Sunday, April 9, 2017

Product Review- RipLaces

For the longest time, I’ve been a forum member on If you’re interested in losing a few brain cells, I post there under the screen name “Tri-Banter”. Weird name selection, right?

ST is a complicated place. You can ask pretty much anything that you want and it will get answered completely with great information. It will also get answered completely with bad information. You can have a conversation with some world-class professionals and leading scientists in the sport. Or, you could have a conversation with the exact opposite- I.E. me.

In one of the easier threads, some bloke asked about elastic lace options. I’ve been in sport for a long time and I’m a lazy man. I hate tying my shoes. Elastic laces eliminate the need to loop-swoop- and pull (Aside- this extends to non-sporting life as I tend to put elastic laces on my everyday shoes as well. I really can’t stand tying shoes and understand why old people tend to use velcro sneakers. /End Aside). In a race, elastic laces make for a quicker transition time, allowing me to get onto the run course faster so people can start passing me sooner.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with a lot of shoe-tying alternatives. Initially, I just used the laces that came with the shoes, only I left them tied. That was only marginally successful, lending itself to improvement products. Then I tried actual elastic laces, which were just stretchy versions of regular laces. Then I used a product called Yankz. There were a couple more who were so unremarkable that I can't remember their identities. I’m in a much different place now.

I responded to the OP with the truth, I sport Xtenex laces, seen in the picture. Then I promptly forgot about the thread and went on to other kinds of gibberish.

Shortly thereafter, I got an email from some guy named David. Whereas I’ve known a couple of David's in the past, I don’t have anyone in my contacts folder with that name. It turns out that David invented a new kind of elastic lace called “RipLaces”. In an effort to convert me to his side of the force, he offered to send me a set of RipLaces for free. I couldn't find a reason to say no. I’m going to do a product review of RipLaces below. Regardless of the outcome of said review, I’m of the opinion that David is a stand-up guy.

Initial Encounter of
David sent me a coupon code that allowed me to order a lace set-up of my choosing and he’d pay for the cost and shipping of the product. Remember- David is awesome. If I ever meet him, I’ll buy him a beer or dinner or something.  (Seriously David- if you’re ever in Rochester, look me up.)

The website has several different products. It’s probably that I’m not that smart (and that probability is near 100%), but I struggled with sifting through the differences of the product line. There are “Best Sellers”, which are $14.98. There are 2 different kinds of “Bungees”, one is in a family pack and the other are in a small pack. There are 3 different kinds of “Cores”.  It took me a while to figure out what I needed to have a fully usable elastic lace option.  In fact, it took me so long that I almost emailed David back to ask for help. I initially couldn’t figure out what the difference was between the bungees or the cords. I probably spent about 30 minutes on his product site. (I suspect that a nominally intelligent person could have accomplished the same level of learning in under 5 minutes, which is still longer than it should take, IMO.)

RipLaces come in 2 parts and you need both if you’d like your shoe to work. You need bungees and you need cores. These are offered in various colors and sizes. I eventually selected Black Bungees and the Skinny Core. I ordered them separately even though that’s the exact same combination of that comes in the “Best Sellers” option. Luckily for David, it doesn’t matter if you order as a combo pack or individual products, they are the same price.

The Product Has Arrived
A few short days after ordering, the laces arrived. Shipping was efficient. Here’s what came in the package.

The cores are small, black plastic thingies with hook-like protrusions. The package had 14 cores. I went and found my running shoes. I counted the number of eyelets. Sure enough, there were 7 per shoe meaning that David is a clairvoyant genius. How he knew the exact number of cores that would match my shoes before he even contacted me is beyond my comprehension.

To be honest, I was even more shocked by the bungees. Bungees are basically elastic ties that girls use to put their hair in pony tails. There were a lot of bungees. Too many to count (meaning more than 20). Whereas David was an excellent predictor of how many laces I needed, he has no idea how big my feet are. In an effort to make sure he covered all options, he sent an overkill of bungees (and I now understand why he has an a la carte version of bungee purchasing).

I disassembled the Xtenex laces and started to add the RipLaces. If you can’t figure out the process from the pictures posted on the back of the cores, the website has a fun instructional video. Even a dolt like me was able to understand the installation process. Select a bungee size. Snap the bungee through one of the sickle ends of the core. Use the ‘tool’ to pull the bungee through the lace eyelets. (Optional step- laugh hysterically at their use of the word “tool,” since it’s just a piece of wire). Snap the other end of the bungee to the other end of the core. Repeat for each eyelet.

Here’s the finished, installed product. Aesthetically, the set-up is much cleaner looking than the Xtenex set-up.

