Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Techno Spin and New Treadmill

When I spin at home, I haven't really been following a specific program, other than "ride for 30 minutes" (which, I know, isn't long enough). So usually what I do is put the iPod on shuffle, and go with what the music tells me.

I have a wide variety of music on that thing, but for some reason today's main feature was techno/ electronica. I usually skip the stuff (which is allowed), but today it just worked-- got me in a rhythm at about 80-85 rpm. I even shifted down a little for more resistance.

As great as the steady bass is for cadence/tempo, gotta have some rock to really grind and push. "Cherub Rock" by Smashing Pumpkins came on, and I really started to crank! It came on at the perfect time, around 25 minutes in for a strong finish.

Cooldown was a 5 minute slow spin, then 5 minutes on Nicole's new treadmill! (Plus about 7 mins ab work, 10 mins stretch)

Yep, Santa came yesterday. Thankfully, I was able to get some help getting it downstairs before she got home from work. I was even able to put it together, and make up an excuse to bring her downstairs.

Santa wants us both to get moving, apparently.

Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Techno Spin

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Garmin Forerunner 310xt Review - part 1

SANTA BROUGHT ME A GARMIN 310XT!!!! WOOOO!

Yes, I'm a little excited. I'm also excited about the fact that the pathways in Sage Hill have been cleared--thank you, whoever did it!

I figure maybe I should write a review of the Garmin, since it's my first one, and share some of the fun as I figure it out. So far, I've run twice and used it spinning once. Also got the Garmin Ant Agent going to transfer, and got started on Garmin Connect to look at what I've done.

What I've Got
My Garmin 310xt came with:
  • An Ant + USB stick, which allows wireless data transfer to my computer
  • A premium Heart Rate Monitor (apparently there are 2 you can get, mine was included)
  • Charging "Clip"
  • Software CD
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Safety Guide
You can also get a wireless cadence sensor-- it's the same one that works with any wireless Garmin bike GPS. It's about $60, but I think I'll wait until spring to spring for that. There's also a foot pod you can buy extra, which I think is for when you're out of view of the satellites, but it may also provide cadence?

Summary
So far, very cool. Takes less savvy than I thought it would-- a glance at the quick start guide, and some playing around with the watch, and I'm quite content with how it's performing. I now know how far and how fast I'm running, as well as my heart rate. (Perceived effort is fine, but it's nice to know where you're at). Even better, all this data is stored, and wirelessly transmitted to my computer! The connection software (Garmin Ant Agent) was easy to download an set up, and the web portal (Garmin Connect) that ultimately stores all my workout data was also easy to use, although I'm still exploring everything it can do.

About me
I think it's important to know where I'm coming from if you're reading this to figure out if it's worth shelling out for one of these. If you haven't been following my blog, I've been training for short distance triathlons for the last two years. I haven't always been super-diligent with my training, just struggling with consistency and getting the miles in every week. I'm a big guy (6'4'', 245lbs) and tend to break stuff (wear out shoes, rip clothes, bike tires, blown spokes, bent rims, smash watches, you name it). I do best training with a group like UCTC, but do run on my own, and lately I've been spinning in the basement of our new house.

It's important to me to have an easy way of keeping track of the training I'm doing, and I'd like to see my progress. It's one thing to feel like you're getting faster or fitter, it's another to see it. I've used Nike + in the past, but didn't feel it was very accurate-- Calgary's a very hilly place, and my stride tends to vary depending on distance, terrain, how full my belly is...

I'm a bit of a geek, and tend to be an "early adopter" of technology... but lately I've curbed that a bit, limiting myself to stuff that actually makes my life easier.

Setting Up My Garmin 310xt

Christmas morning, I was pretty excited to open the box. As soon as I turned it on, it asked me for my measurement preference (metric), my sex, age, weight, height, "activity class", and if I'm a "lifetime athlete". There's a little chart in the quick-start guide that helps you choose what activity class you're in, and the "lifetime athlete" thing means that you've trained intensely for many years. As much as I would have liked to call myself a lifetime athlete, I think I've enjoyed food and booze too much to qualify! Although if you took certain periods of my life and smooshed them together, took out some of the bad habits... but I don't think that counts.

