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As promised, more on the race to the Olympic Games in the sport of triathlon.


In some sports, there is a single trials race to select the Olympic team. This has been the case in swimming and running in past years, as examples. Show up to one event, lay it all on the line to make the team. Hopefully, when the Olympic Games come along, you can lay it all on the line one more time to get on the podium as the top of your game, top in the world.


There is certainly attraction to a single event carrying the title "Olympic Trials". There are also some downsides. If you happen to be ill, injured or have an equipment problem at the Trials, your Olympic hopes are done. If you happen to be one of the best in the world, our USA hopes of you being on the podium are done because you didn't make the team.



If the USA knows you are one of the best in the world, why doesn't the National Governing Body (NGB) of USA Triathlon simply appoint you to the team? A committee selection process must be carefully designed to rule out personal biases, preferences and political picks.



Some sports do appoint team members through a selection committee, such as USA Cycling.



I have served on two USA Triathlon Olympic Selection Process Committees and designing a process to select the Olympic team is not easy. I've attended a US Olympic Committee seminar where all of the sports shared their selection processes, including the trials and tribulations of each process. I can tell you there is not a single, perfect selection process design.



The design for USA Triathlon's Olympic Team Selection Process was intended to give athletes more than one opportunity to make the team. This reduces the non-selection of top athletes due to illness, injury or equipment problems. It gives experienced, long-time World Cup racers an opportunity as well as giving newcomers an opportunity.



Yes, there are three races and some might argue that chasing the final spot on the team is too exhausting. Reasonable argument, except the last female to make our 2004 Olympic team was also our only medalist, Susan Williams.



For those of you that have not been following World Cup racing, I will continue this blog series to help you learn about International Triathlon Union (ITU) racing and our Olympic team. The race to Beijing begins in just a few weeks.



A few quick facts and links for those of you that love details:





  • Triathletes must be ranked in the top 125 in the world to be eligible to compete in the Olympic Games in the sport of triathlon. World Rankings are updated after key races and can be found under the "Rankings" tab at the ITU site.

  • The 2008 Olympic Rankings are based on World Cup performances between June 1, 2006 and June 8, 2008. All the details for the International Triathlon Union's Olympic Qualification process for all countries can be found here.

  • The entry process into World Cup events is limited. The selection process for USA athletes into World Cup events can be found here.


As the 2007 ITU World Championships wrap up this holiday weekend, elite triathletes around the world begin aiming for the 2007 Beijing World Cup races on September 15 and 16. It is a qualifying opportunity for many athletes and the last opportunity for racers and staff to see the Olympic course prior to the Games. A dress rehearsal not to be missed.


Enjoy your weekend ~

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ITU World Championships

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Aug 27, 2007


Beginning August 31st, the International Triathlon Union (ITU) is hosting the 2007 World Championships in Hamburg, Germany. Included in the weekend festivities, age group athletes from around the world compete head-to-head for world-class titles. Each country has their own qualifying process and the USA will send a team.



For age group athletes, it is a pretty cool event and the closest thing available to competing for your country, short of the Olympic Games. The athletes that make the team via the qualification process have the option of traveling to the event as a team. Team members purchase team kits, that include training and racing uniforms. Fellow country members are easy to spot in training and on race day.



The event is complete with opening ceremonies and a parade of nations. This is one place where you can see fit athletes from a large age range, from all countries. Here is visual proof that there is hope for a more fit world and we are not doomed to obesity weighing down the planet.



The multi-day event includes adult age group athletes and athletes with disabilities in a non-drafting format. There are draft-legal events for juniors, U-23 (under age 23) racers and the elites. The full schedule can be found here.



For those of you that have not seen draft-legal, Olympic racing, you can watch the event live on the internet. The ITU home page has a teaser video put together by the ITU media group. It's a great piece and pretty short too.



