, just do it yourself. Or find a really, really awesome training buddy (comparable in fitness, temperament, and goals...extremely difficult to find!) to bring with you. And be REALLY CLEAR about the workout's goals when inviting others. Don't be shy about dictating pace (I have been known to shout "you are going too fast" on several occasions), or about letting groups ride off the front if they are too speedy.
Good workouts to do in a group:BIKE (5:00) - warm up with 30 min easy spinning. then get into 4:15 steady aerobic riding. then cool down with 15 min easy spinning.
RUN (1:00) - warm up with 10 min easy jogging. then get into 0:45 steady aerobic run. then cool down 5 min easy jogging.
Bad workouts to do in a group:
BIKE (4:00) - warm up 40 min of easy spinning, then 5 min HARD, then 10 min easy spinning, then 5x20 min at HIM tempo based on PE and HR with 10 min easy between each one, then 30 min cool down
RUN (1:00) - Warm up 15 min. Then: 8 min at MAF-5, 8 min recovery, 6 min at MAF, 6 min recovery, 4 min at MAF+5, 4 min recovery, 2 min at MAF+10, 2 min recovery, 5 min additional cool down
Like every rule, there are some exceptions. Group training works out splendidly on the track (if you need speedwork) and in the pool. And while speedwork hasn't been a part of my training for a while, I take full advantage of the pool by swimming with a local Master's group. Not sure how they motivate me to get in the water at 5.15am on a Monday morning, but they do and I thank them for it!!
Big River Running's speedwork at its finest.
So, all you STL triathletes, here is my long-winded explanation for why I have dropped off the social training scene. Let me reiterate: it's not personal. Well, actually it is. My training is personal to me, and I want to keep my focus there, instead of the group.
Solo in training, solo in racing.
Not done reading? Here are some somewhat-related articles. Enjoy.
The Art of Getting Dropped 
The Lost Art of the Group Ride (roadie specific) 
Here’s the deal. Don’t do intervals on group rides.  
The Trudi Spot 

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11 May 2012

Rev3 Knoxville Half-Iron Tri Details

I have only done these race report follow-ups for adventure races so far, but I have a few pointers to share about triathlon. So consider it your lucky day!


This was hard to predict for me since I don't typically train at HIM-race intensities for extended periods of time. But here is what I decided on and what I actually consumed:
          Breakfast: normal ameliorated oatmeal, plus coffee with soy creamer
          Little bit before the swim: gel with water
          Swim: ah...nothing.
          Bike: 1 frame bottle with 3 scoops CarboRocket Half-Evil and 2 tabs nuun. 1 aero-mounted bottle with water and 2 tabs nuun. I brought 3 packages Honey Stinger Chews but only ate about 2 packages' worth. I also brought 2 back-up gels but did not eat them. Plus water from aid stations. (consumed 653/813 cals)
          Run: brought 4 gels with me. At the first aid station, the volunteers were handing out pretzels and something in my mind clicked like "oooo that looks good". I didn't want to bother with solid food but I interpreted the pretzel craving as a need for salt and then started taking aid-station-provided salt pills whenever I could get them. I went through the 4 gels in the first 8-9 miles and still needed calories. The on-course gels were tasting pretty gross to me but I ate 2 of them. And looking at my late-race slowdown, I should have ate more. Lesson learned! Plus water from aid stations. (consumed about 660cal and needed more)
         Post-race: 1 bottle Muscle Milk after the bathroom emergency. Another bottle of Muscle Milk before going down to transition the first time. Then some delicious BBQ! I love BBQ. (And corndogs, but I had to wait until the drive home to get one of those)


I am somewhat of a black sheep in the world of triathlon...I am a cheapskate. Like, super cheap. I would prefer to spend 20 hours of my own time making a one-off carbon water bottle mount instead of plunking down $50 for it. This year, I am wearing last year's racing kit. And when I was practicing my flying mounts, I was challenged by the fact that I use regular road bike shoes instead of triathlon-specific shoes. Mine have three velcro straps instead of one, and no heel tab, which makes them slightly more difficult to put on while pedaling. I did not want to buy new shoes. Solution? Every cyclist's best friend...THE ZIP TIE! I made myself heel tabs by attaching zip ties to my shoes. Aero? Mayhaps not. Cheap? Definitely. 


