by Michael Robinson
Speed. Yes, we all want more of it. We secretly covet it from our training colleagues. We cruise the newest gadgets and gizmos online, or at the store. We gently stroke the grip tape of the newest tri bike. You know the one; it has the electronic shifters and that slick looking paint job. Speed. Why is the price tag always so high? I’m stuck on my entry level bike and my G-SHOCK watch while everyone else flies by at 20+ mph checking their 920xt’s. Speed. If only I could afford it….
It’s unfortunate, my friends and athletes, that there is a price tag on the one thing that can make you feel incredible and maybe earn you a podium spot. Speed is expensive; it does have a cost. There is a price tag on getting faster, but you may be surprised to find out that it has little to do with what is in your wallet and more to do with what is in your mind. Speed. It costs heart. Speed. It costs dedication. Speed. It costs mental fortitude. Speed, and probably the most expensive drain on us age groupers, costs time. Some may argue that all of those things could be tied to money in one way shape or form, but what I am saying is that the bulk of your speed (and your improvements) come from YOU not your equipment.
The message is two-fold: Gear doesn’t make you fast and money doesn’t buy speed.
I was tired of coming in the back quarter at Kerrville every year, so I set a race goal to get in the top 5 (and keep my fingers crossed that JZ was planning on not playing that day). Coming off of the bike onto the run I felt fairly confident that I was there. I didn’t see anyone in my age group around me, so even if I wasn’t, there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I felt great and was having fun. At the last turnaround, with a little over .5 miles to go, I see a guy (who I picked out to be my guy to watch for at the swim start) coming up fast wearing cut-off Levis and a white cotton tee. “Are you kidding me!?!” I saw him at the swim start and thought to myself, A guy who wears JORTS (jeans shorts) in a triathlon is either crazy or has nothing to lose. What do you know, there he was. I am in my super-fast, hi-tech race kit, so I dug in. In my mind, I went to the Olympics, but I could still hear the swish, swish, swish of the JORTS closing the gap. I switched to the Tour de France…. swish, swish, swish ….I tried to think of any inspirational thought or scenario looking for that extra speed. Seconds later the swish grew quieter the further he pulled away. Watching the 47 on his calf grow smaller, I knew in my heart that I lost my 5 spot and had been beat. After the race I congratulated him on a good run. As I was telling him the story, he interrupted me as the realization hit him. “Wait, do you meant to tell me I got 5th place!?” I shook my head, “yeah man! Solid race! Gratz!” He couldn’t believe it! His sister convinced him to do the race. He explained to me that he had no idea what to wear in a triathlon, but since he always swam in that river with jeans shorts he figured they would work. He showed me his $100 old school road bike that he bought on Craig’s List just for this event. I was glad he was so happy. I couldn’t think of a greater way to fail at my race goal than this. I almost felt foolish standing there in T2 talking to him with my aero helmet on and a bike that is worth more than my car. This guy trained, had a blast and he beat me. It wasn’t about his gear. It was about what was on the inside.
When asking yourself whether or not to do a race, don’t look at your equipment and say I wish. Look at your schedule and ask yourself, do I have the time? If so, do I have the intestinal fortitude to not only push myself further and challenge myself more, but keep it fun and exciting at the same time?
Triathlon should be fun. When it stops being that, take some time off and go mountain biking or rock climbing. Don’t overcommit your time and or money only to regret it later.
Happy Training! See ya at Happy Hour!
As most of you already know, there have been some changes at Powerhouse Racing. We’ve grown as a coaching group and pro shop and Houston afforded us the space to continue that growth and forward momentum. A lot of that would not have been possible without the help of triathlete, resident bike mechanic and friend, Bobby McGehee. We have worked with Bobby for many years now and are fortunate to continue that relationship. You know “Bob the Builder”. He’s always willing to help athletes and coaches whenever he is able to. He’s not a new kid on the block and has a lot of knowledge to share with our group. Read on as Bobby shares his experience with endurance sports and what he’s picked up over the years. Age is nothing but a number!
There aren’t too many athletes competing in the 50+ age group category. Why do you think that there are less competitors in this AG?
First of all, I have some bad news for those of you looking forward to aging up to race against those older, slower guys. While there are fewer competitors in the higher AG’s, the males 60+ guys are often just as fast as the male 40-something guys. Check the next race results and you’ll see 60 year old AG winners posting times that would have placed in AG’s well below their current ages. So, if the best athletes continue to compete then the people who quit racing as they get older are the back and middle of the pack guys. Now why is that? Sadly, I believe a lot of the guys who quit competing do so because they fail to recognize/accept a basic physiological truth; aging bodies simply do not perform as well as younger bodies and no amount of training can make up for it. At 55, they are suddenly unable to take their turn pulling the lead group of 40 year olds on Sunday and that can be disheartening. Bottom line is in order to continue enjoying the sport it’s imperative for aging athletes to remember the only people they are competing with are themselves.