You also have to estimate your max and resting heart rate-- I just used the suggested, which is the age-(x) formula. It uses this to calculate your heart rate "zones", which is useful when looking at the hr chart screen (shows what zone you're in), as a lot of training programs focus on this. You can also set alarms for min and max, so that the 310xt beeps and vibrate (yes, it vibrates!) when your hr gets too low or too high.

The only other things I had to do were to go to the website, download the Ant Agent (which interfaces between the USB key and Garmin Connect website), and sign up for a free account on Garmin Connect - both were pretty easy, simple instructions.

Running with the Garmin 310xt
Of course, once I had it all set up (and the pumpkin pies baked), I had to get out and give it a go. I still hadn't played with it very much, or customized any of the screens (more on that in Part 2), but it's pretty simple- touch start to start, and stop to stop. There's a lap button, but if you don't hit "lap", it will automatically divide by kilometer to break out your splits. To "finalize" or save your workout, you just hold the lap/reset button. Once you're

The default view for "Run" is Time, Lap Pace, and Distance, but you can easily add, delete, or change any of the fields to show pretty much any data that you want. I've added HR Zone, which just divides the screen into 4 (you have the choice of 1-4 data fields in the default view). You can customize a lot of the data that it shows you-- ie whether or not to show a map (good for those longer runs in unfamiliar territory, or maybe for hikes?), you can turn on or off a "Virtual Partner", (a separate screen).

In all, I think there are 4 screens that you can scroll through as you run-- or set it to AutoScroll through them for you. You can also turn some screens off. So far, I'm content with the main screen and what it shows me. I think most people won't really want to spend too much time customizing the data fields or screens-- unless you're following a very specific training program.

And I haven't even looked for the manual yet-- it wasn't included in the box (other than a quick-start), but I haven't needed to yet. I'm sure I could find it online (probably at Garmin Connect), but I'll worry about that another time.

More Reviews to Come!
Stay tuned for Part 2 - I'll cover spinning with the Garmin 310xt, and a little bit more about Garmin Connect. In Part 3, the plan is to try and connect with MapMyRide, so I can share some of my maps and workouts here. Part 4 might be about using it in the pool, but I'll have to look at the manual first. Future reviews will include some pics, too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

First Early Morning Winter Run

... The first of many. Realizing that I'd been making too many excuses, I went out and bought some waterproof trail runners, and bundled up yesterday to get out early. Read an article in RW about runners vs. cars, so grabbed what I had to stay visible. Had a few realizations/ revelations on the short (25min) run:
  • While it's important to be visible to vehicles, maybe my mini-bike lights tied to my jacket at the hip, bouncing and swaying on strobe is not necessary on a well-lit street. It's also a little dizzying on the pathways and doesn't really help me see!
  • I need to get some gaiters.
  • Need to find my headlamp!
  • Cold air hurts the lungs! But feels so good...
  • I wonder if the neighbors really are growing drugs... (there's some speculation among the other neighbors, as these guys are renting, leave their garage door open 24/7, and have vehicles coming and going all the time. They just towed away a burnt-out SUV that was parked halfway on their lawn. Yes, burnt out-- the thing started on fire last Saturday night, which is a good reason not to leave it running...)
  • These new shoes are pretty great!
  • I need to do this more often.
Between moving (Oct 1), the New Job (technically it's been just over a year now, but still feeling a little lost) and the training for said job (which just wrapped up with twelve-18 hour days over the first two weeks of December), I've been knocked off my training and blogging.

Signed up for UCTC again, btw.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Whatta Week - Recovery and Moving!

After hobbling around for a few days, the legs came back. Didn't really find time to work out though- because we MOVED this week! Yes, no more Fish Creek Park (at least, not on a regular basis). We now have our first house (very excited, but very scared all at the same time).