The Tricast live schedule is in the left column, next to the video mentioned in the previous paragraph. If you have never seen a draft-legal event, you're missing out on some exciting racing.



Did I mention exciting racing? Two short weeks after the ITU World Championships is the beginning of the qualification process for the 2008 Olympic Games for many countries.



Do you know who the favorites are to make the USA Olympic team?



Do you know who are the World's top-ranked athletes and potential Olympic favorites are right now?



More on the race for the Olympic team in the next blog.






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For blog readers that may not access the main page, Part Two of the Altitude Acclimatization column and follow-up to the Post Race Analysis blog from the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race is now available.

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Bitten by a Rattlesnake

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Aug 23, 2007


On Wednesday I was heading out to mountain bike on a local trail with a pal. Before heading out I decided to take a pit stop. As I was nearing the toilets, a rider leaned his bike against the building and said to no one in particular, "I think I need to call 911. I've been bitten by a rattlesnake."



After a quick assessment of the situation, another cyclist asked the fellow to sit down and began examining the injured leg. I called 911 and relayed instructions while the other rider took care of our injured cyclist.



Emergency personnel arrived at the trail head in a relatively short amount of time. As far as I know, the cyclist was treated and released from the hospital.



Before emergency personnel arrived, I asked the cyclist what happened and he said, "I saw the snake laying in the trail. I thought I could ride past him and be safe. I guess not."



In the past couple of days, I've talked to several people that ride mountain bikes and almost all of them assumed they are safe from the bite of a rattlesnake if they are on a mountain bike. It is not true.



The incident sparked me to investigate more about rattlesnakes since many outdoor enthusiasts have a high likelihood of encountering the venomous pit vipers. You can expect to see a column in Active Triathlete in the near future about rattlesnakes.



In the mean time, have a safe weekend and do your best to avoid contact with rattlesnakes, or other pit vipers, if they live in your area. If you or someone you know gets bitten, keep the person calm and call 911. Of course, you must carry your cell phone. Try to keep the injured body part below the heart. Do not apply a tourniquet or ice to the injury.



Safe travels ~



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In long races, there is plenty of time for things to go wrong. The list of items that can possibly go bad is long.


I mentioned I would update you on a few of the other folks I knew that rode the Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race. The racer in the first photo is Steve Douglas. Also in the photo is Steve's twin brother Paul and Dave Newman's dad, Pete Newman.





Steve leads a Sunday ride group, The Breakfast Club, out of Ft. Collins, Colorado, a neighboring city to mine. Our two Sunday ride groups will often join forces for more fun.



Steve was the inspiration for the Twirlie Hotdog column. He has been known to eat twirlie hotdogs on a long ride and the dogs are like nitro fuel for him. I've seen twirlie dogs and Frosty Angels fuel him on to a strong ride. But, I digress.



On race day Steve broke a chain and had several setbacks to get the chain repaired. He said, "The chain broke once, but I broke many times."



After the race he commented on his mental argument with himself. "I have a buckle, don't need one...I still have time to finish under 12...I have a buckle, don't need one...I still have time to finish under 12..."



Showing true athletic grit, he finished sub-12 hours and did indeed earn another coveted belt buckle.



The next photo is Dave Newman. He is another Breakfast Club rider. Dave is a relatively inexperienced racer. If I remember correctly, the 2006 Leadville race was his first bike race. Right on Dave, start and live large.





Unfortunately Dave's stomach went south on him during the race. He was forced to slow down late in the race, but still managed to finish faster than last year.



You can also see Paul Douglas and Peter Newman in the photo, crew support for both Steve and Dave. In the background you can see some of the other racers' crew members lined up along the dirt road. Crew members can be extremely helpful to racers.



The final Breakfast Club member in this blog is Ron (Ronald) Kennedy. I didn't have a good action photo of Ron, so his is an award receiving photo. Ron's crew team included his wife and two daughters.