The Run
I’m currently recovering from an injury. The injury is on the left foot, just below the 3rd and 4th toes. Due to the injury, that area is pressure sensitive and will sometime swell a bit during and after a run. With my old Xtenex laces, if I experienced any such swelling, I could adjust on the fly. With RipLaces, there is no such adjustment. I suppose I could simply remove the lace where there is pressure build-up but that would defeat the purpose of having laces. Therefore, I resorted to running on the treadmill. Should a problem arise, I was close to a solution (as opposed to miles away from home like I was when the injury first happened).

No such problem occurred. In fact, the RipLaces were better on my sensitive area than the Xtenex. The forefront of my foots couldn’t have been any happier.

That doesn’t mean everything was perfect in RipLace land. I think I did a bad job at sizing the top 2 eyelet bungees. There is normally 4 strands of thread-like materials criss-crossed between the topmost eyelets. With the RipLace design, that number had doubled. Granted, I had no heel slippage but there was an awful lot of pressure pressing against the moving parts of my ankle. I've since removed one of the laces. Better. Take that David and your 14 cores. I've now got spares.

The Verdict
After a week's worth of running in these things, all on the treadmill, there are a few facts that are more and more obvious as time goes on. First, I'm glad that I have a treadmill so that I can skip the 7000 inches of rain dumped on our house. If April showers bring Mayflowers, the pilgrims can dock their ship directly in my front yard.

Second, my laundry needs have increased. I naturally smell horribly, I'm not ready to learn what sort of stench would be created if I re-wore my running clothes.

Third, I have an abundance of bungees left over and I'm hunting for uses for these things. I can't imagine the size of the shoe or how much my foot would swell to need the extra large bungee. If any of my colleagues gets batted in the back of the head with a hair tie, you'll know that I've run out of other ideas.

Fourth, these things might be permanently attached to my shoe (except, of course, for the bungee that busted on my 5th run). This might be attributed to the fact that I'm lazy. It might also be attributed to the fact that these are a really excellent product. I can't see a reason to go back to my old laces.

(P.S. David- that beer option won't expire.)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Yelling at Books

Warning: The introduction to this post contains spoilers on the literary pieces known as The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Game of Thrones. If you’re the kind of person who hates spoilers and are highly interested in reading either of these books above, I suggest that you skip the first section and head to the second. Having said that, Snape killed Dumbledore and it was a good thing. Also, Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father and Leia is Luke’s twin sister while Vader never acknowledged that he had a daughter.

When Literature Physically Makes Me Angry
The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, is more about the Time Traveler and less about the wife. For some reason, this dude has a condition that sends him to various places and times at random. And, probably because the book was written by a woman (semi-intentionally sexist but I really couldn't come up with another reason), he couldn’t travel with his clothes. Along the way, he grooms a girl into loving him because he seemed to warp into and out of her life. Basically, she knew him at all stages of her life. She becomes the wife. Honestly, I am indifferent to this line of prose. So why am I bringing this up?

The time traveling dude was a runner. See, showing up at random places at random times, naked, meant that he needed to run away from a lot of people. (Because if a naked dude magically popped into my front yard, the first thing I'd do is chase him.) It’s possible that he became a nude runner after reading Born to Run and misunderstood that they didn't wear anything only on their feet. What ground my gears about the book was that the author dumped him into winter on one of his jaunts. Then gave him frostbite. Then cut off his feet. Which left him a bedridden and wheelchair bound invalid. Which is what got him killed on a subsequent bounce. How's that for romance?! When I read that foot-cutting scene, I was screaming at the book. Stephen King hasn’t written a bigger nightmare than that. That includes the hobbling scene in Misery, because that guy didn’t turn into a helpless idiot.

Apparently, they made TTTW into a movie, which I haven’t seen. There’s absolutely nothing in the book that I’d want to watch on screen (except, maybe, Rachel McAdams). 

Contrast this with another novel that I’ve read and yelled at the book itself. George RR Martin is famous for a few things. For one, he likes his sex scenes. For two, he likes killing off main characters to whom you got attached. For three, he seems to be interested in torture. In the Game of Thrones, there was a badass knight named Jaime who had a penchant for sleeping with his twin sister (no, not Luke and Leia). Instead of killing him off, George did something worse. He cut off the knight’s sword hand. Once again, I found myself screaming at a book, “You just don’t do that!” George did provide some redemption, since he left the other hand intact leaving the knight with an opportunity to return to badassness instead of a driveling nothing. George gets it.

