Thursday, February 8, 2007

Tri Camp - Day 0 at the Wind Tunnel

Here we are! What a great adventure ahead of me! I'm heading into San Diego to attend a triathlon training camp. I'm nervous as hell because while I'm not UBER competitive, I like to consider myself a middle of the packer. But rolling into a top notch training camp with folks who have completed several Ironmans....I just don't want to be last.

Day 0: Wind Tunnel Testing
When I roll into the San Diego Low Speed Wind Tunnel facility, I'm immediately met by a super friendly staff and a huge sign that says "Test Where Champions Test". I can't help but catch the glances as they size me and my equipment up. I glance around the waiting room and look at all the pictures of previous athletes that have been tested there before me. Here's a brief list:

2006 Tour de France Champion, Floyd Landis
2006 Ironman World Champions , Michellie Jones and Norman Stadler
2006 World Time Trial Champion, Kristin Armstrong
among other familiar names like Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, Chris Legh, Tom Deboom, Levi Leipheimer.

And now of course, Dionn Schaffner.

What the hell am I doing here! Please lord, do not let them see I'm a pretender. Please let me be able to clip in and pedal like (or actually against) the wind. Please, please do not let me embarrass myself. (Moment of silence as we all pray together).

"OK, Dionn...let's go over our test plan for today!" We chat about what's going to happen, I saddle up for the first test run.

"OK Dionn...we want you to just warm up for a bit and we're going to have a nice easy ride and do some tests. Alright? How about you get up to a comfortable 25 mph and we'll turn on the wind."

So at this point I'm thinking to myself..ok..I've got to ride for about 45 minutes. My fastest pace in the bike portion of the sprint triathlon (about 40-50 minutes) is 19 maybe 20mph. But right now, I need to go hill, no wind behind (in fact a wind in front!). Hmmm...what's wrong with this picture.

I buck up and start peddling...I should have a Red Bull or the hell am I going to get to 25 and keep it there?! Somehow, by the grace of the Tri Gods, I get up to 22mph without looking like I'm going to die. Craig Willet looks me over and says, "OK..that's good cadence at 90, no bounce, let's just keep it there." Lord, I'm in over my head!

"OK Dionn, we're starting the wind." You can hear the generator and propellor starting up before you feel the cool breeze on your face. It is very much a James Bond kind of a feel like you are deep down in this secret lab with technicians behind glass, cameras shooting from every angle, people talking and pointing at different streams of data on various monitors, turning dials, making notes. It was really very cool. If you don't like being the center of attention, this is not the test for you. But you know me...

I won't bore you with the details of each test but here's the basic jist. The idea is to without changing your own effort, reduce the drag ultimately resulting in time savings per hour...meaning free speed. On the floor just in front of me was a big display that showed my speed, cadence, watts, tunnel velocity and a graph showing my drag. You can see the same display in the pic here. So by making various changes, you could literally see the real-time graph of the drag going down. (It's the yellow and black on the bottom of the monitor here...see how it is going down after we made a change?).

For instance, for me it showed that by increasing my reach forward out on my aero bars by 1 cm, I shave on average 15 secs off my miles per hour pace. By dropping my post 1 cm, I shave 30 secs off my miles per hour. Since I've got signficant flexibility in my back (which was quite foreign to them...I guess most of the guys are pretty tight), we pulled my aero bars out 4cm and dropped the post 3.5...and saved 102 secs! Another reference point, the guys said on average, would be for those of you who currently do not have aero bars...if you get some, you can shave 20 secs without working any harder.

The thing to note here is the old adage that our dearest Ramsay preaches, "Boobs to the tube" is exactly what you want to do if you want to get aero. I told the guys at the wind tunnel that and they absolutely fell out! They said they weren't sure if they could use it with the other women that came through without getting some kind of lawsuit, but they would definitely use it on the guys. Ramsay Wall was given full credit, of course.

The next biggest AHA moment was head position. By simply lowering my head down into my shoulders (not looking down, but think more like a turtle pulling his head into its shell), I shaved 70 secs!! Ok, so without having to change any of your equipment, a simple movement of the head can really make you more aero. To put it into perspective, buying new swanky expensive racing wheels generally yields you 60-75 secs. You do the finances.

Of course the tradeoffs are speed/power vs comfort/endurance. So the trick is to find a happy medium. If you are just time trialing or doing sprint triathlons, you don't have to be comfy, you have to be fast. For gotta be able to settle in for the day on your bike, so you'd better get comfy. So of course, ducking your head for a day wouldn't do you well, but cruising along on a downhill or flat when you are hawking down that next age group?? Say quack and DUCK! :)

The final adjustment we made was switching from a road helmet to an aero helmet. You know the serious folks look funny in those helmets, but they shave an additional 22 secs off. Free Speed. Take it if you want. I personally am going to pass on the aero helmet...I'm just not that good.

I've got a super cool DVD that shows all the testing from 3 angles plus the display. It'll be fun to watch over beers over the next ice storm. I'll keep you posted! :)


tri'sbigsis said...

Looks like you are having lots of of fun and ya look great!!! You'll always be a winner in my book (even with your boobs to the bar--both on the bike or anywhere else!!!). Have fun!!!

Shorey said...

Good info! Like I said, you'll be turning "elite" before we know it!