1. What is a compact crank and who should use them?
A compact crank is a two chainring crankset that offers the gearing choices of a triple chainring with less weight and a tighter gearing ratios. In other words, it gives you more easy gears for climbing, just as a triple chainring would, without much fear of gearing out on the downhills unless you are a very strong cyclist (over 30mph on flats). The tighter gear ratios allow you to use more of your gears and maintain cadence better in headwinds and on hills. If you find that you never use some gears on your bike, a compact crank may be for you. It will give you more gearing options on flats and allow you to climb hills at a faster cadence, which is extremely important in saving your legs for the run. For this reason, some coaches believe that almost all triathletes should be using compact cranks.
2. What’s your opinion of caffeine use in racing and training?
Caffeine is an ergogenic aid. It has been proven to improve performance in athletes and is safe and legal to use as a sports enhancer. If you use caffeine every day, you may not get the race day benefits that a non-chronic user gets, but you are still smart to use it. Some popular ways triathletes use caffeine:
a. Before competition and training to stimulate the nervous system.
A dose of caffeine from a gel, coffee, or a Five Hour Energy will prep your nervous system for the work to be done, improve endurance, and reduce perceived exertion.
b. During long competitions or training days to maintain energy, mood, and perceived exertion.
Flat soda, flat Red Bull, Five Hour Energy, and caffeinated gels are all common sites during Ironman races and can dramatically improve mood and feelings of exhaustion late in a race. A common dosing strategy for an Ironman is to have caffeine before the race, in Transition 2, and as needed on the run.
c. After competition or exercise to maximize muscle glycogen restoration from dietary carbohydrates.
Some studies have found that having caffeine and carbohydrate together after exercise allows for more effective muscle glycogen replenishment, allowing you to recover better. A cup of coffee and some pancakes after a long run is better for you than you thought!
The same rules apply to caffeine as with any other sports nutrition supplements: make sure you know how you respond to caffeine in training before using it in a race environment.
3. How long do tri shorts last? My training partner’s shorts are see-through and I am afraid mine are, too!
First of all, you need to tell your training partner that you can see the full moon! I know it’s awkward, but isn’t that what you would want from your friends? Tri shorts and bike shorts cost a lot of money, but fortunately they last about 1-2 seasons before even the more expensive ones begin to show people the dark side of your moon. You may gain some time by handwashing and drying, but what triathlete has the time or energy to hand wash anything? If you can, wash your tri clothes together with a mild detergent on the gentle cycle. Since there is no good way to know if your shorts are see-through when the light shines on them and they are stretched around your backside, ASK your friends to tell you if they are starting to wear out.