WHAT?! There's no navigating in triathlon! But, I just want to emphasize some points about the venue for anyone thinking of doing this race next year. One cool thing is once I parked my car on Friday night, I didn't move it again until Sunday afternoon when I was leaving. But, I did a lot of walking as I mentioned in my race report. Please do not underestimate this venue - it's spread out. We stayed in the race hotel, the Holiday Inn. The finish line and expo (red flag and teal shopping cart in the map above) is in the hotel's back yard, which is cool. But, transition (black flag and purple square) is a good 15-minute walk from the hotel. And the swim start (red swimmer, Calhoun's On The River) is a good 15-minute walk from transition. Your walking will probably be reduced if your coach is not working transition and you don't feel the need to ask her inane questions 3 times daily.  Pin It

09 May 2012

Race Report: Rev3 Knoxville Half-Iron Triathlon

My first race of the 2012 triathlon season happened this weekend - the half-iron (70.3) distance event put on by Rev3 in Knoxville, TN. I had a great experience and the race gave me (and my coach) a good benchmark for my current fitness and highlighted a few areas where I need to improve before Ironman Couer d'Alene. I always feel that triathlon race reports are sort of boring (let's see...I swam, then I biked, then I ran! all on a predetermined course! wow!) but it's always neat to hear other peoples' impressions of a race, so here you go!


I left work early on Friday and drove over to Knoxville. I had a few friends from St. Louis also racing/working, but no one's schedule was the same as mine so I did this road trip solo (which is cool with me, that way no other passengers get annoyed with my frequent bathroom breaks). I was enthralled with the beauty of central Tennessee...wow. Definitely want to come back here to play in the woods. I got to the race hotel about 9pm and went right upstairs to meet my roommates for the weekend, Katie and her husband Thom. We'd never met in real life before but since Katie's a GoSonja pony, we decided to split a hotel room to save some cash. It was a great choice; Katie and I compared notes on our (very similar) training thus far and benefited from the outstanding sherpa skills of Thom. Anyway, I dumped my bags in the room and we trotted down a few floors to say hi to Sonja and Michelle, who would be working as Transition Queens for Rev3 all weekend. After a few quick hugs, it was back upstairs for sleep.

All of our tri crap in the hotel room. 
I slept as long as possible and made my normal breakfast in the hotel room. Then the three of us went downstairs to the hotel breakfast, because what's not to like second breakfast? The seating area was jam-packed so we filled our plates and then hovered looking for open chairs. One guy had snagged a table all to himself, saw us with pleading looks in our eyes, and invited us to join him. He looked very fit, but only after we introduced ourselves and he said his name was "Richie" did I connect the dots...yeah. We ate breakfast with Richie Cunningham, an exceptionally speedy pro triathlete. He was awesome to chat with; we asked lots of questions about his experience at NOLA70.3, how to change race strategy in inclement weather, benefits of training in Boulder, etc. What a cool dude. Good luck this season, Richie!!
Pre-race (synchonized) with with Katie.
The rest of the day was filled with the usual pre-race stuff…packet pick-up, race wheel prepping, practice swimming, napping, snacking, etc. My big drama for the day happened on the way to bike drop-off. As we were descending on the hotel escalator, the escalator decided to grab my rear wheel and take a huge bite out of the tire. I momentarily freaked (remember, these are borrowed 808 firecrests…not cheap) and went into crisis management mode. Turns out the escalator only latched onto the tire, leaving the wheel itself unscathed. So we called super-sherpa Thom who brought my training wheels down to the lobby where I swapped tires. Much to my relief, the valve extender held air and soon it was game on as usual. Before we dropped our bikes off in transition, I did a few practice flying mounts and made the big-girl decision to leave shoes attached to the bike! From transition, we walked over to dinner at The Tomato Head for my favorite pre-race meal…pizza! It was delicious too. The dinner was highlighted by a nice older man admiring my bike helmet, even taking a picture of it. Later on in our meal he came back to our table to ask (us? me?) what (I? we?) were doing later than night. But the younger kid that was with him totally threw him under the bus when he whispered to Katie “Watch out for my Dad, he's going to roll out the flirting because he's looking for a new mom for me”. Talk about worst wingman ever.  For dessert, Katie and Thom introduced me to water-ice, which was an awesome way to fill up every possible nook and cranny in my belly with delicious calories. Back in the hotel, it was time for final race preparations and sleeping.
Ready we are. 
For athletes considering racing Knoxville, take note: be prepared for a lot of walking. The transition area, the swim start and exit (different locations), the finish line/expo/hotel are spread out. I felt like I was constantly walking from one place to another and it ate up a lot of time (and added to pre-race-time-on-feet, not ideal). We should have been more organized about it, but we just weren't, and as a result things took a lot longer than they should have. It wasn't stressful, it was just a lot of walking. So plan ahead, 2013 Rev3ers!!