Crewing can also be incredibly boring. I got a crewing t-shirt for my hubby that says, "I'm not here for a good time, I'm here for a long time." No lie.



The crew member taking the photos of Steve and Dave is Dave's mom, Mary. Did I mention it is best if crew members have a great sense of humor? This crew team introduced themselves as Peter, Paul and Mary.



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Running 100 Miles

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Aug 20, 2007


Running for 100 miles is entirely beyond my image of "doable for Gale". I just don't think I'm built to be running for 100 miles, nor does it even sound like a fun thing to do.



I've trained a 100-mile ultra-runner, I know what it takes to be ready for such an event. I have a deep admiration and athletic respect for people that can do things I cannot imagine doing.



Last Saturday I was a volunteer at the 50-mile turn around aid station, the ghost town of Winfield, for the Leadville 100 Mile Race Across the Sky Run. Some racers came through looking great (which blows me away), others looked good, some okay and a few not-so-good. Seriously, think about driving your car 50 miles, then consider running that distance.



It's not only the distance, but the course. The profile you see on the link is only half of the course. Racers turn around and at the small yellow dot and go back to town again.



Altitude? Of course. Climbing? Absolutely - the official website notes 14,958 feet of elevation gain (and loss) over the 100 miles. Ouch.



I was able to get a few photos at the aid station before the runners started pouring in. The food tent volunteers, organized by Harry Camp were ready and waiting.





Volunteers brought up drop bags for the racers and organized them for the runners. Some runners would use only the drop bags, others would meet crew members and pacers.





Winfield is the first place that runners can meet pacers should they choose to have pacers. Some runners use only one pacer to help get them from Winfield to the finish line, others use a different pacer at each opportunity.



Pacers can indeed help the runners hold a steady pace, pacing them to a faster finish. Some simply encourage the runner to keep moving. The pacers can be pack mules and carry all of the runner's supplies; leaving them with only one thing to carry, the hope and dream of completing the race.



My buddy Eric did not achieve his Leadman goal. When he got to Winfield his hamstrings and calves were taking turns locking up. His pace reduced to a stiff walk, he was able to get just beyond Winfield and up part of Hope Pass before he decided this was not his day. Doing the other four events prior to this one took a significant toll on him.



Best I can tell from the website results, 24 people registered for the Leadman goal and 5 made it through all of the events. For just the 100 mile run, 583 people registered and only 210 completed the event under the 30-hour time limit.



Beginning at 4:00 am on Saturday morning, runners needed to be across the finish line by 10:00 am on Sunday morning. The shot below is looking away from the finish line toward "the hill". Depending on the runner, it typically takes five to seven minutes to get from the top of the hill to the finish line, which is really the top of the hill. Yes, an uphill finish.





The final photo I'll leave you with is a shot of the last finisher, David Strong. Strong indeed. He does have a bit of the "Leadville Lean", the name given to the hunched over running form. Although each runner has their own lean style, I noticed that the variety of Leadville Leans and Ironman Leans are identical.



I hope to be as strong as David when I get to be 62 years young.











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Other Pals Racing Pbville

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Aug 16, 2007


One of the fun things about racing Leadville this year was the number of people I knew doing the race.


I'll insert a few photos and tell a short story about each person.





The first photo is Scott Ellis. Scott is actually the guy that talked me into doing this race for the first time. "Geeze Gale, you do all the training with me, you just as well do the race." It sounded good at the time and I was naively convinced, by Scott, this would be "no problem". Yeah, well...



When riders complete 11 years of the event, they get a cool black flight jacket that has 11 gold stars embroidered on the sleeve, a logo on the back and the rider name on the front. After completing his first Ironman in June, recovering for three weeks and then doing a small mountain bike focus for about two weeks before tapering for Leadville, he rode his way to finishing 11 races. BTW, he does not recommend Ironman racing in the weeks prior to Leadville.










Scott can be seen with his wife Connie on race day. Thanks for providing some of the photos Connie.





