Thursday, November 24, 2016

Coach Dave Williams fires on: Why triathletes should kick more in the pool

For many triathletes who did not grow up swimming, swimming is often their weakest discipline. For that reason, most tend to spend too much time and money on private swim lessons, DVDs, YouTube instruction videos, internet searches and the rest, hoping to magically improve their swimming for the next season often with very little time in the water actually swimming. However, there is a simple truth that a lot of us either fail to understand or it takes us some time to realize.

If you did not grow up swimming, you have to understand that swimming improvement is a gradual process that takes time. Proper coaching with emphasis on the fundamentals will pay dividends that will speed up the process in both the short and the long term.

Learning proper technique is fundamental but understanding the theory of proper technique and actually applying it consistently in your swims is the key to success.

This is why a great coach can teach you and allow you to focus on one thing at a time and for a long period of time. Blending some technique work with volume and frequency will get you good results in time. 

The first thing we started working with coach Dave Williams - and still do - is head and body position followed by KICKING.

WHY?

"Proper positioning in the water is necessary to reduce drag and increase speed and efficiency so that you are not killing yourself to keep up with the faster swimmers.


Proper kicking technique is necessary to drive the body forward. Practically speaking however, the kick only provides about 10-15% propulsion. It is for this reason that most triathletes overlook it especially when considering that both the bike and the run are still to come. But a poor kick can increase drag, throw your body out of alignment, and work against your forward momentum. Stand alone kick sets are also beneficial in increasing blood flow and removing lactic acid from the muscles thereby reducing recovery time between sessions.

Finally, it is imperative to spend lots of time in the water developing the muscle memory and training the energy systems required for faster swim times and smoother transitions. This is especially important for older athletes as there is little to no impact trauma associated with swim training. A 60 minute session 4 to 5 days per week or a 90 minute session 3 to 4 days per week will pay dividends that will also benefit the bike and the run." ~ coach Dave Williams.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Suunto Ambit3Peak - Pros and Cons


Suunto comes from the Nothern European country of Finland. It was born more than 75 years ago when Tuomas Vohlonen came up with a massive production method of the liquid-filled compass.

I personally knew Suunto because of their awesome dive watches. However, Suunto has made its way to all sorts of adventure sports including triathlon. Nearly one year ago, I was given the Ambit3 Peak (sapphire) to test the heck out of it and talk openly about its pros and cons. This review does not intend to cover in depth the functions of the watch. It is more like a take-home-message after intensive daily training and racing usage. Enjoy and don't hesitate to chip in your opinion:

Pros
  • Amazing battery life! ~ 30 whole hours with 5sec GPS accuracy
  • Heart rate during swimming - hurray!
  • More Features than you'd ever need: compass, altitude, weather info, tens of pre-set sports
  • Unscratchable surface (the sapphire version - totally worth it)
  • Simple and clean easy-to-read display
  • Baby-soft wrist strap
  • Bike power support! (bluetooth smart)
  • Running, Cycling, Swimming advanced analytics: cadence, VO2max, stroke rate/count and all the other jazz...
  • Super easy to use
  • Has the lightest and softest heart-rate strap on the market!
  • Phenomenal GPS accuracy, especially during the open water swims
  • Nearly undestructable ~ just kidding! But it is indeed an awesome strong watch
  • Syncs with Strava, TrainingPeaks - including synchronization of swim data


Cons
  • A little heavy and bulky
  • Only three data lines per page - old fashioned display
  • The heart rate strap deteriorates fast with daily usage in the chlorinated pool
  • The sync/power cable sucks - had to get a new one after 8 months
  • If you use a bike pod, the watch picks up the pod data not the GPS, so that, if for some reason the battery of the pod dies, you can't record the ride
  • Changes in the menu, preferences, etc can only happen while you have your watch plugged into the computer. No real-time changes



Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ενας δρομος υπερβασης πολλαπλων δυσκολιων, συνεχους προσπαθειας, αντοχης, ανοχης, υπομονης και επιμονης στα ονειρα και στις αξιες.

Η αγωνιστικη μου σεζον τελειωσε πριν δυο βδομαδες με ευχαριστο τονο. Τερματισα 12η στο Παγκοσμιο Πρωταθλημα της ITU μεγαλης αποστασης (απο 35 γυναικες που προκριθηκαν στην κατηγορια μου).