How has an active lifestyle benefited/changed you, your friends, your family?
We all know you are what you eat but as you get older that adage is more appropriately modified to be “You do what you do.” Train your body to sit on the couch, drink beer and munch bon-bons and it will repay you with will a physique well suited to do just that. However, when vacation comes around and all the kids are going white water rafting or rappelling or hiking to 11,000 ft ridges you will not be able to play and that bites. When you’re in your 30s, you can get away with the whole weekend warrior thing but that doesn’t cut it when you’re 50. So if you want to do fun things with your grandkids on the weekend, you gotta pay your dues during the week.
How long have you been competing and what brought you to endurance sports? What brought you to Powerhouse Racing?
In 2003 I was a physical wreck; having spent way too many hours a week for far too many years working on my professional career. I was way overweight, smoking a lot and had bad back issues. I joined a gym, stopped smoking, and began to make other lifestyle changes. Competition wise, I started as a runner completing my first marathon in 2005. In 2008, I started doing tri’s and sometime around 2011, I hooked up with Powerhouse Racing. Having trained with a couple of other area coaches/teams, I was, to be blunt, looking for a new group with a lot more camaraderie and a lot less chaos. I followed Melanie and Jim over to Johnny’s place and never looked back.
Training day in and day out, repetitive motion can be hard on the body. How do you help keep injuries at bay?
With the assistance of my coaches and a great deal of trial and error, I’ve found a great balance between family time, work time, sleep time and training time. I now know how many hours a week I am willing to dedicate to the sport and how much my body can take. Knowing this figure and being aware of the lifestyle trade-off involved has actually been quite liberating. I know I’m not training hard enough to be a consistent podium finisher and that’s OK. Taking three weeks off to go hiking in Colorado with my wife is more important to me right now, ya know?
How has your training changed over the years?
As I’ve gained experience and learned what gains are available and the time commitments required, my training has become more structured. I don’t have time to invest in ‘junk miles’ workouts. Every workout I do has a goal and a purpose.
What keeps you motivated?
Immediate physical feedback keeps me motivated. Maintaining a training rhythm allows me to participate in just about any activity I want. Taking the kids camping, hiking the mountains, walking around the zoo all afternoon – no problem. Skip a few workouts and I can feel the difference real quick.
What has been your greatest achievement in relation to triathlon or endurance sports?
After my second Ironman, I developed a serious blood disorder requiring 18 months of nasty treatments and zero training. Coming back from that downtime required a great deal of soul searching, re-prioritization of life goals, and dedication. It also required the patient, skillful guidance of a great coach and good friend. Thanks, Melanie. Would not have made it without you.
What advice do you have for your younger counterparts? What advice would you have for your 20, 30, 40 year old self?
Life is all about trade offs. Wanna’ be insanely rich? Have a great, loving marriage and family? Win most any athletic event you want to enter? Enjoy great hobbies? Be a world traveler? Any one of these things can be yours with enough hard work and determination. Especially if you are willing to let the others waste away, which is a perfectly fine strategy if that’s what you want. Just make certain you are making the tradeoffs consciously.
How do you feel about competition at 50+?
I try really hard NOT to compete. Being a type-A, I have to be on guard against that ‘competition thing.’ I play this game to have fun and maintain a healthy body so I can enjoy the other 80% of my life.
What have been the important keys to your success?
Balance, balance, and balance. Two snapshots tell the story:
My first Ironman was done as part of a fun, well-rounded team of people; fully supported in all aspects by my family. It was a joyous time, a wonderful race and a great experience overall. My second Ironman was done with a hard working, pushing, no nonsense group with no support from my family. I earned an age group podium spot but hated the whole 9 month experience.
What advice do you have for those athletes starting out or are on the fence about triathlon or Powerhouse Racing?
First -> Always stay connected with your family. Triathlon requires training time and your spouse and kids simply must buy into your time commitment or the stress at home will sabotage the training. It’s best if they want to train with you but if they don’t like sports, that’s OK. See if they can enjoy being a sherpa or volunteer. The rest of the Powerhouse will welcome their efforts with open arms… Which pretty much sums up the Powerhouse – a well, tightly knit group of highly supportive, self-actualized people each standing with open arms to welcome, encourage, and help each other meet our individual goals.
Second -> Don’t be afraid to approach the more experienced Powerhouse peeps with questions. We all love to talk and share our opinions and insights. But none of us want to be “that guy” who is always telling everybody what they are doing wrong – whether they want to hear it or not. Pick your times, though. Try not to start up long discussions during an interval ride or between sets at the pool. Remember, they are out there training just like you!!
