Sunday, June 30, 2013

Flip Out

I have never owned a pair of headphones.  Ever.  I have found them to be constrictive, bulky, obnoxious and when worn in public, offensive.  Add to this the fact that I could really never tell the difference in quality of sound, music specifically, when listening with a pair of headphones wrapped around my head vs the sound I heard through a set of good speakers.

As a runner, I learned that a good pair of earphones is an essential piece of equipment.  I have yet to find such a pair, but that's a topic of discussion for a separate post.

I was presented with the opportunity to review, or as I like to call it, give my honest to goodness opinion about Flips.  So always willing to oblige, I agreed.  The fact that someone was asking for my two cents worth on a matter such as this was impressive enough, so without asking many questions, or much further to do, I waited for the Flips to arrive.

I remember thinking that I wasn't sure how I was going to do this.  After all, my blog has been dedicated to the world of endurance sports, not product evaluation, specially products not directly related to my sport.  But I was up to the challenge and my mission was simple:  honestly and thoroughly report my findings.  I can do that!

The package arrived in no time. The box design was very impressive.  I work in a business where plate presentation is ever so important. Flips have an awesome plate presentation. I could not wait to put my hands on the product.

And that I did promptly.  Opened the box, unzipped the hard protective case and took the Flips out.  First thing that came to mind was "omg, these things are light!" Being the skeptic that I am, I immediately thought, "no way, these could pack a punch".  We'll see.

I wasted no time.  Turned on my iPad and plugged them in.  Put them on my head, around my ears, turned on the music and... WOW!  What was that I was hearing?!  "Impossible" I thought.  Not from these things.  So I took them off and read more about them.  Curious, I was, I wanted to know what the "flip" thing was all about.  Once I figured it out, I plugged it back in to the iPad and turned the music back on.  Again, WOW!  all that sound coming out of these things?  My wife and daughters who were sitting around the table immediately stopped what they were doing, and I could tell by their reaction that they too, were impressed.

You see, the Flip concept is pretty simple, really.  You turn the headphone piece around and they become speakers.

But this was just the first impression.  Would this last?  Would I be turned into a Flip wearing, Flip loving enthusiast?  Only time would tell.

I have since plugged them into my computer, watched some videos and listened to some music.  I have never heard sounds so crisp, so clear.  I often play classical music as I work, this allows me to concentrate.  I could have never imagined that a pair of headphones would allow me to get lost into the music the way I have done since the arrival of the Flips.  One of my favorite composers is Robert Schumann.  His piano works are truly genius. Wearing the Flips I hear things I had never heard before.  I found myself mesmerized.  I remembering listening to each note in ways I have never heard it before.  Not much work was getting done at this point.  I was impressed.

But I was not done yet.  Next came my iPod Shuffle.  Yes, that tiny, little bitty piece of noise producing device that runners wear as they put on the miles.  The pure sight of this inch square gadget hooked up to these headphones was if anything, a bit comical.  But the results were not any different.  If even for a second, I remember thinking how cool it would be if I could wear this while on my runs. If someone could come up with a device that I could wear while running, that reproduced music the way the Flips do, I will buy it!  Just for the record, however, I will not be wearing these to run.  This is just not right.

Curiosity bit me again.  I plugged the Flips into my phone.  I have an htc droid.  Yes, you guess it... sound was impressive as well.  I don't use my phone to listen to music, but I know a whole lot of folks do, so try it, I did.  And loved it as well.

The last thing I needed to test was the "speaker" feature of the Flips.  I turned the headphones over, plugged it in to my iPad again, and once and for all, I was sold.  The volume on the iPad was at a level lower than 25%.  It was enough that I could hear it all over the house with no distortion.  Amazing.

I am not going to get into all the technical aspects of the Flips, for I really don't understand and really, it does not matter (to me).  If you'd like to know all these, you can go to their website at

One thing I do not do when reviewing a product is visit a website or search for information about the product so that I am not influenced by other's opinions or manufacturer's claims.  With this in mind, I asked myself how much I would be willing to pay for the Flips.  Somewhere around $200 is what I would expect the price to be.

When I found out that the going price for these is only $120, well I was SOLD!