Sunday was moving boxes (kinda sore from the race, but it was good to move around), Wednesday was the big move out, and Thursday was move-in. We had tons of help from family on both sides--the brother-in-law even took the day off on Thursday to help move all our stuff in, and he was a workhorse! I also had my engineer brother help us pack up the truck. He worked one summer for a high-end moving company here in town, and I must say, he's still got that "spatial awareness"... the tetris skills to put everything together. Lotsa help from my mom and dad, Nicole's sister, and even my parents' good friends came to help put stuff away. Awesome!

Amidst all the projects that come with a new house (it's only a year old, no landscaping, still decorating, etc) I did find time to go for a run (24:10). The pathways in the community are pretty good, but limited as it's still a construction zone, and they aren't connected to the larger network. Which sucks, because it means that to get a longer run in, I either have to do laps, or drive somewhere. Here's a map of the area (GoogleMaps doesn't even show it yet)

At least now we have room to put a couple of spin trainers in the basement. Which is vital, because I JUST SIGNED UP FOR IRONMAN 70.3 CALGARY!!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My First Half Marathon - Melissa's

Did anyone get the number of the truck that hit me?

It's the day after the longest I've ever run. 22km - in Banff. And I hurt. A lot. Calves, hammies, quads are all protesting the abuse, the lactic acid buildup. But it was worth it.

I'd decided it would be more of a training run than anything else- after all, no matter my time, it would be a PR. I'd use the run as a butt-kicker, to get my training kick-started again. It's been a while since I last posted, but July was okay for training, August was good, September was a lost cause. So I wasn't as prepared for Melissa's as I wanted to be.

Dr. Dan kept hinting that I could choose to do the 10k instead, and if I wanted to do that, then he'd drop down to that distance, too. But I said no-- I was determined to do the half marathon distance. Well, on race day, Dan decided to drop to the 10k anyway.

It turned out great, though. I enjoyed running by myself; for about the first 3km. That's about when I heard someone's Garmin beep at them, made a comment about it, and ended up running with a lovely lady from Magrath for the rest of the race. Angie and I chatted away, pulling each other along, encouraging each other, and just having fun. I paced her through the middle of the race, while I'm certain I would not have run at all in km 18-20 if she hadn't have been there next to me.

We were both proud of the fact that we only walked through the water stations in the last half- plus one 1-minute walk at about 20km. And, we both finished around the 2:15 mark, which of course was a PR for us both (it was her first 22k) and better than her goal!

Afterwards, I met up with Kim and Dan, and somehow managed to get food and water before I collapsed on the lawn to stretch. We then walked all over Banff, which kept me pretty loose. We even took advantage of the pool at the Banff Springs Hotel- they were staying there all weekend. A few kick sets, some floating, and some time in the hot tub felt amazing! The only thing that would have been better would have been an ice bath for my legs.

Official Result:
Gun Time - 2:17:37 Net Time - 2:16:39 Pace (min/km) 6:13  Jarrett Nixon 


Race photos and more on the hiatus later this week.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Inspiration, Giddiness, and Blogging in My Brain

Walking home from the pool on a clear Ohio evening, just as the sun was going down, I saw a flash in the grass. A broken piece of glass or a reflector? A piece of garbage? Either way, it was enough to turn my head, and as soon as I did, I noticed little green flashes and glows everywhere... Fireflies!!!

It was The Coolest Thing Ever.

I stood there on the sidewalk in front of someone's yard for a good long time, just staring in wonder at the fireflies. I knelt down to get closer to one little bug, mesmerized by his little glowing butt, fascinated by his calm hovering. I reached out slowly, resisting the temptation to just scoop him up between my hands, letting him land on my fingers.

The rest of the way "home" (to my "home away from home"), I saw more and more as it got darker-- I had to resist the urge to drain my nalgene and use it for a firefly lantern. But I didn't realy want to (or have the means to) poke holes in it!