How does this apply to anything?
In case you haven’t read any of the backstory of my recent blogging life, I’ve been giving my crotch a lot of attention. But, before that, I was an injured runner. Mind you, I’m not that good of a runner. Never have been. Unlikely that I ever will be. That doesn’t mean I hate it. In fact, quite the opposite, I absolutely love running.

So, when an injury takes running away from me, I physically yell. Only this time, it’s at my feet instead of a book. I was grumpy with my athletic state of being for quite some time. I feared becoming the naked guy who turned into a useless idiot because running was taken away. The fear was centered about the not running, since I’m already an idiot and may or may not be wearing clothes right now.

I would rather have the mentality of the one-handed night. No, I do not wish to do anything with my sister (I can’t believe you went there- ewwwwwwwww!). I’d like to believe that even under the worst of circumstances, I’d find a way to get back on my feet, literally and figuratively. It’ll take a nightmare of female-romance-author proportions to stop me from running forever.

So, after 7 long weeks of not running, I braved the treadmill and did a test run. This is a double whammy. The treadmill isn’t that exciting, quite the opposite. Running could have been potentially painful. The result- It wasn’t that bad!

I’m not going to attempt to call it ‘good’. I mean, I was running slowly on the treadmill and excited about it. Obviously there’s something wrong with me. It’s clear that I’m not 100% fully healed (in the foot or in the head). It’s also clear that the running isn’t making the injury any worse (jury's still out on the brain). I've run several times since then. I’m doing my due diligence in taking it easy on the mill. My times are, for me, insultingly slow. My ‘long’ runs are shorter than my short runs pre-hurting. But, I’m slogging my way back onto the road.

And when I get there, look out multisport world. No, seriously, look out. Otherwise, you’ll likely plow me over as you run by on the last leg of the triathlon course. Which might re-injure me and make me that groveling idiot in a wheelchair who can’t run again. Don't subject me to that fate. Please.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

MMBOCC- Round 2 and Championship Crowning

Here’s the thing: You and I aren’t that different when it comes to March Madness. I haven’t watched a single moment of the basketball tournament. You haven’t watched a single minute of my working out. How in the world would we get the results of either? Read about them on the internet of course!

When last we checked in on the Battle of the Crotch Creams, the number 1 seed Assos had firmly defeated the old pro Chamois Butt’r. This was to be expected and there was no Cinderella story here (unless, of course, you count my bits turning into something pumpkin-like once the 2nd ride was complete). In the Skin Cream Bracket, the contenders included the top of the line diaper rash goo as the number 1 seed versus a slick yet moisturizing balm found in the pet section.

First up, Desitin. 

There were a literal gazillion gallons of this stuff sold throughout the world on an annual basis. Luckily for Desitin, people keep breeding. Babies are pretty much undeveloped cyclists. Both typically sport shorts with an extra thick lining. Both are notoriously bad at crotch region hygiene. To test the cream in action, I did this ride.

This was an uncomfortable experience start to finish. In the beginning, I had to apply the sauce between my legs. Whereas I’m typically happy when I reach my hands in that area of my body, the addition of this white stuff drastically changed the situation. The cream has an initial silky texture that is almost immediately altered upon skin contact. It’s possible that they have some sort of drying agent hidden in a moisturizing cream. This was quite apparent due to the tingling in my fingers. (Ironically, there was none of that tingling down below.)

I set this cream up for success. With Monday as an off day, the crotch was ready for a pounding without being pre-sore. Sadly, the cream provided little to no relief on the ride. The friction built rather quickly and soreness was the norm for the ride. I finished the work and walked away from the bike a little more bull-legged than normal.

I also noticed a couple of oddities. First, my bike seat was a little more white than normal. I’m interpreting this to mean that there is next to no adhesive quality to the cream and it squished itself out. Second, my tri shorts were also more white than normal, a phenomenon I’ve not experienced since…

The second seed in this bracket is Bag Balm. I discovered this product reading about chamois cream alternatives on the internet. Basically, someone asked a question to a forum of riders, “How do you lube your crotch?” (I’m paraphrasing.) There were several suggestions and Bag Balm was a repeated answer. I’d never heard of the stuff before. When I asked someone at the grocery store, they located it in the pet aisle next to the dog biscuits. I kinda wonder how the people recommending this product discovered it in the first place. (I don’t think I’ll be doing an alternative nutrition query any time soon.)

Bag Balm is the thickest salve in the group. It’s also the only non-white contender. It presents as a super thick petroleum jelly with a minty scent. I had to apply more than expected pressure into the tin in order to get a similar amount of substance to transfer to the nether regions.  Here’s the ride data:

I was pleasantly surprised by Bag Balm’s performance. It stayed in place for the entire ride. Despite the fact that I was still smarting from the beating I received during the Desitin test, the perineum felt better after the ride than before. And, as opposed to smelling like I had a rash, I still sported a minty freshness. This might be the first time that I wasn’t rancid after a ride.