Δεν ειμαι απολυτα ικανοποιημενη. Ωστοσο, κανοντας μια μικρη αναδρομη στο παρελθον και αναπολωντας τις δυσκολιες που καταφερα να ξεπερασω για να φτασω στο στημειο που βρισκομαι σημερα, μπορω να πω οτι ειμαι ευτυχισμενη και πανετοιμη για την καινουρια χρονια.

Ας σας διηγηθω μια μικρη ιστορια για να σας δωσω να καταλαβετε απο που προερχομαι και που εχω φτασει σημερα.

Στις αρχες του '90 και οταν ημουνα στις τελευταιες ταξεις του δημοτικου, η νεο-σχηματισμενη ομαδα αθλητισμου και τρεξιματος στην πολη, διοργανωνε ενα διημερο ασκησεων-τεστ αντοχης και δυναμης προκειμενου να επιλεξει τους καλυτερους νεους αθλητες. Ημουνα παντα ενα δραστηριο παιδακι με πολυ ενεργεια και παθος και ηθελα με ολη μου την καρδια να γινω και γω μελος αυτης της ομαδας. Εβαλα τα δυνατα μου και προσπαθησα με ολη μου την ψυχη για μια καλη επιδοση στα τεστ. Ομως δεν τα καταφερα και δεν επιλεχθηκα. Μου ειπαν οτι δεν ημουνα αρκετα καλη για την ομαδα.

Οταν μετεπειτα πηγα στο γυμνασειο και στο λυκειο, ημουνα μια πολυ καλη μαθητρια αλλα οχι αρκετα καλη για τις δυσκολες σχολες της αρχιτεκτονικης, ιατρικης, κτλπ. Μαλιστα, οι γονεις μου, πιστευαν οτι στο μονο πραγμα που ημουνα πραγματικα καλη ητανε το ποδηλατο. Και παρολο που πετυχα στη σχολη μαθηματικων, οι γονεις μου μου ειπαν οτι δεν θα καταφερω να την τελειωσω.

Παραλληλα με τις σπουδες μου, αρχισα να κανω πιο συστηματικα ποδηλατο. Μπηκα σε εναν τοπικο συλλογο οπου οι προπονητες μου με θεωρουσαν καλη, αλλα οχι αρκετα καλη ωστε να γινω μελος της Εθνικης ομαδας. Ειχα ασθμα και ημουν ανεμικη.

Δεν ξερω τι θα πει "ταλεντο" ή "αρκετα καλη", ομως ειμαι σιγουρη για ενα πραγμα: 
ποτε δε σταματησα να προσπαθω!

Αποφοιτησα απο το τμημα μαθηματικων με τον τριτο καλυτερο μεσο ορο βαθμολογιας εκεινης της χρονιας. Πετυχα διπλη υποτροφια (διδακτρα και μισθο) απο το πανεπιστημιο του Bath της Αγγλιας (3ο σε καταταξη σε ολη την Αγγλια) για να ολοκληρωσω το μαστερ μου με διατριβη (MPhil). Στη συνεχεια, πετυχα επισης διπλη υποτροφια (διδακτρα και μισθο) απο το πανεπιστημιο του Georgia Tech των ΗΠΑ (5ο σε καταταση στις ΗΠΑ και 8ο σε ολο τον κοσμο) για να ολοκληρωσω το διδακτορικο μου στην Υπολογιστικη Βιολογια. Ως νυν επιστημονας ερευνας στην Ιατρικη σχολη του Emory, εχω συνταξει δεκα αρθρα σε υψηλα επιστημονικα περιοδικα και εχω μια πατεντα στο ονομα μου.

Στο τριαθλο, απο το 2012 που ξεκινησα, εκτος απο παμπολες νικες σε τοπικους αγωνες τριαθλου, διαθλου, ποδηλασιας (δρομου και mtb), κολυμβησης ανοιχτης θαλασσης και τρεξιματος, κατεκτησα την 4η θεση στους Παναμερικανικους Κολλεγιακους αγωνες με το γρηγοροτερο τρεξιμο (37:51 για το 10αρι) το 2012, αναδειχθηκα τοπικη πρωταθλητρια Διαθλου για το 2014 και 2015, τοπικη πρωταθλητρια Xterra τριαθλου για το 2015 και τερματισα 12η στο Παγκοσμιο πρωταθλημα ITU μακρινης αποστασης το 2016.