The donning of the wetsuits.
On race morning, I slept through my alarm. That’s how relaxed I was about this race. When I finally got up, it was a rush to get breakfast consumed, cars packed, race kit on, tattoos applied, playlists loaded, transitions set up, etc. Katie and I were doing our best to stay outwardly calm but I am pretty sure we were both thinking “crapcrapcrapwearesolate”. We abandoned our warm-up jogs and instead hit the porta-potty lines (2 for 2 on successful poops!) and then began the process of squeezing ourselves into wetsuits. We got to watch a few earlier waves go off and then it was time to join the rest of the yellow-capped ladies on the dock.

SWIM (36:37)
Actually a photo from our Saturday swim, but I needed something for this section. I'm on the right. Is that a weird recovery arm???
My plans were to try and hang on Katie's feet for the whole swim (because she is f*@%ing legit, just ask her) but those evaporated about 5 seconds after the horn sounded. The whole pack just...swam away. Wow I am slow off the line! My lack of warm-up really hurt my breathing and I felt like I couldn't get a deep breath for the first 10 minutes. I'll be honest, it wasn't that fun, especially with thoughts of Audra's IMSG swim in my head, and I struggled to be speedy. We were swimming into the sun for the first 700 yards or so and it felt like ages. I stopped 3 or 4 times to stick my head up, get a better sight on the buoys, and control my breathing. Once we hit the turnaround I felt better and was able to swim more consistently, but still wasn't really racing...just swimming. I knew I wasn't doing that great and when the finish dock appeared in my vision I was relieved that the swim was over and excited to get on with the rest of the race.

T1 (4:53)
The swim exit was a dock at water level, but Rev3 had recruited several burly men to extract swimmers out of the water. I found an available dude, stuck my arm up, and was hoisted out of the water super fast. Thanks volunteers! I quickly jogged up the ramp to cross the timing mat. From there, the run into T1 was rather long (400m?) so I stopped in a shady spot to take off my wetsuit before entering the crowded craziness of transition. Once in the garage, I found my row and was jogging up to my bike when I saw Katie's kit! Did I swim fast or did she swim slow? Not one to chat, I gave her an encouraging ass-smack and kept running to my bike. I had to press some buttons on the Garmin that I forgot about when I was setting up my spot, so my T1 time is slower than I would have liked. Finally, it was time to wheel the bike out and get this show on the road!

Funny story...after the race we determined that Katie was actually NOT still in transition when I arrived. It was someone else dressed in her exact same Soas kit. So evidently I spanked a complete stranger in T1. Belated apologies to whoever that was!!

BIKE (2:58:36)
Me leaving T1, feet on shoes proving that I did the flying mount!
I executed the flying mount perfectly for a first-timer, took my time getting my shoes sorted, and then it was off to the races. There were lots of other athletes around on the early part of the course through town; it was never too crowded but I had to pay attention to everyone's lines. After about 30 minutes, things settled down and I was able to get into my race-pace effort...HARD. My goal for this race was to put my bike fitness to the test and see where we stood at this point in the season. My legs felt solid and I focused on extracting a 5hr effort out of them. I was tracking heart rate but really only used it to keep myself from going too slow. We had a couple nice hills in the first 12 miles and I found myself catching a ton of people on the descents. I am not the most fearless descender but I like to attack them (to the limits of my comfort level) and today it seemed that everyone else wanted to just coast! The roads were in great shape, the course was well-marked, and the scenery was beautiful.