Oh yeah, and the swim workout: 2200 m, 300 warmup, 500 building to 90%, 50 sprint, 1000 m building to 90% at the middle and end, 200m building to 95%, then a cooldown. Worked on sighting felt a lot easier and less disrupting than usual.

It's been a while since I've posted, so I have a bit of a backlog. I tend to write as I run (or bike, or swim)... forget about speech-to-text, I need thought-to-text!

This morning, I got up early (4am Calgary time!) to shake the jetlag with a run through my new favorite spot. Just under 40 minutes, pushing the pace but mixing it up... basically doing fartleks. I explored some more of the trails that I found, and got some great views. I was having theological arguments with myself; must be the setting, a meditation path next to a campus of churches. It was just what I needed. And I just realized that I didn't actually write about the cool trails that I found in the church campus... gorgeous trails that are immaculately gravelled, and that look barely used. Portions are just mowed grass, and there's no wear tracks.

On Friday, Nicole and I drove out to 22x for a ride. She hadn't ridden for a while, so I thought we'd drive out to the junction, where 22 goes south, and head west. If I'd been out that way before, I would have started us going east, first, to warm up. But I was maybe a little over-confident. Well, I was fine. (I'd better be, after the miles I've put in recently!) Nicole struggled a little. After the first long hill, she had to take a break, but the worst was going down the next big hill. Not that she was worried about the speed, she was stressed about climbing it coming back! Here's a link to the Map

We made it most of the way to the Bragg Creek turn, but decided to turn around before the last downhill. And that hill she was worried about? No problem. She powered up it with no problem. "I just looked a few feet ahead of me and kept pedaling. I just didn't look up at the top of the hill, and then I was there." Yes, you were. And I was very proud.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Race Report Plus Glenmore Circuit

What a great weekend! After the test swim on Thursday (the first true open water swim of the year for me), I wasn't that excited about the Foothills Charity Tri in Okotoks on Saturday-- but I wasn't nervous either. I was kind of indifferent. As I was collecting gear and packing friday night, as I was getting ready to go Saturday morning. Well, maybe I was a little nervous.

I was looking forward to seeing my (second) cousin, Darren at the race. He lives in Okotoks with his family, and as close as they are, we don't see them much. I knew he was racing because when I picked up my package, the lady commented "well, I know you're not Darren, so you must be Jarrett" after I gave her my last name.

We're pretty close to Okotoks, so we got there in plenty of time (around 7am)-- but I'd forgotten my race bib belt, so Nicole was nice and drove home to get it while I set up my transition. Race parking, check-in, body-marking, and "fair" were all at the arena, about two blocks from the Beachhouse where transition would be, but rather than get marked and checked in, I headed straight for transition to grab a spot. I didn't get a prime spot, but as long as I'm not too crowded, and I can remember where my stuff is, I don't really care (too much) about getting the best transition spot.

What is a good transition spot? Well, opinions might vary (what do you think is the best spot? Tell me in the comments), but the closer you are to the bike course, the less you have to run in cleats and/or with your bike. This usually means you run a little further after the swim and after the bike, but you're either barefoot or in running shoes, so no biggie, right?

Anyway, not only did I spot Darren, but his sister, Brenda, from Innisfail was there for the race. I knew I'd have to watch out for her-- she's pretty "into" triathlon, and has probably raced as many or more times than I have. I'm just kidding; I was glad to see them, it's great to see people you know on the course and cheer them on-- even better when it's family! We also saw a few people from UCTC at the race, so more people to cheer for. :)

As much as the pre-race waiting is agonizing, it's a great time to double-- and triple check all the gear, make sure everything is laid out perfectly in transition, pull the wetsuit up, take a few practice strokes in the water, and mentally run through the race (especially transition). I always like to walk to my bike from where I'll be coming out of the water a few times so I know I can find my stuff easily when I'm punch-drunk from swimming then standing up and trying to run. It seemed to help!

