Friday, January 27, 2017

Why not Tri it?

This new triathlon endeavor I’m undertaking may seem a little out of the blue to some. So, I decided to write a few thoughts down to give people an idea of where I’m coming from and perhaps in later posts, where I hope to go with all this.

I’ve spent the past 13 years devoting a good chunk of my life to cycling and gaining some unbelievable memories, life experiences, and friends in the process. But I was absolutely certain that 2016 should be my last year as a professional cyclist despite showing some good fitness and form at a few races throughout the season.

Why quit cycling? Well, travel for one. I didn’t like being on the road more than I was home from Jan. – Sept. I would come back from a 2 or 3 week trip and my kiddo would be noticeably bigger and have new ‘tricks’ to show me. That sucked. I want to be there as life happens, not as a transient who is there in spurts. But as much of a reason as the travel, was the waning fire for the sport. Road cycling is entirely too hard to be just 85% committed. I found myself feeling less than elated after wins or good performances. And I found myself less inclined to be there when it counted in riskier situations. My teammates definitely deserve better than that. My cycling ‘home’ for the past 5 years – formerly Optum, now Rally Cycling Team – prides itself on our one-for-all mentality and our ability to sacrifice individual ambitions for the success of one. I still say ‘our’ because I still feel like I’m a part of that family. It’s a great feeling when you work together with your teammates for a goal and then achieve it. Conversely, it’s an awful feeling when you let your teammates down when it matters. I found myself in that position far too often for my liking.

However, I still enjoy endurance sports and I love new challenges so I didn’t want to completely toss in the towel. Sometime in early 2016, I decided that I’d give triathlon a try after my cycling career concluded. I’ve always joked that I’m a triathlete posing as a cyclist, due to my inability to accelerate but knack for going hard for hours. Now, I guess we’ll see how accurate that joke is! I ran competitively from age 10 to age 23. Then, I devoted the next 14 years to cycling. Now, I just have to swim hard for 10 years or so and I should be ripping at this sport! Nah, I’m all good. I’m the same height, weight, and shoe size as Phelps so that should count for something, right? I love the challenge that swimming has posed these past 4 months. It’s been a lot of fun for me to work on the nuances and track progress. And I’ve had a lot of guidance along the way (thanks Dave, Jeff, Doug & Tate!). I’m excited and nervous for my first mass start swim coming up in just over a month. Besides a couple hundred meters splashing around in the Gulf of Mexico last fall, it will be my first open water swim, too – yikes!

So, if you want to see some potentially interesting splits in a result sheet, my debut triathlon is slated for Mar. 5 at the Desert Triathlon in La Quinta, CA. I hope to do well overall, but there are far too many unknowns for me to call myself “confident” of a good result at this point.

And again, I’d like to thank my sponsors are supporting me on a leap of faith and who have virtually eliminated my startup costs. Diamondback, Hed., Castelli, ISM, and Zoot – I hope to do you proud! (or at least not embarrass us)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

News Flash!

This just in: Zirbel is going to be a Tri-Geek in 2017!

Yep, it’s for realz. I’m going for it. How hard could it be? I can bike, I used to run purty good, and I’ve never once drowned while swimming. And amazingly enough, there are some companies who think I might be alright at this new endeavor - though I’ve never actually competed in a triathlon:

- Diamondback is going to be putting me on the fastest triathlon bikes in da world. Yippee!

- Of course I will be using Hed wheels like I have done for the majority of my cycling career (I feel like I’m a part of the family)

- Castelli will be providing superior clothing for performance and comfort

- I will be on ISM Saddles so I know my nether regions will be taken care of

- And Zoot is providing wetsuits and accessories so I don’t sink and can look the part

Thank you to my sponsors who are taking a leap of faith with me on this new adventure. It should be an exciting ride! And as a show of good faith...I have reluctantly started a Facebook page and will actually be posting to it and my Instagram account. Sorry Phil Booth (Social Media guy with Rally Cycling who tried valiantly to get me to start using social media the past few years)! I'm actually excited to write a little bit. It seems to help me process events more effectively. And I have a lot of changes this year to process!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fall Resistance Training

