Derick and I took a Wilderness Survival Course a week after Hawaii. It was a great change of pace to our Saturday; almost ‘like a normal couple’, doing something cool, unique and together. We drove 1 hour north of the Austin sprawl into the quiet countryside of Bertram, Texas. We spent 7 hours in a rustic little cabin with 10 others learning the basics of wilderness survival; how to be prepared for an emergency scenario, immediate human needs in case one is stranded and alone, how to make fire, how to find water. It made us both want to go camping again. It made me want to go camping and impress my friends with 6 different ways to start a fire. We finished our course with a quick lesson on compass reading, and we were taught about how ‘magnetic north’ varies from ‘true north’. Our instructor left us with the simple yet resonating message. “Go and find your own true north.”
One thing I have realized over many years of competing as a professional triathlete is that while the sport may be fairly straight-forward and for the most part rewards pure fitness over ‘skill’, there is a need for occasional change to one’s program. Sure most of us follow a typical weekly routine, but I’ve found that what may have produced a result a few years back may not work now. What could have worked 8 months ago may not be as effective today. As our bodies are constantly changing, so must our training.
I feel fortunate that living in Austin, Texas I was able to meet Dave Bunce early on and learn about ISM saddles. After I raced Ironman Hawaii in 2010 (which was my first season of racing Ironman), I began to realize that I could be much more comfortable when riding, especially in the time trial position.
I think when people get into triathlon, they mistakenly accept that they are only ‘supposed to only be so comfortable…it just won’t feel good to spend too long on a bike”… which is not how it should be. When you begin to up your bike mileage at some point, you’ll quickly realize if you need a saddle change. The saddle itself should not be taking you out of your aero position; nor should it be causing daily discomfort. I talked to Dave and he hooked me up with my first ISM saddle during my off-season in December 2010. The first ride, you notice that the saddle design feels great. After the first couple of rides, you notice a bit of soreness on the bones, which is completely to be expected. I was patient through this process, as I was told that there would be a ‘break in’ period. It was precisely as Dave told me, and after about 2 weeks, I noticed that soreness was subsiding and the comfort increasing. My first season on the ISM saddle, I actually raced 3 Ironmans, and found that my cycling was very strong; especially stronger in the aero position. You cannot underestimate this fact that is often overlooked… When training for non-drafting events (especially the longer ones), you HAVE to be COMFORTABLE in the TT position. Enough to where you do not want to ‘sit up’ constantly. With a good position and a well fit saddle, you can attain this. We asked my body to do long trainer intervals in 2011 (and still currently do)… anywhere from 12 to 45 minutes in duration, per interval… anywhere from 3 to 6 of these. The ability to ride, consistently, down on the aero bars can result in huge strength gains. I definitely attribute some of those gains made due to the fact that I can ride relaxed and comfortable in this position for long periods of time.
Every year at Ironman Hawaii, they have a Kona Bike Count which entails industry people watching all bikes brought into transition and taking note of all parts…brands of frame, wheels, hydration systems, power meters, pedals, aerobars, components, helmets, and of course saddles. Just for reference, here is how ISM has stacked up the past 5 years.
2009: 6th (119)
2010: 3rd (201)
2011: 2nd (328)
2012: 2nd (403)
2013: 1st (517)
If that isn’t proof it works, I don’t know what is! It’s awesome to see a company who has worked hard, and made a great product, gain such well-deserved recognition; especially through this consistent progression. If you haven’t tried out an ISM, and you’re experiencing any discomfort (even the slightest) on your current saddle, I encourage you to do so.