I have secured for the followers of this blog a sweet deal from Flips.  If you order, via their website, your pair before July 16, 2013, you will receive $10 off your purchase plus you will get free Rush Shipping Upgrade.  Enter code: FA0010INT

(Disclaimer;  The author, that being me, has not received nor will ever receive monetary compensation for reviewing, errr. giving honest opinions, about any product and that includes any sales which may occur through links attached to this or future blog post.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Enjoying Your Kid's Triathlon

The inspiration for this post came from a recent experience, but as you will soon see, it is not limited just to triathlons...

Been there.  Done that!  I was once "that" soccer dad.

Which one you may be asking?  Or if you saw me at the sidelines of my daughter's first travel soccer game, you know which "that" I'm talking about.

I knew "everything" there was to know about soccer, and I knew what was best for my daughter, or rather I thought I knew what was best for my daughter... on the soccer field.

Never mind the fact that the expert, or coach, was on the other side of the field.  Never mind the fact that she had spent countless hours at practice, honing in on skills they were trying to improve at these games.  But NOOOOO... I knew what she needed to do and I was not shy about telling her so.

Stay with me.  I'll get to the point.

That is until the very first "travel" game ever.  As I was standing on the sideline, yelling instructions to my daughter, a much wiser man came up and stood next to me.  At first I thought he was going to punch me in the face or something.  But then suddenly, he leaned over and in a very quiet, unassuming voice said:  "Let her play.  She's a good player.  She'll make the right choices."

WOW... I remember this like it was yesterday.

I pondered upon this for a long time and the message was received loud and clear.  I must say, without a doubt in my mind, that I never, ever again yelled a word of "instruction" to my daughter on the field.  As a matter of fact, I learned later from her then head coach, that the one thing she did want to hear from me, but only after the game, was "I'm proud of the way you played" and / or "I enjoyed watching you play today."  This I did until she played her last College game!

Still with me?

A few weeks ago we volunteered at the Nashville Kids Triathlon, along with my wife, daughter and a host of local triathlete friends.  This was one of the most exiting and uplifting experiences in a long time.

The kids, ALL of the them were awesome.  You could tell they were nervous, apprehensive, full of questions and some doubt.  They were there, as most of us are at all triathlons, for a variety of reasons.  The skill levels were also as varied as there were athletes.  Yes, I do call them athletes because that's what they are.  And then there were the parents.  Not all of the parents.  Some of the parents.

The kids were guided inside the transition area by volunteers. The parents were asked to wait outside. Most, if not all, of these volunteers have experience in the world of triathlons.  Several have completed Ironman distances.  Yes, this expertise was there for the kids.  We each took one young triathlete at a time and guided them to their very own personal space within the transition area.  We spent time answering questions, giving light instructions, calming nerves and listening to stories of importance, at that moment, to the kids.

But as you can probably conclude by now, there was "that" parent on the sideline.  Yelling, screaming and giving last minute instructions to their sons and daughters.  Some were telling the volunteers how they wanted their kid's transition are to be set up.  Some of these parents were not going to hear any different. We just knew that if we did not follow the yelled instructions, it would be the kid that would pay the price later.  So, for the most part, we obliged.

I know, like I knew back then, that the parents mean well.  They want whats best for their sons and daughters.

So in order to Enjoy your Kid's Triathlon to the max, here's a tip or two:

*  Let go, sit back and relax.  Your young offspring knows what he/she needs to do.
*  Let the Volunteers do their job.  They have hundreds of hours and thousands of miles of experience.  They're here because they want to pass this along.
*  Did I mention to Let go, sit back and relax?  From first hand experience, I can tell you that you will make better memories, if you just Let go, sit back and relax!

Those of you that know me, know that sitting back and keeping quiet at the soccer games must have been quiet the challenge.  But it really wasn't.  I also realized very quickly that attitudes on the sideline are contagious.  Not all parents get it, some parents still yelled.  So I found my way to my very own private world on the field and luckily there I also developed on of the very best soccer friendships ever

Gordon and I would sit in the corner of the field.  At half time, we would fold up our chairs and move to the other corner.  This we did for some four years.  We would discuss, but not solve, all the problems of the world. We would tell stories and just enjoy the game. We would wear our Columbia Sun Hats because we knew it embarrassed our daughters. And yes... we found that yelling at the referees was a whole lot more fun than yelling at our daughters.  We would, of course, disagree with every call he made, we would tell him what he missed and what he did wrong.  I think that maybe just once, we told him what a great job he did. I miss you Gordon!

Find yourself a "partner" in crime.  Someone you can rely on to keep you straight and off the yelling path.  This too, will allow you to Enjoy Your Kids Triathlon.