Unless you live under a rock, you know what’s going on in Rio right now. On August 10, NPR wrote, “Cyclist Kristin Armstrong has a regular job and a son. And as of today, she also has three Olympic gold medals. After becoming the only cyclist — male or female — to win three consecutive golds in the same discipline, Armstrong, who turns 43 Thursday, said she hopes to inspire other moms.”
Armstrong doesn’t exactly fit right into our “50+ Athletes” but it’s definitely worth talking about. Armstrong was quoted in NPR,”I think that for so long we’ve been told that we should be finished at a certain age. And I think that there’s a lot of athletes out there that are actually showing that that’s not true.”
With that, I give you Cynthia, 59. She’s been a great athlete to work with and race with. Having started triathlon later in life, this lady is a positive role model for the sport, not just for women, but for everyone. You can’t miss her. She’s the one with the beautiful smile.
1. I think there are not as many in the 50+ AG because of a couple reasons. First, we didn’t grow up with tris. I had never met anyone until way in to my 40s that ever participated. The second is lack of this age group being active in general. Maybe health issues keep some out legitimately or maybe it’s a mindset. And another reason, no one invites you. If I hadn’t been approached and “talked into” this sport 7 years ago, I would have never felt confident enough to pursue the sport.
2. An active lifestyle has added so much to my life. The #1 benefit are the people. I have lifelong friends due to running and tris (even if they stop participating). Mainly women of so many ages. I am always inspired by them no matter their abilities. Sometimes the ones that struggle the most inspire me because they don’t give up. I also hope that I’ve set a good example of “aging” to my family and especially my kids. Lastly, competing has helped me physically. It’s kept those post menopausal pounds away. About 10 years ago I was diagnosed with osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis). I credit the weight bearing exercise of running in reversing this condition.
3. I started running 9 years ago this month to celebrate my 50th BD. I set out to run a marathon. Due to injuries I had to run a half instead, but I was hooked. The accomplishment really made me feel better about myself and my body. I have always been active, but never consistently active. I would join classes at the YMCA or LA Fitness, but there was never a purpose to them. Marathons and triathlon events gave my activity purpose and a timeline.
I got to Powerhouse through some friends that started taking triathlons seriously. My first 2 years of tris I trained with a group at the Y in Pearland. When that group disbanded, I trained on my own….haha! I had seen Powerhouse around town, but didn’t quite “get it”. I was afraid I would have to totally abandon my running group in Pearland, but I saw Julie Schultz doing both. She was really getting stronger and more focused…..that’s why I joined. FYI: She inspired me beyond words!
4. Keeping injuries at bay is to me part of the sport. One of the reasons I added tris to my schedule was due to repetitive injuries due to running only. My PT stopped my running for 6-8 weeks, but said along with therapy I could add swimming and stationary cycling. I was so frustrated at myself for not preventing these injuries. So, I knew once I was released to run I HAD to cross train. Triathlons gave my new training purpose. Last year I had some really painful lower back and hip issues. To help prevent those problems I’ve added 2 new activities…strength training (2 x wk) and Yoga with Laurie. I’m afraid to brag…..but it’s working really well. I will add though, if I start feeling the pain, I will not hesitate to go to the chiro or my Arrosti doc.
5. My training has really changed over the years. I have added so many new elements besides running and am able to go longer and more frequently…..not faster, but longer. It helps a lot that my “equipment” has improved too. 3 days a week I do 2 a day. That would have been crazy talk a year ago.
6. I am motivated by several things. The first is FOMO (fear of missing out). I don’t want to be on the sidelines or scrolling through FB and seeing my friends doing these awesome events. I want to be in the game as long as I can. I am so grateful that my body tolerates all this so well. There may come a day that my body says no more, but until then, sign me up. All the other athletes motivate me. Women that are juggling a job and kids and a spouse, but still manage a 5 am run, swim or bike. I don’t think I was tough enough when I was a young mom to keep all those balls in the air. Powerhouse motivates me. The coaches and the friendliness of other athletes keep me wanting to come back. Lastly, my spouse motivates me. He never dogs me if I’m not home. He never makes me feel guilty about the cost of this sport and he wants me to have what I need to succeed. He always asks me when I get home, “how’d you do?”
7. My greatest achievement is staying with it. My goal is not to podium. It is to have fun and finish. I still aspire for longer races and hopefully with continued training, I’ll have new greatest achievements.
8. My advice for younger athletes is stick with it. Don’t take it so seriously that you lose the joy for the sport. Set new goals and keep reaching a little beyond your comfort zone. I would tell my younger self to keep moving forward and that it is possible to be stronger physically and mentally as you age. It’s very simple (not always easy) but never, ever quit!
9. Competition for me is the party day. I have put in the training and now it’s time to show ME what I can do. At Shadowcreek a couple weeks ago all the over 50 ladies’ bikes were racked together. It was so cool to visit with a group of athletes that were still in the game. Some were down playing their abilities, but they were excited to still be on the field playing. Footnote: they beat me in every discipline.