I don't have much to say about the bike because it was mostly all the same - me riding hard and passing  people. I was having some issues with my tummy, it wasn't used to digesting at heart rates above 165. I wasn't willing to slow down so I just spaced out my calorie consumption more than I normally would (i.e. instead of eating 5-6 Honey Stinger chews at a time, I would eat 2-3). The CarboRocket Half-Evil in my frame bottle wasn't settling the best either, but I think that's because I added 2 tablets of nuun for electrolytes and fizz. The fizz is appealing in training but for half-iron racing I think I will have to switch to etabs or some other non-fizzy electrolyte source. But, the DIY bottle mount worked flawlessly!

I was only passed by one other girl, who was in a Rev3 kit on a Kestrel (Laura Wheatley, was that you?). I had a 5-second thought about trying to stay with her but after those 5 seconds I could tell she was way stronger than I was. My strategy for passing people or being passed is this:
  • Passing a guy... ignore him.
  • Being passed by a guy... ignore him.
  • Passing a girl... tell myself she is a hella fast runner and gogogo.
  • Being passed by a girl... first check to see if my effort is where I want it. If my effort's too slow, try to re-pass her. If my effort's just right and/or too fast, tell myself she is a weak runner (or in the AquaBike) and just let her go. Byebye chica. Hope I can run you down later!
I caught up to Katie about an hour into the bike and was really confused, how had she stayed in front of me for so long after I saw her in transition? (Answer: that was not her in transition) We exchanged some encouraging works and I continued on my quest to bike within an inch of my legs' usefulness. Another victory I'd like to share, I peed off the bike! Can I call myself a 'real' triathlete now? 

T2 (1:38)
Coming back in from the bike course.
The dismount went fine (again, left shoes on the bike) and I found my bike rack on the first try! I racked the front tire, put socks and run shoes on, and spent a few extra seconds to dig out my un-used gels from the bike's bento box. Grabbed my visor, race belt, run gels, and skedaddled out of there!

RUN (1:52:35)
I spent the first four miles getting settled and organized. Visor on, gels shoved in sports bra/shorts, sunglasses on, race belt on, etc. By this time, it was quite hot (for early May) on the course, I think low 80s with high humidity, and I knew I would have to be extra vigilant about nutrition and hydration to pull off a successful run. The first aid station came up pretty quick and I grabbed 2 water bags. I have never raced with water bags before (used  instead of cups), but that's what Rev3 provides at their races. I found they were easy to use and had the added bonus of extended portability. Some of the bags were cold, and I carried those ones for a while before drinking them to act as palm-coolers. By the end of the run course, though, the weird taste of the water was unappealing.

After a solid opening 4 miles of 8:30/mi pace, I did a systems check and decided that I was slacking. My tummy still wasn't 100% happy but everything else felt fine so I decided to see what would happen if I went faster. I found some more "speed" and brought the next 6 miles in at 8:20/mi pace. In these miles, I saw the lead women coming back at me and figured out I was in 9th or 10th. We had some hills to deal with and I just tried to stay calm on the ups and smooth on the downs. I made the turnaround and saw a few ladies up ahead and went after them. I also ran out of gels and had to resort to the on-course gels which tasted horrible, but I had experienced a few seconds of light-headedness during mile 8 so knew that I couldn't afford to turn down any calories. I passed either 2 or 3 women (can't remember) around miles 8 or 9 and was determined to make those passes stick.

I started to hurt during mile 10. The course was getting pretty empty and my hamstrings got tight like they usually do. I saw a few dudes up in the distance but they were juuuust far enough in front of me that I couldn't convince myself to run them down. Instead I went into low-point management mode - trying to maintain my position in the overall women's field without hurting myself more. I couldn't stand the thought of more on-course gel, but the last 2 aid stations had Gatorade which tasted good and kept me going. The turn for the finish line was a tough uphill on a winding pedestrian path...it hurt! Coming into the World's Fair Pavilion was really cool though, Rev3 had an awesome finish line party going and I crossed the line in 5:34:21.

