Real Rider Stories: Stephanie Flies to the Finish

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Most athletes who are competitive in the sport of triathlon have to juggle hours of training on top of their everyday lives and demanding jobs. Stephanie Irizarry is no exception to that norm; however, you would definitely not put her career in the everyday 9-5 category. Triathlete by day, and helicopter flight mechanic for the US Coast Guard by, well, also the day; Stephanie knows what it takes to be at the top of her game. “My job as a helicopter flight mechanic is physically demanding and the sport of triathlon is physically demanding. Having my triathlon bike and shoes specifically set up for me ensures that I am safely training to the best of my abilities while preventing injury that could get in the way of me performing my flight duties.” 

Stephanie’s career and love of the sport started on a somewhat unique path that has lead her to become the embodiment of true All-American female badass-ery (yes, I just made that word up) that she is today.

Stephanie swam on the club swim team in high school and later found herself running on the cross country and track teams in college while attending the Azusa Pacific University located near Los Angeles in Southern California. It was after college that Stephanie decided to join the Coast Guard following her graduation from boot camp in 2010. “I decided to buy a bike instead of a car as my primary means of transportation to commute to and from my first duty station (and help keep me in shape).” But, her love for cycling didn’t really begin to blossom until she and her husband started mountain biking while stationed in Miami (yes, there is actually a pretty big mountain biking scene in Miami). “I got into mountain bike racing and used it as “low impact” cross training for running. Mountain biking changed my run for the better, I started to gain back the flexibility and running speed that I had in college.” Explains Stephanie. “While mountain biking, I started to gain interest in triathlons, because the sport includes all three disciplines of swim, bike and run that I had at some point enjoyed competing in.”

So, in early 2018 Stephanie started her adventure into long distance triathlons and began training for her first Ironman 70.3 which she completed in May of 2018. After that race, there was no looking back, Stephanie was hooked and has been consistently on her bike training for triathlon ever since.

It wasn’t long after her intensive training started that Stephanie realized she was not comfortable on the bike and could be performing better in the right position. She decided to get a generic fit done while training for her first Ironman 70.3, but there was still some slight discomfort that she just could not pinpoint. She sought out Retül Certified fitter Phil Hooper at Eastern Shore Cycles, in Daphne, Alabama who has been performing Retül fits since 2014. “For a year now I have been working with Stephanie in some way with equipment and fit.” In the beginning of their fitter-rider relationship, Stephanie wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge into a full Retül fit because she wanted to completely replace her bike in the near future, so she and Phil started small working from the ground up, literally. “Early on she was having some foot discomfort and toe numbness. The shoes she was wearing were not working. We got her into some Trivent SC shoes with Retül custom footbeds and she was very pleased with those results.” 

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You wouldn’t know it from looking at the photos, but Stephanie is also a very petite rider. Phil was finally able to get Stephanie a major bike upgrade, and put her on a new Specialized Shiv Elite (size XS)  in August of 2018. Through Phil’s fit experience and training he was able to get Stephanie into a bike position that she was more comfortable in, and suited for her petite stature without going too in-depth until both time and budget allowed for her to get the full Retül experience.

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Which brings us to present day. Stephanie recently went to Phil because of some saddle issues she was experiencing on the bike. The original Sitero 2 saddle that came stock with her Specialized SHIV Elite was just too wide in the nose for her and caused a lot of rubbing. “We sized her for a proper saddle using the Retül DSD on the Match Tower and recommended a new Power Expert Mimic in a size 143. We installed the saddle and put the bike on the trainer to see how it felt and to reset the saddle position. She was pretty happy with how this saddle felt, but I could still see her hips rocking quite a bit and some significant wood-chopper knee movement. This is when we finally got started with a Retül Fit.” Hallelujah! 

During the physical assessment portion of the bike fit, nothing really stood out of the ordinary other than her petite size. Phil decided to start Stephanie out on the Müve SL fit bike so that he could easily make adjustments on all points of the bike without having the need for her to get on and off the bike.

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“Once we got her onto the Müve SL with the Retül Vantage and LED harness in place we could see many things going on. For example, there was excessive vertical hip travel, knee over pedal was still too far back (even with the seat post in forward position and saddle full forward), her hip angle was closed too much and both knee travel tilt and knee lateral travel were red flags. All of which confirmed some of the thoughts I had [about her fit] on previous visits.” Explains Hooper. 

It turned out that the the stock 165mm cranks were simply too long and the handlebar height was too low. “Once we started experimenting with different/shorter crankarm lengths (which was very easy to do with the Müve SL’s adjustability) and getting the aerobar in a more sustainable position, things really started to improve.”’ It turned out that the previous saddle issue was also a result of that hip rock, due to her closed hip angle from low handlebars and a crankarm length that brought her knees too high at the top of the pedal stroke. The Specialized Power saddle with Mimic technology helped the discomfort from the Sitero, but the cause was still there.” Explained Hooper. Because everything was done on the Müve SL fit bike, they were able to find the exact replacement parts for her bike, saving both time and money in the long run. 

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After all was said and done, Stephanie ended up changing out to a narrower saddle, moved the seat forward, changed the stem angle, ordered shorter crankarms to help minimize outward knee movement and rocking in the saddle, readjusted/raised the handlebar position and rounded it all out with custom footbeds.  “The custom footbeds changed my ride. My feet no longer go numb during long training rides or races and gave me the arch support I need. Over the course of nine years and constantly wearing boots, my feet have drastically changed. I did not realize how much power was derived from foot position in the shoe until I had the inserts made.” Stephanie goes on to say,  “The seat and handlebar position change has significantly reduced my lower back pain and tightness I was feeling after long rides and allows me to maintain an aero position for the whole race.”  

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“My Retul experience has been great. Phil is extremely helpful, knowledgeable and meticulous. He takes the time to explain everything he is doing and what the measurements mean, how they impact my cycling and what changes need to be made to safely maximize the benefits of my ride.
I absolutely recommend getting a Retül bike and gear fit. It’s an investment that pays huge returns in comfort and injury prevention resulting in strong gains on the bike.”

Stephanie recently was on the All Navy Triathlon team at the Armed Forces Sports Triathlon Championship and competed at the Ironman 70.3 Steelhead on June 30th where she not only achieved a PR on her bike split, but also PR’d the entire race as a whole by coming in just under 5 hours!

She is traveling to races every weekend to gear up for the USAT Age Group Nationals on August 10th, and ending the season in Kona at the 2019 Ironman World Championships on October 12th. We will continue to follow Stephanie’s journey through her Instagram page (@steph_izzy) to get updates on her race results as she continues to work toward her goals for the season. 

Thank you Stephanie for all that you do to help serve and protect the people of this country, and for being such an inspiration to all riders everywhere. 

Retül Admin