Εαν ολα αυτα δεν με κανουν "αρκετα καλη" τοτε τι;

Ο δρομος για να φτασω εδω δεν ηταν ομαλος. Καταφερα να παλεψω με τη γονικη απορριψη τοσο ακαδημαικα οσο και αθλητικα.  Ξεπερασα τις κακες σχεσεις και συνεχεις απορριψεις διαφορων καθηγητων και προπονητων, που το μονο που σκεφτοντουσαν ηταν η προσωπικη τους επιτυχια. Επιβιωσα πολλαπλα πολιτικα και διπλωματικα παιχνιδια του ακαδημαικου κυκλου. Δοκιμασα την υπομονη και την επιμονη μου με ολα τα ειδη των αθλητικων τραυματισμων συμπεριλαβανομενου και μιας χρόνιας μυοσκελετικης ανωμαλιας, η οποια μου προκαλουσε πονο στους κοιλιακους μυς και η οποια μου πηρε σχεδον δύο χρονια για να βρω την αιτια της και περιπου δεκα μηνες για να την ξεπερασω!

Υστερα απο ολα αυτα, πιστευω οτι δεν οδευω προς το τελος του μυθηστορηματος μου. Στην πραγματικοτητα, οι περιπετειες μου βρισκονται μονο στην αρχη!

Το σιγουρο ειναι οτι ποτε δεν θα σταματησω να προσπαθω, ποτε δε θα προδωσω τα ονειρα μου!

Και ποτε δε θα εφισυχασθω στο να ειμαι "αρκετα καλη" για οτιδηποτε!

Ας μην απορριπτουμε λοιπον οσους δεν ειναι "αρκετα καλοι" και ας μην εφισυχασθουμε ποτε στο να ειμαστε απλα "αρκετα καλοι"! 

Ευχαριστω θερμα ολους τους συνοδοιπορους μου σε αυτο τον ανωμαλο δρομο των ονειρων μου!

Σας φιλω,

Λουκια



Friday, September 30, 2016

A road of relentless effort and perseverance. A road of overcoming rejection and adversity on multiple levels.

My racing season has come to an end on a high note. I finished 12th (out of 35 qualified women in my category) at the 2016 ITU long course World Championships in Oklahoma City.

I am not completely satisfied but reflecting back over the years, and seeing all the difficulties I had to overcome in order to get where I am at, I can say I am happy to close up the season and plan for the future. 

Let me tell you a little story to give you a perspective.

When I was in elementary school, back in the early '90s in Greece, there was a two-day camp to select "talented" kids for the newly formed track and field team of the city. I was very keen and active at the time and I wanted with all of my heart to be in that team. I did my very best and tried with all the power of my soul to perform in the tests. But, I did not make the cut-offs and I did not get selected. I was told I was not good enough. 

When I moved on to high-school, I was a very good student, but I was not good enough. My parents believed that all I was good at was riding my bike and nothing else. They believed I was not exceptional in sciences, I was not good at maths. 

When I entered the University and tried to major in Maths, my parents believed I wouldn't finish the program. I was not good enough. 

While in college, I joined a cycling club and started training more systematically. I raced all National and some International events (road and track) for four years. My coaches thought I was ok but not good enough to make the National team. I had asthma, I was anemic. I do not know what "talent" and what "good enough" really means. 

But I can tell you this: I never stopped trying.


I graduated with a degree in Maths finishing 3rd in my class with honors. I got a dual scholarship from the University of Bath in England (the 3rd best UK school in engineering at the time) to get my MPhil in Applied Maths. I got a dual scholarship from Georgia Tech (5th best school in the US and top8 in the world) to get my PhD in Biology. Since then, and after only three years, I have completed ten publications in peer-reviewed journals and I have one patent. In triathlons, I finished 4th overall in the open category of the USAT collegiate Nationals in 2012, I won the 2014 and 2015 Regional Duathlon Championships, and the 2015 Regional Xterra Championships. I finished 12th at the 2016 ITU long course World Championships (my first ever attempt on a long distance).


If this is not good enough then what is?



The road was not smooth. I had to battle with family rejection both academically and in sports. I had to overcome bad relationships with mentors, coaches and professors that were solely thinking of their own success. I had to survive academic political games. I had to fight with injuries. I had to overcome a chronic, debilitating running pain in my abdominal muscles that took me nearly two years to find out what it was and almost 10 months to get it finally resolved.