10. The keys to my success is the training, the attitude, the health of my body and most importantly the NEVER QUIT mindset. My purpose, I truly feel, is to be an example of not making excuses. Not buying the BS that after a certain age I shouldn’t try; that I should be okay with gaining those 20 post-menopausal pounds because my metabolism has slowed down. I hope someone that “thinks” they are too old to start this sport, will think “if she can do it, I can do it!” No excuses! If Diana Nyad can swim 110 miles over 53 hours at 64 then I certainly can give the sport my all. Her mantra was “FIND A WAY.” So I will!
11. I would encourage anyone that is thinking about joining this sport to just do it. You can read about it, dream about it and talk about it, but if you are a healthy individual and you have the desire call POWERHOUSE and get started. No one will support, train or motivate you better!
I had the opportunity to ask some of our seasoned Powerhouse athletes a few questions about their training and experience as an endurance athlete. Some of you know Kirk..and some of you can’t catch this 54 year old triathlete on the course! Check it out!
Kirk, why do you think there are there fewer athletes in the 50+ age groups?
Not a lot of people are starting their triathlon career in the 50s, but many are dropping out. Even for a sprint or Olympic athlete, the training is time consuming and the 50 somethings often have a lot of responsibilities that keep them from training. The 50s are when nagging injuries become too much hassle to overcome sometimes. I have thought, as I come out of yet another calf problem, “Maybe it is time to switch to master’s swimming”. But then I heal up and sign up for another tri! There is also a tendency to think of Ironman and 70.3 as “triathlon” and training for those in your 50s is daunting, when you can get just as much fulfillment out of sprint and olympic distance races.
That being said, those that remain in the 50+ categories are quite serious. The “wannabees” have dropped out, leaving those that really love it and are very competitive. I can tell you the competition in the 50+ age groups is fierce, requiring a disciplined training schedule and a more serious attitude toward nutrition and weight control than was required in the past. You have to want it to be doing it this long.
How has an active lifestyle benefited/changed you, your friends, family?This is a hard one for me because except for a 5-6 year period in the late 80s early 90s, I have been active my whole life. The benefits are innumerable to me. A commitment to the sport or any of the other sports I have participated in (track, cross country, wrestling, swimming, skiing, baseball, even football) requires discipline, goal setting, planning, prioritization, execution, adaptability, improvisation, etc. These are all valuable things to practice in my non-sporting life. These are things that I have been able to model for my sons. Dealing with adversity is a key lesson for any sport, but particularly in triathlon. No race goes perfect; almost no training week goes as planned. Problem solving on the fly, mitigating damage, resetting goals; those are three things triathlon has taught me through the years. I have learned to deal with success and failure both with a sense of humor. I hope this has had a positive impact on my family and friends. And there is a lot to be said for the joy of a well-trained for and executed race, especially if it puts me on the podium!
How long have you been competing and what brought you to endurance sports? What brought you to Powerhouse Racing?
I have been competing since I was in 7th grade, first in track than in just about anything I could. As I grew older but did not grow taller, I found I could still be competitive in distance events at my size. I ran, swam, and wrestled in high school, then took up tri while I was at the Coast Guard Academy. I finished second in a tri in Maryland in 1983 I think, but waited another 5 -6 years before getting my own bike and starting in pretty much full time. I have finished somewhere around 115 multi-sport events since then.
I came to Powerhouse after riding with another group, but otherwise trained by myself for many years. It is very valuable to me to train with others, including those that are faster in the individual disciplines. Ride with faster riders, run with faster runners, etc. So many other groups I have encountered are cliquish and closed to tri bike riders or new participants, while Powerhouse is open to everyone. Many other groups are either elite only, or entirely newbie focused. Powerhouse has newbies and really fast people. The mix is great. I don’t get to enough PH workouts due to my work, but I really enjoy it and see my training improved when I do.
How do you keep injuries at bay?
Well I haven’t been too successful at that. I train hard and race hard, and that takes its toll. I have had chronic calf injuries for the last 8 years. I regularly receive ART treatments and I muddle through. I have adjusted my running schedules and slowed up my speed work (but I love speed work). I substitute a no-hands elliptical workout for one run a week and that preserves my legs. Luckily I have not had shoulder or knee issues, so when my calves are good, I am good.
How has training changed over the years?
I actually have a more disciplined training schedule than in years past. I have shortened my distances and emphasized quality. I taper more and race normally no more than once a month.
What keeps you motivated?