On the downside, Bag Balm was a little stickier than the other creams. The chamois pad stayed in place due to the adhesive properties of the balm. There was a small bit of rubbing on some non-contact areas of the southern states. Despite this flaw in performance, Bag Balm destroyed Desitin in this bracket.

I did do another week’s worth of testing, Bag Balm versus Assos. Here are the rides, just in case you think I’m making this up.

Bag Balm Championship Round
Assos Championship Round

Since I’ve been doing this field-testing for about a month now, the results were unremarkable. Assos won the tournament in a decisive victory over BB. If the competition were based solely on smell, the Balm would have won (Assos is neutral while Bag Balm hints of food). I’ll likely keep Bag Balm in my transition bag in case of emergency or for possibly post-race smell masking. I’ll continue to use Assos on a regular basis.

Here is the awards ceremony:
Assos gets the top of the podium
Bag Balm on the double stack
Chamois Butt’r sits the single stack
Desitin gets to watch longingly for some bling.

P.S. Does anyone want to buy a tub of mostly full Desitin?

Monday, March 20, 2017

March Madness: BotCC- Round 1

I'm a science teacher by trade and one of the concepts I try to instill upon the youths is bribery for grades exists that there is an art to doing good science. It's nearly impossible to get every aspect correct but we do our best. While conducting the March Madness- Battle of the Crotch Creams, I wanted the competition to be about the lube in the tube so I eliminated as many potential irritants as possible.

Conditions kept constant:

  • Workout Duration- All cycling sessions will be 60 minutes
  • Workout Intensity- I'm doing my traditional warm up followed by 7 min at ~230 watts and 3 minutes ~120-150 watts (watts= how much work). This should end the workout at around 200 watts (NP for those of you who care about these types of data)
  • Workout Location- In the torture chamber
  • Cycling clothes- I actually purchased a couple of new tri shorts for this occasion (pictured here). And no, you have not seen that couch on internet auditions.
  • Level of Pansiness- I've tried to change this, unsuccessfully, for years now. I guess I'm stuck with it.

Conditions that varied:

  • Temperature- Hey, I live in the hell hole NY. It's out of my control.
  • Type of Crotch Cream- Hence, the purpose of this effort
  • Amount of Crotch Soreness- Measured several ways, but only a few will actually be reported.

Round 1- Assos versus Chamois Butt'r

The top seed in the bracket and all around tournament favorite is Assos Chamois Creme. (Technically, there's one of those accent thingies over the the first e in creme, making you think it should be pronounced something like 'krem-ay' with a pretentious, rich person accent. In reality, it's a product of Switzerland. Sorry, the tub of goo does not come with a wine bottle opener.)

I smeared on about a teaspoon of white sauce in the nether regions and did the following ride on Tuesday morning.

As you can see, it's everything that was advertised. Now, I know what you're thinking, "Enough with the ride, how's your taint?" As if I needed the encouragement, I felt down yonder. The previously smothered bits were still nicely slick. There was minimal to no soreness.

As far as I'm concerned, this sets the benchmark against which all other krem-ays will be compared. Which conveniently segues into the next test.

The second seed, or bottom, or last (depending on your level of pessimism, is Chamois Butt'r. Chamois Butt'r and I have a long history together. I have completed no less than 6 Ironman rides (which are 112 miles, in case you didn't know) while straddling the CB. But wait, there's more. See, you cannot just do those rides. In theory, you should also train for them. Chamois Butt'r has graced my crotch for thousands of miles. I don't really know why I switched, to be honest.

On Friday afternoon, which was St. Patrick's Day, I set forth on this ride.

As you can see, this ride was a smidgeon less powerful. This may or may not have been caused by some gluttony and imbibing with coworkers in celebration of our day of doing nothing the holiday. The ride started out with me wondering why on Earth did I even think to change lubes. With every move left and right, the slither was exquisite. The honeymoon ended right around the 40 minute mark. That's when the slip and slide effect wore off and friction started to build. By the end of the ride, it was clear that I needed to reapply or get a tougher southland. A quick fingertip fondle revealed that there was indeed soreness where none existed before. One would think that my blood alcohol content would have helped numb the senses but, alas, it wasn't so. And finally I remembered why I switched. (See comment on BAC)

At the end of Round 1, the clear winner was the #1 seed Assos Chamois Krem-Ay.

Stay tuned for Round 2, when the Banter tries out alternate options so you don't have to.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Get Your Brackets Ready!