And I believe I am not done yet. In fact I am just in the beginning.

And I will never stop trying. I will never give up on my dreams. 

And I will never adopt the attitude of "good enough" for any of my efforts.

Thank you so much for being there to support me on this bumpy road of dreams!

Let's just never reject anyone who is not "good enough"!

Let's just never settle on anything that is just "good enough"!

See you out there trying!



Friday, May 20, 2016

Racing: how often, how hard and the art of tapering

I have heard controversial approaches about the age-group athlete and the approach to racing. Some believe that amateur athletes should really focus and taper for one race a year, others believe that athletes should rest plenty before every single race. Similarly, some coaches do not chose to race the athlete a lot, others believe that this approach takes away the fun and they chose to race the athlete as much as the athlete wants.



There is no right or wrong approach to that but there are some physiological parameters that are true and there is also a fundamental question that needs to be addressed to the athlete before any decision made: "How long is your goal race? How much and how well do you want to perform at that one race? Are you ok with a good performance or you want to be at your absolute best?"

I find that a lot of my fellow athletes are racing by wanting to do well at every single race. And this is great and if that satisfies them it is even greater! This approach however has a lot of pitfalls. At one race the training and rest may be at the right place and they race well. At another race something goes south and the result is not that good. Physiologically, the body can perform at its very best once or maybe twice a year. This of course does not mean that an athlete needs to race once or twice only!

The art of what distance, how much and how often an athlete should race depends on the athlete's and coach's approach to training and racing, on the actual distance of the goal race and of course, on the level of the individual athlete. Usually, the longer is the goal race the less frequently an athlete needs to race during the preparation. We believe that every single race in the calendar should be chosen for a reason that reason should be the ultimate goal race(s). This however, does not take away the fun or the frequency of the races - it is more of a realization that the body will not perform at its best at every single race. Period.

In my case this year, we really set up the training calendar in May. With so many ups and downs (especially at the beginning of the season) last year, Dave wanted to be 100% sure that I was starting healthy. This year, I do have a single goal race, and I am healthy. ITU World Championships, September 26. It is a long-distance race (very close to the Ironman distance: 4000m swim/86mi bike/30km run) and putting-in longer training days will give me more benefit rather than racing too often. So, one race every month for me and racing with fatigue till September!

I can't wait to race and ...

This year, you will find me at:

1. 2016 Southeast Regional Triathlon Championships(Chattanooga waterfront) -June
2. 2016 Georgia Games Open Water Swim Championships - July
3. 2016 Toughman Alabama (half-distance triathlon) - August
4. 2016 ITU Long Distance World Championships - September

Happy training, Happy racing!



Saturday, March 26, 2016

Power Tap in the face of the emerging technological advances


There is no question that in the past 10 years or so, engineering and scientific advances have been applied to the sports industry with great success. These advances not only elevate the technological status of sports equipment to the level of achieving performance enhancement at the elite level but they also reduce the cost of production and provide immediate availability to the recreational or elite amateur athlete. This is really exciting for the scientific and engineering environment, the industry world and the sports community alike.

However, as it often comes with excitement – especially within the industry and marketing world – also come exploiting opportunities without reference to a general plan or without the necessary infrastructure or knowledge background that the engineering and science requires. Newer or well-established companies may enter the booming market and take advantage of the opportunities for increasing their sales. This could initially be beneficial for the consumer and athlete, as the industry competition could push the boundaries of even better technology and cheaper product but it could also work to their disadvantage. This is because, in some cases, the wealth of options and prices could lower the quality (in order to provide higher profit for some companies) and could make the athlete’s decision of selecting the right product tricky and mistake-prone.


Measuring power output in physical activities – and primarily in cycling – is a prime example. The first bike power meter (crankset) was developed in the late 80s but it wasn’t really up until the late 90s when MIT engineers introduced the first portable, mainstream, less expensive, and incredibly accurate power hub. This was a new era for the industry and sports community, because opportunities to conduct performance tests in the field became a reality that was not only available to a few, elite athletes but also to any athlete of any ability or level. The Power Tap company made this industry evolve and prosper so successfully that nowadays, power meters show up on the bike in multiple places including the hub, crank, pedal and even the handlebar - for wind resistance calculations. SRM, Stages, Quarq, Polar and Garmin Vector are some of the follow-up companies. Some of these power meters are more expensive than others, some have variable accuracy, some only measure from one side of the bike or leg, while others can measure both sides of your unique pedal stroke. Some power meters have more complex systems, require more energy, and battery consumption, and some are lighter than others.
                          