Ernie Wintergerst made his goal of sub-10 hours this year, as you can see from his sweatshirt. Hey, three seconds is three seconds under. His heroic final effort caused spontaneous vomiting at the finish line. He was surprised at the liquid spray erupting from his mouth and nose - as was everyone around him. It was a crowd-clearing moment. Not once, but four times. The day after the race Ernie said, "Man that was weird. I had no warning, I just barfed."





Todd Singiser gets the dirtiest face award. The course was really dry this year. All year, Todd swore he would get the "under 12" monkey off of his back and, I quote, "I will NEVER do this race again."



"Riiiiiiiight, we'll see. Talk to me in a week or so." I said. We're not a week out from the race and he's already hedging. He is using Scott's line of, "I cannot be held responsible for anything I say in a post-race brain fog."





The last photo for this post is Eric Houck. Crazy Eric is doing all five events, the Leadman competition. He can be seen in the photo with his ace-support significant other, Lois. He will run 100 miles on Saturday. Go Eric, go.



I'll post more photos and stories in future blogs. I am so excited to have photos within the story now!! Thanks Rob and Luke.









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Post Race Analysis

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Aug 13, 2007

The short story is I had a great race at the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race. I took 48 minutes off of last year's time.


What changed from 2006 to 2007?


Great question.


I believe training for an event like Leadville really begins around November or December of the previous year. My success at this year's race, like any athlete's success from year to year, is complicated by multiple factors. I'll give you breakdown of the major items that were different this year, compared to last year. For items I thought had a positive effect, a "+" symbol is used, "-" for items I thought had a negative effect, "=" for items that were basically equal and "?" for I'm not sure.


Training Volume and Mix

= Gross training hours were similar between the two years.

"-" We had a terrible winter in Colorado with tons of snow, which put me off the bike more, compared to last year.

? Instead of long bike rides, I ended up snowshoeing four days last winter.

? Because of the snow, my mid-week rides were eliminated, I was in the weight room twice and sometimes three times per week.

= Swimming and running volume stayed roughly the same.

= I have a routine that has been relatively constant for years. Travel, personal and illness are the items that have the most effect from year to year.

+ I traded more road days for mountain bike days, helping my skills.


Training Intensity

= Without digging into the gory details of individual workouts, I suspect the training intensity was similar between the two years.



Travel and Personal

"-" I told people that I thought I had less travel in 2007 vs. 2006, but that isn't the case. I had more big weeks of travel this year, putting me off the bike more than last year. Between January and race day, I was traveling 23 days in 2007 and only 17 days in 2006.

+ I had no business travel in the six weeks prior to race day, I had one three-day trip last year.

+ This year I got to do a week-long spring cycling trip to Moab.

= Both years, a week-long summer road bike tour.

+ There was less personal stuff going on this year, compared to last year - less stress.

+ I was about two pounds lighter this year.


Pre-Race Travel

+ This year I went to Leadville on Wednesday morning instead of Friday morning, pre-race. I believe this had a positive effect in a couple of ways. First, I didn't feel so rushed and stressed going into the race. Second, I think I enjoyed some short-term acclimatization. I will give more detail on that when I do the second part of my acclimatization column.



Race Day

= I managed race day nutrition and hydration well. This was really the case for both years.

+ I was less conservative at the race start, riding faster. I gained 16 minutes to the first aid station, which was about 2:30 into the race this year.

+ The ride to the second aid station was a bit slower on the descents due to crowding, but a bit faster on the flats and rollers. I gained about 2 minutes in this short segment.

"-" The turn around point at the top of Columbine mine was farther out this year. We turned around at the actual mine rather than the crest of the hill prior to the mine. This meant a descent and climb that did not exist last year. This cost me roughly 4.5 to 5 minutes. (I pulled the comparative altitudes and times from my Polar heart rate data files.)