Immediately after crossing the line, I needed to sit down. I made it through the chute, collecting my finishers medal/shirt and a couple bottles of Muscle Milk, but then crumpled to the ground next to Muscle Milk's huge tubs of ice. I also needed to use the bathroom really badly, so I only stayed there a few minutes before hobbling into the hotel to use their lobby's bathrooms. A janitor was cleaning the women's bathroom but I made it quite clear that this was an EMERGENCY and could he please let me use the toilet. He didn't really have a choice in the matter and I felt much better after leaving. I rested some more in the shade of a tree and then went over to the timing booth to find Kelly and see my results. She gave me a big hug and then another volunteer showed me I was 2nd Age Group and 6th overall! Sweet! I decided to try and find Thom. I eventually located him in the shade of the bridge and sat there for a while waiting for Katie. When she didn't show, I decided to head down to transition to give Sonja the race report. I happened to find Michelle first who graciously listened to the story of my day and then I repeated the account to Sonja. At the very end I mentioned I was 2nd AG, and she told me I had better go to the awards ceremony! I had completely forgotten about that. Turns out the ceremony had been happening as we were chatting so I missed it. (That makes me 2-for-2 on missed podiums, I was absent on the Branson 70.3 podium last year too!) I rode my bike up to the Pavilion and the nice people at Rev3 gave me my prizes anyway. Since 1st place in our 25-29 age group (the very talented Alyssa Godesky, 5:06:21!!) had also placed 3rd overall female, they awarded 1st place AG to me! I was impressed at the haul for the winners...a case of Muscle Milk, a case of PowerBar recovery bars, a certificate for free entry into a 2012 HalfRev event, a certificate for $25 of Rev3 merchandise, and a cool AG medal that acts like a frame for the finisher's medal! WOWWWWW!! Wayyy better than that plastic trophy thing at WTC events.
My haul from the weekend.
Only problem was, now I had all this stuff plus my bike to haul back down to transition where my backpack was. It was awkward and frustrating carrying all that stuff (#trigirlprobs) but luckily some other racers (from Ohio!) offered to help me out, thanks guys!! Back at transition, I learned that Katie had finished but was in medical, so I packed up my stuff and climbed the hill for the final time to check on her. By that time she had recovered from 2 (!) IVs and we were able to debrief the race and the weekend before cleaning up and heading home.

Overall, this was a fairly successful weekend for me. I felt the race was an honest reflection of my current physical/mental fitness. My weaknesses were exposed and I was pleased with the progress I've made on the bike and run. I'd like to thank the three people who I borrowed stuff (wetsuit, wheels, and helmet) from but I'm not revealing their identities so they don't get flooded with requests! Also thanks to Katie and Thom for being excellent race weekend buddies, to Sonja and Michelle for running a fun T1/T2, to Megan for rocking the aid stations, and the Rev3 volunteers for doing an awesome job on a hothothot day!
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01 May 2012

Triathlon How-To: DIY Torpedo Mount

I have a confession. I have been coveting some triathlon-related gear. The biggest of which is a SRAM RED crankset, 165mm, 10 speed, GXP, 53-39T. Anyone have a spare one of those layin around? I'll trade you for the exact same thing except with 172.5mm cranks. Tweet me if you do.

Another thing I have been coveting is much smaller: the Torpedo Water Bottle Mount made by XLab. It's a little piece of carbon fiber paneling with some holes drilled into it, designed to mount a water bottle cage horizontally between the aerobar extensions. Supposedly this mounting scheme causes way less drag than a traditional aero bottle. For my 2011 triathlons, I tried to make my own set-up with electrical tape, and it worked pretty well for my two half-iron races. Then, at ITU LC Worlds, I used the same setup and lost at least 2 and maybe 3 bottles (can't remember exactly) over the 120k bike course. This will not do for 2012, but when I went to purchase this little piece of carbon with velcro straps, I did a double-take. $50?? Really? 