Footnote... This advise, I dare to say, would apply to any and all sports your sons and daughters are involved in.  So, please heed the advise and enjoy!

Monday, June 3, 2013

10 Non-Racing "Ironman Race Day" Suggestions

I don't consider myself an expert, far from it.  I have however, finished an Ironman and I learned a thing or two during the journey.  I will leave all the technical stuff to you and your coach.  I'd like to share with you some things that I know helped me have a more enjoyable and a successful experience.

You will have unexpected surprises during the course (all 140.6 miles of it) of the day.  If you're not prepared to respond to these, you will be caught with your proverbial pants down and your day will not be one you'll want to remember.  One of your goals for the day, as was mine, should be for this experience to be one that you will never forget.  I know I will always remember mine.

So, without further to do, here are 10 things that I hope will make your day more memorable (remember that my experience was in Louisville, so not everything here will apply to your venue):

1).  Wear Flip Flops while waiting for the swim to start.  Throw them in the trash before getting in the water.  I bought several pair for $3 each at Old Navy. Wear them several times before race day to make sure you don't get blisters.  Rub a bit of anti-chaffing between the toes to prevent any last minute blistering surprises.

2).  If you live within driving distance of the venue, go ride the entire Bike course before race day. If you do this, there will be no surprises.  Run as much of the actual course as well and swim as much of the course as you can.

3).  In salt water swims, they will have a place where you can rinse off the salt water from your body.  Louisville does not have this.  Bring a dedicated water bottle on your bike just to rinse off after the swim.  Do this after you get settled into the course.  Toss the empty bottle at the first water stop.

4).  Special needs bag for the Bike.  Put something in it to eat that you really and truly like.  I put boiled red skin potatoes and a frozen Snickers bar.  A friend of mine put in two frozen cheese burgers. Did eat the potatoes, not the candy bar.  Also put in the bag a pair of socks and a spare inner tube and CO2 cartridge.  On the run, I put another pair of socks and a couple of Honey Stingers.  Did not use either.

5).  Organize your transition bags and special needs bag at home, on the floor, in a space that will not be disturbed for a couple of weeks.  You will think of "stuff" to add as the days go by.  Add them at that point.  Later you may remove them if you come to the conclusion that you will NOT need them.  The day before you leave, go over each once again, when satisfied, put them each in its own individual plastic bag, and label it.  When you register, they will give you your race day bags.  We received three transition bags and two special needs bags.  Transfer your gear here at the hotel as soon as possible.  DO NOT leave this until later.

6).  You will not be allowed to leave anything by your bike once you check it in.  Make sure your tires are not inflated to 100% of race day pressure.  Depending on the weather, you may find that the tires explode over night (due to the heat),  You will have to start your morning repairing tires.  Inflate to about 85% of max pressure.  Top it off in the morning and give your loved ones the tire pump.  If you choose not to bring a pump, arrive earlier so you have time to borrow someone else's.

7).  Work on a Nutrition back up plan.  Mine went array about four weeks before IM and I had to start from scratch.  Luckily it all worked out but the stress this added could have been avoided had I had a back up plan.  Create a Nutrition Log and document everything you eat and how it makes you feel.  Document how the training rides go and make adjustments as you move along.  You will find that documentation will save the day.

8).  Imagine anything and everything that could go wrong.  After all, its only 140.6 miles so what could possibly go wrong, right?  Things like:  What do I do if my swim goggles get knocked off?  What do I do if I get leg cramps in the swim? (this happened to me), on the bike?  on the run?  What should I do if I get pains in my bones?, Joints?, etc. What if I have a panic attack? What if I get sick to my stomach? etc... Once you have all these things identified, create a plan.  If anything does happen, you will be prepared.  Fear of the unexpected comes from not having a plan to address it.  Plan ahead.

9). The Ironman course is a lonely place.  Yes, you're racing with a couple thousand people, but each triathlete has his or her own agenda.  There's little conversation, obviously in the swim, but also on the bike.  You get a chance to be more social on the run.  This will come in handy after mile 18.  Believe me!

10).   Slow your run pace way down as you approach the finish line so that you will be the only one in the chute.  All eyes will be on you.  High-five anyone and everyone around.  This is YOUR time!  (Thanks Charlene for this suggestion).  I still replay this in my head, over and over again.

Bonus).  When things get tough, and they will... remember why you started this!

Do you have any tips you'd like to share with us?  Leave a comment below.