Oh, glorious off-season - I bask in your generous indulgences. A time when the couch pleads with me to stay put and the beer and ice cream flow freely! But, alas, your time is fleeting for the next season is right around the corner and those ‘zygotes’ born in the 90s who’ve never heard of Tear for Fears, Airwolf, or Molly Ringwald are surely already training 30 hrs/wk in Tucson or some such place. So, it’s back to the grind of training and strict diet (my teammates will have a good laugh at my use of the word ‘strict’ but it’s all relative!).
Is it fear of the up-and-comers that gets me going again for the next season? Maybe a little. I think a little fear of failure can be a healthy motivator. But it’s also just so incredibly pleasant in Boulder in the Fall that I have a hard time sitting around anyway! This Fall, I’m experimenting with different types of Resistance Training. It’s been challenging but a lot of fun! Almost every time I hike or bike, I am towing/hauling extra weight in order to build up my strength endurance. This will serve to strengthen not only my legs but my core by having to support those extra lbs. The first time I hiked with a 25 lb backpack a few weeks ago, my legs were literally shaking from fatigue by the end of the descent. As an added bonus, I get an exaggerated feel for what’s it’s like being over ‘race-weight.’ Holy cow, biking up a hill towing 35 extra lbs is tough! Sure, being 2 lbs over weight isn’t nearly as bad but it definitely makes a measurable difference when you’re racing all out. I’m hoping that when this phase of training is over and it’s just me and my bike, I will feel so fast and nimble as to be unstoppable!
In addition to the aerobic training, I’ve been doing a little unstructured weight work as well. It’s similar to kettle bell workouts in that I will toss a weight up in the air and catch it again in order to increase my explosiveness and to also strengthen my core. It seems to be making a difference as well. I’m a little worried about gaining bulk in my arms because I am using this weight training often more than I anticipated, but hopefully it will all come off as the hours on the bike build up. That’s what team camp is for!
So anyway, I just wanted to share my unique approach to early season training this Fall. I’m thinking of writing a book expanding on these advanced Resistance Training methods but that’s still in the early phases. I’ve attached photos showing my new training techniques to help those interested get a better understanding of how it’s done. Hopefully it works and I become ‘Great Success’ in 2015. Time will tell!
Thanks for reading,
Riding with my 35 lb cargo.

Top of Mt. Sanitas with my sleeping weighted pack.

Tossing my special 20 lb 'kettlebell' into the air.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Stars and Bars

It seems I'm getting worse and worse with this blog updating. However on the bright side, I've been trying to take more photos recently to document the interesting things I come across so we'll actually have some visual with this post!
First off - hip, hip, hooray for achieving career goals! I'm super excited to have finally gotten the TT Nats win after being close so many years. Of course, I would have liked to have won the title with DZ, Tejay, Phinney, et al. all there but I'll take the 'W' however it comes!
This was my 'Welcome Home' surprise after TT Nats (framed medal & number after Philly). My wife is a keeper. Conspicuously absent from the photo is the chocolate bundt cake, where could it have gone??
I've been feeling really good on the bike ever since Gila, which is part of the reason I was so incredibly frustrated with how the Amgen Tour of California turned out for me. That heat the first 2 days absolutely wrecked my body and it didn't matter how much fitness I had, cuz I could barely pedal in a straight line!
Here, Haga pays homage to Switzerland after St. 1 of ToC.
After my ToC was over, I took a few days to feel sorry for myself and then Rebecca and I took a weekend getaway to Estes Park, CO. I sometimes forget how beautiful it is up there at the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park so it's important to be 'reminded' periodically with visits.
Giant elk hanging out in the shade 20 ft from the road.
Being tourists at the historic Stanley Hotel. In the background is a Jack Nicholson lookalike who stands around the hotel, smoking cigars.
The mini-holiday was just what I needed and I came back home refreshed and ready to crush Nationals. Obviously, US Pros weekend went well though I was little disappointed with how I raced the finishing circuits of the road race. But all in all, a great weekend and the Optum women absolutely dominated their road race!
The Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic was another great weekend for Optum. It was a complete team effort throughout the entire race and I was personally excited that I got my tush up there and helped with the
lead outs into the Wall. Jesse rewarded our efforts with a 2nd place finish and I came home with the Sprinter's Jersey (don't laugh!) just from being in breakaways all day.
Sunset at a nature preserve on outskirts of Philly. Hopefully, this is not the 'sunset' of my form. We still have to win the Nature Valley Grand Prix next week as a way of thanking all of our great Minnesota sponsors and supporters! As always, I'm looking forward to seeing scads of family and friends out cheering Optum!
Only after NVGP can I get those Stars (do some camping) and Bars (as in Pubs!) that I'm craving.

Friday, April 26, 2013

There's a reason it's so green here...

We're hanging out here in Fayetteville, Arkansas awaiting the start of Stage 2 of the Joe Martin Stage Race. The last two days we've been commenting on how pretty it is out here with the quiet, rolling roads and the beautiful green countryside. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise then that today it is currently pouring down rain with only 4 hrs to go to the start. Fingers crossed that the lightning/thunder passes on through so we can compete in one of the longest non-circuit road race courses that we do all year on the NRC calendar.
Day 1 went well for us. It's the one day of the year that I attempt to convince myself that I'm a mountain goat and not a plains buffalo. Every year I get slightly deflated at seeing my time/placing after the uphill TT and this year was no different. However, Haga continued to show his great form and rode to an impressive 2nd on the stage. Plus, we brought a very strong sprint team so it should be a fun race...if this weather can cooperate a little today.
A lot has happened since my last post. For one, the racing season started! In addition, I got to see and race in Portugal for the first time ever. I had a great time racing and seeing some sights in that cool little country. I would definitely recommend a visit if you're thinking of a European getaway!
Here, Salas poses on the wall of an incredibly cool castle where the 1st stage of the Volta ao Alentejo finished.
After all of that great racing and sightseeing in Portugal, I basically came home to this:
Boulder had record setting snowfall in the month of April at just under 4 feet! Makes it a little difficult to train consistently...especially if you're becoming more and more of a fair-weather trainer like me. ;-)
So, that's the condensed version of what's been happening the last 6 weeks or so. This week is Joe Martin, next week is Gila, and a few days of recovery before the big ol' Amgen Tour of California. Lots of great racing coming up!