I like being in shape (it does not look like I am in shape from a side profile, I know, but I am normally around 11 percent body fat at 54 years old, so I think I am in shape). I like the competition of the races. It really feels good to go fast in each of the disciplines, and so as long as I can still do that, I will keep training and racing. That’s another great thing about triathlon: except for the pros, there is no real ideal triathlon body type. Anyone and any type can succeed!
What has been your greatest achievement in triathlon or endurance sports?
I have had a few, none of which exceed the other. Finishing my only Ironman in 12 hr 40 mins. Half Ironman PR of 4 hrs 54 mins. Marathon PR of 3 hrs 35 seconds. Racing in the 2014 USAT Olympic Distance National Championship and setting a PR at 52 years old. Winning my age group at the Cypress Triathlon in 2015.
Advice for your younger counterparts, or yourself at 20, 30, 40?
The lure of going long, half iron or iron, is there and you should scratch that itch. Just don’t believe that is all there is. Drop down to sprints and Olympics and actually race instead of just surviving. Long course is a tremendous challenge. The shorter races provide their own challenges. When you lift and hold your pace while your body is screaming to slow down, then you will have met and conquered a significant challenge. When you blow through T2 in 36 seconds, you will have achieved a level of efficiency you could not imagine you could. When your will is broken on a hot 10k finishing run, you will not undersell the difficulty of an Olympic race. Don’t be afraid to go hard. Sure sometimes you will blow up, but occasionally you will be stronger than you ever imagined you could be. I actually would not have changed anything about my sporting life through the years. I have enjoyed all of it, even the difficulties. The difficulties make the joy and satisfaction that much better.
How do you feel about competition at 50+?
I love it. I love passing younger racers and hear them gasp or comment or cuss! I love getting passed by someone who clearly has got it going on. It is fun going into a transition area or diving into open water and being completely at ease and in my element. I belong here. I know what to do and how to do it. I love the swim start, especially if it is off the beach. I get to run and jump and play at fifty-stinking-four years old. How cool is that?
Take a look at this video posted by AARP. Many of us have our own ideas of what “old” looks like. Some might assume that “old” means a sedentary and non-active lifestyle. Others might believe that to be “old” is to not be fit, but to be fragile or incapable of learning new things. AARP asked a few millennials what they thought “old” looked like. This is what they said.
Follow Powerhouse Racing over the next few weeks as we feature our very own “50+ Athletes”. Trust me. These men and women will give you a run for your money. Having competed at the national level, multiple Ironman finishes, and then some. Stick around. You may learn something new. Read about their stories, some have participated in sporting activities most their lives, some just in the recent years discovered a love for endurance sports, and some that sought after a healthy lifestyle change.
“…aging is not about decline- it’s about growth.”
In case you haven’t heard, the fine folks at Powerhouse Racing have recently added the Wahoo line to their robust selection of triathlon-focused training and racing gear. At its heart, Wahoo is a technology company, most commonly known for their line of smart trainers, the KICKR and KICKR SNAP. But Wahoo does more than just trainers – the company offers heart-rate monitors, speed/cadence sensors, and even iPhone cases. Earlier this year Wahoo also entered the standalone GPS bike computer market with the ELEMNT.
A couple months ago Coach Melanie put the ELEMNT in my hands and said, “Here. Play with this and give us an honest review. We want to know if this is a good option for our athletes.”
So I did.
I have no intention to reinvent the wheel with this review, so I’ll go ahead and point you to an in-depth evaluation of the ELEMNT by everyone’s favorite tri geek, DC Rainmaker. Ray’s got all the details in his piece, from unboxing to all the finer points of functionality. If you want to get the skinny on technical specs and features available in the ELEMNT, be sure to take a look at his write-up, here.
So how does the ELEMNT stack up as a tool for the average Powerhouse client? Our ever-expanding group of athletes varies greatly in terms of triathlon experience, age, racing goals, tech savvy, and equipment used. We have athletes who train strictly by heart rate, while others rely solely on power. Some clients do the vast majority of their cycling indoors on a trainer, a handful use smart trainers paired with online applications like Zwift, and others ride almost exclusively outside.
What type of user is the ELEMNT ideal for? Is there anyone who SHOULDN’T use it? These are the types of questions I had in mind when learning this device for myself and putting it through the paces on the trainer, riding on the road, and in race situations.
Do you own a smartphone? If by some small chance you answered no to this question, then you can probably stop reading. The ELEMNT isn’t for you.
Ease of setup is certainly one area where the ELEMNT excels, and that’s mainly because it taps into a user interface (UI) that you already use every day: your phone. There’s not a whole lot of setup that happens on the actual ELEMNT itself. Initial setup entails downloading the ELEMNT app on your phone from your respective app store, using the app’s built-in QR code reader to scan the code that displays on the ELEMNT’s screen and poof! Your phone is now synced with your bike computer and you’re ready to start fine tuning.