The engineering mind in me got to thinking. Surely I could make my own version of the Torpedo mount for just the cost of some lightweight, stiff material and my own time. I recruited my brother to help me since he has access to scrap carbon and knowledge about machining things. His girlfriend found me a piece of scrap carbon, and on the day after Christmas we put our heads together and got to work. 
My brother teaching me UniGraphics at our kitchen table. Photo by Mom.
We decided to make a quick sketch of the part in CAD using UniGraphics. Since it was my project, my brother made me do all of the computer work. I had never used UniGraphics but he did lots of hand-holding and pretty soon we had progressed from just some lines and dimensions to a full-blown extruded model. I fiddled with the front end a bit, but finally we both decided that we liked the look of an all-concave-curve piece which you can see in the last frame below:
Screenshots from UniGraphics.
The whole design process took at least 2 hours. Most of that time was me learning how to operate the software. We didn't make many calculations, most of it was me sketching on paper how I thought it should look, then comparing it to XLab's photos, then tweaking it in the model. That was the end of Day 1. The next day, we went over to our grandparent's house for dinner (not the same instance as this) and also to use my grandpa's workshop. It's small but is very well stocked and clean. There, we printed a scale template that we could directly transfer onto the carbon panel. I cut out the template with an knife, then traced it onto the carbon. We had covered the panel with painter's tape to both protect the surface and make the tracing visible.
The template, cutting it out, finished template, finished tracing!
 Next, we used a drill to drill out the ends of each slot. We used a larger bit for the 2 middle slots, and a smaller one for the 4 smaller slots, but I forget the exact sizes. Once the holes were done, we used a Dremel tool to cut the straight edges of each slot, so 12 cuts in all. I did the drilling and Dremel work. My brother made the exterior cuts with a bandsaw.
Me drilling, Steven band-sawing.
 Finally, this thing started to look like an actual piece of racing equipment! 
When I got back to St. Louis (and let several months go by), it was time to sand these suckers into submission. Mwahahahaha. First I started with 100-grit paper to get all the big chunks off. I used a chopstick to help force the paper into the small slots. Then did the same thing with 220-grit and 400-grit, in that order. 
Sanded on the left, unsanded on the right. Back and front shots.
Then, it was time to put on a finishing coat. Although, I gotta admit, I was too dang excited to try this out so I mounted the sanded-but-not-coated piece onto my bike for an easy Saturday spin. I had to add a little bit of bar tape (lucky I had extra laying around) under the lower velcro straps so they would be more stable. And I had to steal a decidedly un-fast-looking plastic bottle cage from my mountain bike (complete with residual dirt). But I confirmed that the dimensions all line up, the velcro holds pretty well, and the piece will not break under training stress.
First installation, with a dirty mtb cage.
After that first ride, I purchased a carbon bottle cage for aesthetic purposes (it's my bike that's vain, not me) and then decided to put a different final coat on each piece. For one piece, I used a 5min clear epoxy. On the other, I used a spray-on clear coat. I discovered my epoxy-ing skills are severely lacking; I ended up wasting quite a bit and the finished product still looks a little goopy and uneven. But it is very shiny and feels durable. The spray clear coat was ridiculously easy to apply but the finish is thinner and looks like it might wear off more quickly. 
Final install! Photo from underneath the aero bars.
I chose to install the clear-coated piece because it looked cleaner.

New bottle cage! Ready for racing!
I proved myself right with this project, that the X-Lab Torpedo mount really is just a piece of carbon with some holes cut into it. And it can be made at home. But it took a significant amount of time, way more than $50 worth, to create this thing. It took design time on the computer, fab time in my grandpa's shop and in my apartment, and shopping time in a hardware store for the screws/washers/nuts/velcro/epoxy/clear coat. Granted, I had a learning curve on the design software and epoxy finishing, but it still was a multi-step project that consumed several hours. So if you don't have access to free scrap carbon, or a bandsaw, you are probably better off just buying one from your local LBS. And then you won't have a goopy epoxy job to deal with!
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