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


Last month while training in the beautiful Malibu mountains for the Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies training camp, I got to thinking about how lucky I am and how far this sport has taken me.  It was about that time that it dawned on me that mid-Feb 2013 marks my 10 year anniversary of owning a road bike!  I bought my beloved aluminum Fuji Roubaix because of a knee injury from running and I needed to supplement the mere 40 mi/wk running that I could manage with the injury.  I also remember my 1st ride going up Linden Dr. in Boulder and having to dismount my bike because it was so steep and I couldn't go fast enough to stay upright (despite having a triple chainring).  I'm glad I stuck with it.

I wonder where I'd be if I hadn't gotten that knee injury and bought that first road bike.  Would I have eventually gravitated toward cycling somehow?  Or would I have continued on my goal to make the US Olympic Marathon Trials in 2004? At the very least, I bet I would have lasted longer than a semester in grad school for chemistry before dropping out to pursue my cycling career! It's hard to say where I'd be now if it weren't for that first road bike. All I know is that I'm super thrilled with the way things turned out these last 10 years. Even with all of the injuries, gut-wrenching losses and even the doping bullshit that I went through, it's been an incredible 10 years. Maybe I'll start designating my age as anno bici (A.B.) or year of the bike. And in that case, I just hit double digits and turned 10 A.B.! I feel like I should celebrate with balloons, ice cream cake and perhaps a pinata.

I finished my first race of the year last weekend in Merced, CA. The Merco Cycling Classic has developed into a really nice race. The organizers do a good job of keeping the race challenging, yet safe and organized. And I always feel welcomed by the community during the few days we are there. This year, the race committee organized a 'Champions Dinner' after the first stage where they did the podium presentations and thanked all the sponsors, etc. Their guest speaker was Davis Phinney, one of my cycling heroes. I look up to him, not so much because he was an absolute stud as a racer in the 80s, but because of the way he handles himself and for all of the work he's done creating and promoting his Davis Phinney Foundation in hopes of improving the lives of those inflicted with Parkinson's Disease. Anyway, Davis told us a very inspirational anecdote that was very relevant to the current teetering point that cycling is on. It related to personal integrity and doing the right thing despite any 'justifications' that you could use to take shortcuts. I loved it.

Next up, I'm off to Portugal for a 1.2 race and then the Volta ao Alentejo, a 5 days stage race in the flat-ish part of Portugal. I don't really know what to expect, but it will probably be pretty easy. I've heard racing in Portugal is like doing your local group ride - only as hard as you make it. Totally unrelated, sometimes I find it challenging to convey sarcasm in my writing.

Thanks to all of you who have supported me in my cycling endeavors these past 10 years! Let's Party!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Brand New Year

So, I've officially put a stop on my self-imposed ban from any cycling-related news.  I took about a 2 month vacation from all that drama.  As you may have noticed, I got a little caught up in the fracas so had to just step away.  It was a nice break but I recently caught up on all the transfer news, latest scandals, and injury reports, etc.  I noticed a lot of car/cyclist crashes in my absence!  That's no good.  As cyclists, we are so vulnerable to any mistakes made by motorists and it would be scary to think that as drivers we're becoming less attentive at the wheel rather than more aware of cyclists and other cars on the road.  Thankfully, I've had very few incidents to speak of riding around Boulder County, but even we as a county have too many cyclists being injured or even killed by inattentive motorists.  Obviously, there need to be steps taken to help ensure the safety of cyclists riding on the shoulders/roads, but we as cyclists also need to be riding as safely and as courteous as possible to try and alleviate these types of run ins with motorists.  Not sure where I'm going with this, other than to say I've come across too many cyclists riding like A-holes and hurting the perception of cyclists.  We are in the minority and motorists hold all of the power, so it behooves us to 'make nice.'  Both motorists and cyclists in general have much to work on in order to exist in harmony.  Much like our Congress!
In a more positive 'light', the days are getting longer!  I took this pic from our driveway at 3:06p in mid-December. 

That bright spot is the sun retiring behind the mountain for the day.  There's no excuse for that, Sun!  Even government employees work past 3p!  A little work ethic is all we're asking for.  Despite the short days, I've managed to get some good riding and running in.  I'm feeling fit and ready for the season....only 2.5 months to go before our first race!  (groan)

And even though the holidays are over, I wanted to share this picture that captures the Christmas spirit.

It's a pic of my mom in complete awe over the intense beauty of our giant Christmas tree.  And yes, that is a life-sized angel on the top.  I hope everyone had a great holiday!