You know how when you get ahold of a solid piece of technology and it’s got that intuitive, “it just works” kind of vibe? The ELEMNT definitely has that feel to it. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly and easily I cruised through setup. Within a few minutes I had the ELEMNT matched to my heart rate monitor, my bike’s power meter and synced up with Garmin Connect and Training Peaks. If you can use a smartphone, you can use the ELEMNT.
So we know the ELEMNT is a piece of cake to setup. But how will it specifically serve the most common needs of our average Powerhouse age-group athlete? I get asked questions about various devices and fitness technology from PH athletes all the time. What follows is a basic rundown, in Q&A form, of the most common inquiries I get when athletes are eyeing a new piece of tech candy.
Q: Will I need to use an actual computer to control any of the ELEMNT’s settings or updates?
A: Nope. Everything will be handled from your smartphone. The only time you need to connect this device to a wire is when it needs a charge. The ELEMNT comes with a charging cable, and if you’re an Android user, the charging port is the same size as your Android phone (micro usb).
Q: Will the ELEMNT sync up to my TrainingPeaks account?
A: Yep! Most Powerhouse-coached athletes use TrainingPeaks for their workout tracking and scheduling, and the ELEMNT can easily sync up to your Peaks account (assuming you know your login credentials). Several athletes also use Garmin Connect for tracking, and that’s covered as well. You can set the Wahoo app to automatically upload all workouts to your paired accounts, or you can do it manually.
Q: What sort of data will the ELEMNT give me? Does it measure all the metrics I need?
A: Yes, and then some. All the usual stuff is here: power, heart rate, cadence, time, calories. etc. You can also display fields for threshold-based metrics like training stress score (TSS) and intensity factor (IF) – but remember, in order for those fields to give you good data, you need to have your threshold metrics (functional threshold power (FTP) and/or heart rate zones) loaded into your profile on the app. Editing these settings is easily done. Just ask your coach for your FTP number or heart rate zones after performing the respective threshold test and enter those exact numbers into the profile section of the app.
There are dozens of metrics and display options available in the following categories: speed, distance, map, time, climbing, weather, cadence, heart rate, calories, power, KICKR (Wahoo’s smart trainer), gear selection, muscle oxygen, battery, and workout. Want to get a 30-second rolling average of your left/right leg power balance? No problem. Of course, you’ll need a dual-sided power meter to provide that data. The point is, if there’s something you want to monitor during a workout and you have the corresponding hardware on your bike to provide that data (power meter, electronic shifter, cadence sensor, etc.) the ELEMNT can do it.
Q: Can I use the ELEMNT for spin workouts as well as road riding and racing?
A: For sure. For indoor spins, just turn off the GPS and when your workout is complete, the Wahoo app will register that workout as “indoor cycling”. If you have a different set of metrics you like to monitor for a spin session that you don’t need on the road, or vice versa, you can customize the ELEMNT’s display pages to only show the data you need for that specific workout type.
The ELEMNT is also the ideal companion to Wahoo’s KICKR and KICKR SNAP smart trainers. Wahoo designed these devices to pair and work together. If you spend a lot of time training indoors away from the Powerhouse studio, then you owe it to yourself to invest in a KICKR/ELEMNT combo and a Zwift membership. With those three tools at your disposal, I can assure you your solo trainer rides will be much more engaging and fun, and in turn, you’ll get better quality and more results out of those workouts.
Q: Is it easy to mount the ELEMNT to my bike?
A: Not a problem at all. The ELEMNT comes with three different mount styles out of the box. Which one you use will vary depending on your bike’s handlebar setup, but one of the three should get the job done. I did have a minor issue with on of the mounts, which I cover in more detail below.
Q: Can I upload custom workouts into the ELEMNT?
A: Not yet, but the rumor is that functionality is slated to come with an update down the road.
Q: Can I upload routes into the ELEMNT to help me navigate if I find myself alone on one of our Sunday rides?
A: Yes you can. I was able to take a route posted on Facebook (via MapMyRide) by Coach Melanie and access it on the ELEMNT. The method by which I made this happen required a few minutes of work in converting the route file from MapMyRide, but it’s not difficult to do. I’ll post a how-to article of the process if any PH athletes need some guidance. The ELEMNT’s display was easy to read and I had no problems following the navigation during our Sunday group rides.
Q: Should I buy the ELEMNT or a fitness watch like the Garmin 920XT?
A: That depends. That question brings up the proverbial apples and oranges comparison. These two devices aren’t even in the same product category. I only chose to include this comparison in the review because the Garmin 920XT, and other Garmin watches, seem to be the go-to choice for several Powerhouse athletes.
Are you looking for an all-in-one solution that will track swim, bike, and run workouts? If that’s the case, then the ELEMNT isn’t your device.