View from my backyard
PSA- sorry for the delay in posting. In case you were unawares, the part of America that I currently reside apparently can't handle a little wind. We, collectively, lost several tons of trees, most of which decided to use local power lines as a way to slow their fall. This version of insanity happened last Wednesday. I have the luxury of living close to a major utility conduit, which has an in with the electric people. I  only lost heat for 2 days. Some people in the nicer parts of town are still without power. Whereas we were on the early list for moving electrons, we're on the late list for internet connectivity. I'm not that committed to attempt a post from my phone.

Now on to your regularly scheduled, albeit delayed, nonsense:

March Madness is here! With hundreds of collegiate athletes getting out of class to bounce a ball across a small wooden floor, the workforce of the country tunes in to the cost of roughly $4 billion in lost production. (Aside: For comparison, recent data conglomerates estimate that the lost revenue in the workplace due to the reading of tops $0.42 annually. /End Aside)

There are rumors around that some people just don't care about NCAA Basketball Tournament. Not many. In fact, it might be something like 48 people. You'll recognize them as the disgruntled blokes in the workplace. Why are they grumpy? Because they're the one's actually doing something resembling work, as opposed to the ones watching TV or the internet stream.

In honor of those who aren't interested in the hooping and might very well be interested in something triathlon related, I've got something useful planned. With my lack of running, I've been putting extra time on the bike. This is good until I noticed that my crotch isn't as happy as it used to be. And, brothers and sisters in the sporting world all agree, there's little worse than an unhappy crotch.

The Problem Clarified
The problem has more than one root cause. On it's surface, you'd think that the act of sitting delicate perineal skin on a tiny piece of pleather for an extended period of time is bound to cause bedsores. And you'd be right. That's why the cycling gods invented the chamois. For those who are reading this because someone forced you to or that Google Button "Feeling Lucky" accidentally sent you in this direction, "chamois" is pronounced "shammy" and it's the padding that they sew into the crotchal area of cycling shorts. It's almost like sitting on your own personal memory foam of magic. Chamois is also one of those words that doesn't change if it's singular or plural. It's one chamois or many chamois and they're all better than zero chamois.

So, it's not just the pressure that causes the issue, or else the story would be ended at chamois. There's also friction. If you're doing it right, you're not just sitting there on the bike. Your legs are spinning around in tiny circles roughly at a 17 cm radius. The left foot goes up while the right leg goes down (again, only if you're doing it right). That side-to-side motion slides you across the pictured above chamois. Once or twice, still not a problem. However, 80-95 times a minute for several minutes can build up some heat and remove some very poorly placed body hair.

Further, if you're anything like me, you smell badly tend to work up a sweat when exercising. Most of the valleys and gullies conveniently contoured into the human body lead straight down to the, you guessed it, chamois area. Sweat, as you may have gathered, is not that good of a lubricant. It's loaded with things like water, salt, and urea. The water is designed to evaporate off leaving behind crusty mineral deposits that are most uncomfortable to sit on.

"How does one solve all of this?" you pose to the Banter. The answer is simple- chamois cream. Chamois cream is a non-petroleum based goo that you smear between your legs before you get a ridin'. It takes care of the friction and displaces the depositions. Plus, who doesn't want a little bit of goo coming from their crotches?

Just like everything else worthy of use, there are options. In fact, there are a lot of options. My go-to brand for the past couple of years has been Assos Chamois Cream. As perineal lubricant, it's the Cadillac of sit bone heaven. Why even bother? Because it's expensive. Are there less expensive yet highly functional slip-and-slide sauces out there that may serve as a potential substitute? That's what I plan on finding out. I am pitting cycling creams versus skin creams. I choose 2 well know cycling products who are at the top of their game. In the Skin Care division, random research shows that there are non-cycling products that are rather crotch friendly. Can they stand the rigors of a ride?

The Cycling Creams Division

Assos is the #1 seed

     -Goes on smooth
     -No extraneous residue
     -No noticeable scent
     -Has a hidden swear word in the title

Chamois Butt'r is the #2 seed

     -Less vulgar name
     -A little greasier (which could be a pro in the long run)

The Skin Creams Division
Desitin is the #1 seed

    -Almost looks like Assos
     -Top of the line in taking care of crotch rashes
     -#1 choice of pediatricians and moms (unconfirmed)

     -I'm not a baby (by age, anyway)
     -There's that diaper smell

Bag Balm is the #2 seed

     -Solid structure consistency
     -Smooth minty smell

     -Concerned about the 'moisturizing' properties
     -Mostly found in the pet section of the store

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be doing field tests and reporting back on the happiness of my nether region. Fill out your bracket and see if you can project the winner.