+ Even with the extra distance, I managed to gain 2 minutes on the Columbine Mine segment of the event, compared to 2006 splits.

+ No broken shoe this year, going from Twin Lakes II to Pipeline II.

+ No pouring rain beginning at the first hike-a-bike hill (where I broke the shoe in 2006) and continuing to the end of the race, making it tough to descend the technical sections. I don't like descending when I can't see. Between no rain and no broken shoe, the time between Twin Lakes II to Pipeline II was 9 minutes faster.

+ Between the last aid station and the finish line I gained 19 minutes. This year it was hot, with little cloud cover and I happen to race well in heat. Last year the rain affected this section with areas of running water on the course. Last year I forgot to take my asthma meds at the last aid station, not the case this year.



+ No equipment failures this year.

+ Rode near people of similar ability all day. The people changed along the way, but it seems I crossed paths with people doing near my pace. Last year I was often in no-woman's land riding solo. I consider myself pretty self-motivated, but who doesn't ride a little faster with other people close or a rabbit to chase?



I'm sure there are details and items I missed. As those items pop into my head, I'll post them in another blog.




+ Del for the constant support and crewing for me.

+ All of my cycling buddies that show up to my Sunday ride, all year long, in all kinds of weather. You have a big impact on my success.

+ My mountain bike buddies, that have helped me improve my skills.

+ Peloton Cycles, the best local bike shop for equipment and service.

+ All the really nice and encouraging people I met along the way on race day.

+ A well-run race, thanks to Ken, Merilee and all of the volunteers.

+ If I missed anyone I apologize, my brain is still not quite recovered from race day.


On the top end, Dave Wiens won a record five races, with a new course record, beating Floyd Landis by about two minutes.





Two photos are attached. The first one is race owner Ken Chlouber delivering the first place award to Dave Wiens. The second photo, you can see the shock on my face when I'm told my hair looks just fantastic.





Now I need to go mow the lawn before it gets too hot. Catch ya later in the week.



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Pre-race Neurosis

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Aug 7, 2007

This ailment is common among endurance athletes. It typically manifests itself in the few days prior to race day, beginning with day seven and counting down to the millisecond before the start gun is sounded.



As defined in Freudian psychology, this is a psychological disorder or dysfunction resulting from an imbalance of the forces of the id, ego, and superego relating to a race situation. It is one of the major categories of emotional maladjustments, classified according to the predominant symptom of a defense mechanism. Anxiety is the chief sign, although it is worth exploring other telltale signs:



  1. Displacement of anxiety to fellow racers: "Oh, you're racing on those tires? Hmmm...certainly not my choice. Let me know how that works out for you."

  2. The imaginary research crutch combined with displacement to others: "Research has shown that it is best to ride 50 miles the day before the race. Certainly you know that? You have to check out the course and keep your legs loose, everybody knows that."

  3. Retail therapy: Said racer can be seen making multiple purchases online or at local stores. In the worst cases, racers ordering online will pay exorbitant amounts for next day delivery.

  4. Meltdowns over small issues: This symptom can be seen in family, work or training situations. Something as small as spilled sports drink can send the racer into a panicked frenzy.

  5. Indecision: The athlete finds each decision situation as an impossible puzzle. Trying to decide which restaurant to dine at requires four hours of contemplation, at minimum.

  6. Obsessive list making: This one is easy to spot as dozens of "to do" lists are found everywhere the athlete has been.

  7. Everything but the kitchen sink: The athlete takes every item possibly needed for the event, including back-ups for each item. He or she includes items that couldn't possibly be needed for the event-plus back-ups for those as well. All weather possibilities are included. The athlete packs his or her own food and water, not trusting any outside sources. Travel to the race venue includes renting an extra trailer to transport all of the equipment and supplies.


I'm heading to Leadville tomorrow for the mountain bike race. I'll let you know if I come in contact with any neurotic racers.



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Who Pooped in the Park?