The ELEMNT is strictly a bike computer, and it’s a really good one, but you will only use it on the bike. It has no function for swimming or running. Are you a watch owner who has a hard time reading the display while riding, especially during a race or on the road? In that case, the ELEMNT will make a great compliment to your watch. I found myself using the ELEMNT over my 920XT on road rides. Both devices gave me the data I was looking for, but the ELEMNT display was much easier to read with a quick glance – as it should be, considering it’s a dedicated bike computer. The 920XT is also limited to only displaying four fields per screen, whereas the ELEMNT can easily display twice that many (or more) at a font size that’s still considerably larger than the data readout on a four-field screen setup for the watch.
Q: It sounds like your experience was pretty positive overall. Did you have any problems with the ELEMNT?
A: Only one, and the problem wasn’t with the ELEMNT itself, but one of the mounts. I had some issues with the mount slipping a bit when riding on particularly bumpy roads. As a result, I over-tightened the screw on the mount and pulled the female thread insert out of the plastic housing. This could be repaired by pushing the insert back into the mount and sealing it with some type of industrial adhesive – not a huge deal. If I were starting from scratch, I would probably apply some tape to the aero bar where the mount goes to give the surface more grip, as opposed to the relatively slick surface of exposed metal.
Q: How much is thing gonna’ cost me?
The best endorsement I can give this device is that I wouldn’t hesitate to spend my hard-earned money on it. The overall package of intuitive setup and robust functionality made it a joy to use. Data geeks who train with power, and especially those who monitor metrics like TSS and IF, will get the most benefit from the ELEMNT. Obviously, the more metrics you track in your training cycles, the more utility you’ll get out of any data-driven fitness device. But even those who train strictly by heart rate will enjoy the clean interface, easy-to-read display, and mapping/route capabilities.
Again, I definitely encourage you to check out DC Rainmaker’s in-depth review I linked above. If you have more questions about how the ELEMNT works and what it’s truly capable of, he probably answers them in his write-up. If you’ve got more questions about my particular experience with the ELEMNT, feel free to reach out to me on the Powerhouse Facebook page.
Jason Bryant – Powerhouse Athlete – Pearland, TX
From Debora Riley
I decided to try this race as it was posted as one of the few that is completely ridable for all levels. The sport is very hard and very eye opening at the fitness and bike handling skills that are required. I wanted to first comment on how nice and friendly everyone was all the athletes and volunteers were very considerate and polite even on the trails during the race. The Magnolia Hill Ranch is very beautiful and the lake was great and a very uncrowded swim. The bike was very difficult for a newbie like me. The easy part of the trails were very manageable but I suggest you get practice in. It will make the race so much more fun!
Once I got to the hard part of the trails it was definitely an experience. There were moguls and some steep downhills with cross skull warnings and sharp turns, sand pits, and a big mud pit… which I did fall in! Some of the sand pits were very hard and I need lots of practice to maneuver those. I had to walk some parts of the trail. They were too difficult for my beginner skills! As a women at 50+ I was careful as I did not want to kill myself I have bruises and scrapes all over me. It took much longer than I wanted to on the 11 miles (2 bike loops ). I was very happy and excited! Tammy and I were able to complete the ride. Looking back it was really fun my suggestion, get some practice first. You do not want to get hurt.
The trail run was really fun. It was really hot by the time I ran it so not a lot of running went on but lots of fun going thru the trails! I really enjoyed that. The day was very fun and a such great experience. I just realize I’m not as young as I used to be when I was out there on that bike! To me it was equal, for sure, to at least a half Ironman! Maybe I am exaggerating but it was really hard. I agree with Matt. It was very humbling even for an average age-grouper like me.
Debora & Tammy finished XTERRA Magnolia Hill 1st in their age group!
From Matt Daeumer
First of all, I have been training pretty hard and consider myself to be in pretty good shape. About three weeks ago after signing up for the race, I went to Huntsville State Park with Michael Robertson. Man was it an eye opener. I was in zone 5 within 10 minutes and at 14 miles. I was looking for the parking lot. Michael pulled me around and then I went home with my tail between my legs. It’s a different ball game, but Michael assured me that Magnolia Hill was an easier course. Over the next 3 weeks I rode nothing but my mtb. I took it on vacation and went to some really hard trails. The more I rode, the better it got. The day before the race, Cherell and I met with Jason, Debora Sue and Tammy for lunch. We then made our way to Navasota and checked into the motel. From there we made the trek to Magnolia Hill. Had it not been for the Xterra flag, Siri would have sent me to the wrong place. We start following signs and finally got to the house. A guy came out, the race director, and pointed us down by the lake. We parked and got our stuff together and Jim and Melanie showed up.