For many athletes, who are not experienced engineers on this field, the decision to purchase the best product for their budget and their individual needs has already become challenging. How accurate do I need to be, how much will it cost me, how complicated the installation is, how long it will last, how often do I have to change the battery, what is the long-term maintenance and what is the customer-support of the company like?

Power Tap has simplified the decision-making process to these parameters:

Accuracy. Simplicity. Value.

History/Tradition and Accuracy: With their tag-line of Tested-Trusted-True, PowerTap aims to identify the importance of the company’s history, experience and well-establishment in the field of power meters. Power Tap products (hubs,pedals,cranks) have been tested thoroughly - since the beginning of their production – to provide measurements within the gold-standard accuracy of +/-1.5. Power Tap really invented the market and did not simply take advantage of it. The company carries a lot of history and it is synonymous to quality and accuracy.

Simplicity and Value: All of the Power Tap products consist of simple designs to include sophisticated mechanisms that are light, accurately tested, of high-quality and of reasonable pricing. Power Tap delivered the power meter to every athlete (without sacrificing quality and accuracy). And this is what they continue to do.

Customer support: Where many companies sell their product and disappear, Power Tap not only has a life-long customer support, it is actively involved in technological, engineering and scientific education of the athlete through their manuals, videos and articles that are freely available to anyone. So that power meter products can be utilized correctly and provide the maximum benefit to the athlete. 
                                                                                                               

I believe that Power Tap surpasses every company out there when one takes into account all these parameters combined.




Saturday, March 5, 2016

Getting to know Kali Protectives

Kali Protectives - science, innovation, safety, quality and great looks!


Not too many other things to talk about this mountain-bike oriented helmet company that made its debut in road helmets a few years ago. Some months back, I got to know the company through Jason Aven, the territory manager of the East Coast, and fell in love with it.

Kali Phenom comes with a rain shell!
The people behind Kali are very knowledgeable, super friendly, extremely helpful, passionate and eager to help Kali Protectives expand and grow! You can find this culture in a lot of companies. However, what sets Kali apart from other companies, is the science behind the product design and production, the additional time spent to produce each individual helmet, and the effort put to listen to the athletes and customers feedback to make a better helmet!


Supervents and room for a ponytail!
On the science part, Kali's foundation is the Composite Fusion. This helmet-making process, involves bonding low-density EPS foam directly to the outer shell and removing all gaps between the shell and the foam. This way, both the shell and the foam work together rather than at separate times. What that means is that there is a reduction in impact energy to someone's head!

Kali started making full-face helmets in 2007 and the road line appeared in 2012 with the Maraka model. The Phenom and the Loka showed up in in 2014 and the revolutionary aero road helmet Tava made its introduction in the fall of 2015.

What is really impressive about the technology of all Kali helmets is that they do not need to compress the foam around the openings in order to maintain a low-weight and high-ventilated lid - found in most high-end, high-expensive helmets in the market. By doing so, Kali's foam density at no more than 80 grams per cubic liter within their Composite Fusion technology and their Supervents, allows the crash impact energy to de-centralize and spread over a large area. So that the helmet absorbs most of the impact and not your brain!


Kali's Composite Fusion Plus, found in Maraka, Phenom and Loka, extended the Supervent, low-density de-centralization ability of Composite Fusion not just in the external but also in the internal part of the lid. And they call this technology, Conehead (love these names!)

The novelty of these technologies has made Kali Protectives surpass all of the safety helmet protocols out there!
Kali Maraka has it all: safety, ventilation, fit and looks! It also comes in XS for smaller noggins!

Kali engineers have managed to create a crash-energy mouse-trap in their helmets, make a super-ventilated lid that fits well without giving a headache or hotspots, without increasing the helmet volume and without making a bucket-like, ugly-looking helmet.

I can't wait to see what's coming next. New features that are coming include additional reduction of rotational forces (Tava helmet) and new BOA-based retention systems. Kali is constantly improving every month and every year!

I can't wait to see this company grow. They deserve it in any sense.

Safety first. Fit, ventilation, and looks are just extra bonuses that make the cherry of the pie!


Get out! Be safe!

#FindFasterEverywhere

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