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Aug 4, 2007


Riding and running the trails near my house is never boring. The trails are never exactly the same, changing with volume of use, heavy downpours of rain, snow, human modifications and animal modifications.


Some might accuse me of having a thing about poop. Last year I made awards for my cycling group that included elk poop as part of the trophy. "The Turd Trophy", as some called it, must be in high demand because there are nearly three times the number of people attempting to get the award this year, compared to 2006.


In May this year we rode a trail that was still closed to vehicular traffic and it hadn't been used much. We found nice specimens of moose poop. (Yes they are distinctly different than elk poop.) I carefully collected a few samples to include as part of this year's awards.


Although I've not collected any coyote poop, it is found on the trail all year. Coyote droppings are distinctly different than dog doo because the coyote deposit typically has fur visible within it.


This is the time of the season in Colorado that all of the wild berries are at their best. This morning's mountain bike ride told us that the bears are busy chowing down as much food as possible, preparing for a long winter nap.





Bear poo is recognizable by the loads of plum or berry seeds it contains. The photo is what we saw today. This is one of four piles of poo. That is my size 7.5 shoe next to it. As bear calling cards go, this is a pretty small sample. We've seen samples that were easily six times the size of the sample in the photo.


I think it is interesting to see the calling cards of the animals that were on the trail before us. I like to try to ID the animal by the calling card. If that curious interest makes me "have a thing for poop" then, okay, it's true.



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Swimming? Running?

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Aug 1, 2007


If you've been reading my blog for the past few weeks you've seen a big emphasis cycling and nothing on swimming and running. Have I crossed over to the dark side of single sport?




No, I'm a triathlete at heart. Although the main event I'm training for this year is a 100-mile mountain bike ride, swimming and running remain in my schedule.




I got my first mountain bike about 15 years ago, but I didn't ride it much. I was a genuine white-knuckler and the fear of falling was on my mind all the time. There is no place for mind-freezing fear in any sport that includes high speeds, instinct, quick decision making and utilizing obstacles to your advantage.




Looking back, there was a slow and sneaky transition from fear to fun. The leading edge of the transformation was entry into a 24-hour mountain bike race, with four other team members.




If you don't see the cliff that is to your right, because your headlamp is illuminating the trail in front of you at midnight, then you can't have cliff-a-phobia. Darkness can be a handy way to reduce fear.




Another benefit of the 24-hour race was that it was multiple laps. Riding multiple laps gives you a chance to ride sections repeatedly and improve your skills. Some of this comes from personal repetition and another piece is seeing how other riders handle tough sections and trying to imitate their moves.




Helping my new moves was that shortly before the race I got a new full suspension mountain bike. That bike allowed me to ride sections of the trail I would not have been able to handle on my old hard tail.




In the same summer as my first 24-hour race was my first 100-mile mountain bike race. The 24-hour race was a couple of months before the 100. The more mountain riding I did to prepare for both events, the more I liked it. It began to feel more like downhill skiing to me, a sport I had done for years. (In fact, I taught downhill skiing lessons for three seasons-in case that question comes up in a trivia contest.)




Although I was enjoying the mountain bike riding, I still loved swimming and running. I decided to keep one or two days of swimming and two days of running per week in my schedule. Even though I was focusing on mountain bike races, I didn't yearn to be exclusively on the bike five or six days a week.




Is swimming and running beneficial to training for mountain bike racing? At the elite level, I think the benefit is minimal. For the rest of us, I can argue that swimming is a great recovery workout if you control the intensity. I can also argue that swimming maintains upper body and core strength.




Running is a slightly tougher argument, because it is certainly not restful for your legs. However, for events that require a chunk of hike-a-bike, I can argue that trail running is helpful.




I suppose I could do a test one year and eliminate all swimming and running from my personal training plan to see if my performance level improves...but I don't see it happening. I simply enjoy swimming and running.




For me, for now, enjoyment trumps performance.



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