We all took out looking for the trail. That guy pointed us in the right direction. We get on the trail planning to take it easy. Once again, zone 5 in no time. We cross a few sketchy bridges, then Jim, Jason and I all crash in the same sand pit and the same time. Good times! We get back up and get around a little further, then there are skull signs on the trail. I go off trail a few times, but we get done. All of us are spent after 5 miles of riding. So we went to the lake to reflect on our decisions. That night we all go eat the Wrangler. What an experience! That killed all opportunities to get to bed early.
Race morning I woke up feeling a little congested but still pretty confident. I have my protein muffins and coffee, then we all make our way to the race. I sip on some Infinit on the way to get more nutrition in. We then get in line behind everyone picking up their packets, we only needed body marking so I had to ask to go to another line. It was pretty laid back. I get marked and get down to transition. I look for my number, but there are none on the rack. Finally, Jason tells me it’s first come first served, so I pick a spot on the front rack near bike exit. Man, I have never had so much room in transition. We hang around. There is no announcement that transition closes. I head down to the water and I am going to warm up, but then that guy says there will be a race briefing in a bit. I have a Gu and drink some water. We all follow him over to the orange cone which is swim start. He goes through his briefing then tells us we will be starting a little late because some of the competitors are caught in traffic. Someone ask about the duathlon start. He says it will be right here where this shade line is.
We get the two minute warning and all line up for a mass start. I’m to the side about 3 people back. I run in and start swimming. I get into a comfortable pace, but start to get a little bit of a headache, so I just take it easy. A couple of hundred yards in and I think Melanie passed me. Then I get in behind someone about my speed who seems to be taking a good line and just draft til the final turn. I make the turn and I am swimming next to Jason for a bit. I start getting close to the swim exit and I took a direct line, so it is get pretty shallow. I felt like I was swimming through a Kelp forest. I make the turn into the exit and keep swimming til my hand touches. I stand up and man, I’m tired. I looked down and saw 19 minutes and said WTF. My Garmin later said I had swam 1100 yards, so not too bad. I was walking to transition to get my heart rate down and get passed by Michael running. Get done in transition not very fast, but not eventful and take out on the bike.
The ride starts uphill. I see Mel outside of transition on her bike. I try to pass as many people as I can to get clear of them, but when we get into the single track, I am behind a line of six or seven people with a fast swimming girl leading us. It felt like I was in traffic on Hwy 290. We just putt-putt across the three bridges. Get out on to a fire road and I pass as many more as I can. My heart rate starts to spike, so I make myself dial it back a bit. Once again, I get stuck behind a guy and a girl on the single track. I would like to be going a little faster. We come to the mud pit. She crashes. The guy crashes. I try to go to the right, and I crash. I am lying flat in the mud pit, might right side completely submerged. I get up and run my bike out and jump on. At least I am in front of them. There is branch caught in my rear wheel and I can’t reach it. It is making this god awful noise and everyone around me feels like they need to tell me I have a branch in my wheel. I miss a turn and get it out. I get to the sand pit and remember to go left, not up the middle. I go left and get into the trees and cut my left arm up, but I made it through. I look down and I am bleeding a bit, but no big deal. The rest of this loop is picking through traffic when you can and getting stopped cause somebody crashed in front of you or they can’t make it up a hill. I get done with the first loop and Cherell cheers me on. I used the Jeep roads to drink a bottle of Infinit and a bottle of water during the ride. I make it back into the woods and am riding near my friend Cody. We go back and forth for a bit. It is some better with some space. I get in front of Cody and start making some time and make it around all the obstacles on the second loop without stopping. I see Michael already on the run about a half mile from transition. It was starting to feel good.
Transition once again was uneventful, just slow. Take on as much water as I can and a Gu as I start the run and get some encouragement from Cherell and Mel. They tell me to “go get Jim”. I start running at a 10 min pace and think, man this is alright. Then I get to the first hill. Time to walk. I walk up and run to the first downhill. It is more like a cliff you slide down to the lake. I run a bit more and there is creek crossing. Wait a minute, I didn’t know my feet would get wet on the run too. I get through and run/walk my way to the aid station. Shay Robertson is there. I talk to her while I shower in cold water. She says Jim is not too far in front of me. I run into the woods on some single track. I run the downhills and walk the up hills. Finally, I get done with the first loop with this girl. I don’t even know her name, but we start talking. We run, then we walk. We push each other and make jokes that we are both Ironmen and this course is kicking our ass. We make it around in what seems like no time with our conversation, then run the uphill finish. I am dead.
What do I take from this? It’s a lot of fun and I will definitely do it again. No one is uptight. Just a good group of athletes having a good time. I will prepare on the mtb and trail run a bit more next time!
From Coach Brice
Effective June 1st, 2016 the Powerhouse Racing Pro Shop will be closed on Wednesday. Scheduled classes and workouts will continue as scheduled and all other pro shop hours remain the same.
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 11:00am-6:00pm
These new hours will remain in effect through the summer.