As for the race itself, what can I say? Overall, it felt pretty good. The swim was pretty choppy: both the water, and my stroke. I was moving my arms a little too quickly, breathing too fast, but it didn't kill me. Sighting was an issue by about halfway around, and I found myself hung up on the buoy lines a few times (there were ropes running between the course markers. T1 was as fast as was expected-- had to grab the bike rack to keep from falling over, trying to get the wetsuit over the timing chip.

The bike itself felt really fast. I expected to pass some women, who had started 30 minutes before, but I passed quite a few men as well, which felt really good. I was passed three or four times on the bike, but that didn't bother me much. The course was great, lots of volunteers directing traffic, lots of room in the corners, and the hills weren't too steep. I did hit my fastest gear going downhill on each of the three laps, and my computer said "50" each time.

The run was interesting. It felt relatively good, and I knew I was doing well, but my feet had gone numb on the ride (barefoot, very ventilated soles, plus the "cool" insoles). That, and I got a not-unfamiliar stitch in my side. Once I worked both those things out, I was making good time, but it wasn't my fastest 5k, and obviously it's what I need to work on the most.




My results were:
Time: 1:13:35
4th/16 in Age Group
15th/95 men
16th overall

I'm pretty happy with that, but I do see room for improvement. As I've said before, mostly in the run.

Glenmore Circuit

...And that's one of the reasons I decided to run around the Glenmore Reservoir today (Sunday). I'm finding that the Sprint Tris this year just don't take as much out of me, and I don't feel like I need a week (or any time, really) to recover.

I persuaded Nicole and Amanda to ride support, because as much as I felt I could make it on foot all the way around, I wasn't sure if I could run the full 18km. A few hours after a good (but not too heavy) brunch, we met at Glenmore Landing. I had my water belt, a Mocha Clif Shot, and some energy chews. I didn't want to go too strong out the start, since I wasn't sure how long it would take, and this would be the longest I'd ever run by about 8k.

The girls kept riding ahead-- I told them to, it would be boring and potentially dangerous to ride next to me the whole way 'round! Every time they looped back they told me I must be going really fast, because I was closer than they expected! I took that as a good sign, and kept chugging, feeling pretty light on my feet (for a Clydesdale) and strong. The whole time, I kept thinking that I just had to make it to the top of the Weaselhead hill, and I could maybe walk a little, and take a water break, since there's a fountain there.


Once I filled my flasks and took the gel (mmmm.... mocha!), I felt good, and just kept running. It's so beautiful running through North Glenmore park, that even as I approached "uncharted territory" (ie I've never run this far before), I took note of the little things my body was telling me, but it wasn't telling me to slow down. I thought to myself that I just had to make it past the Glenmore causeway, and then I could maybe walk a little. But that section is all downhill, and I actually sped up! Even going up the hill towards the hospital, I felt really strong, even beating a cyclist to the top of the pathway switchback, that I knew I had to run right through to the finish.
By the time I made it to the last straightaway after Heritage Park, I was still feeling very strong. I glanced at my watch and told Nicole and Amanda that I was going to try to finish under 1:30-- only a few minutes to go, and I could see the "finish line"! I gave a couple of good kicks (the first one started a little too far out), and made it to my starting point at EXACTLY 1:30!
And, went home and watched a great Stage 2 sprint finish -- Mark Cavendish is amazing! I want to go ride my bike now!!!
What a great weekend!


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Century of Pain!

Okay, maybe that's a bit melodramatic for a title. But I did ride over 100 km on the weekend for the first time. (What's that you say? A century is 100 miles? Aw crap, I really suck.)

Well, it did hurt. A lot. As in lying on the side of the road wimpering kind of hurt. As in good thing I didn't have my cellphone or I would have called for a ride and been disappointed with myself kind of hurt.

The day started innocently enough with the weekly Saturday long ride. The rules are show up, and be totally self-sufficient, and the starting point alternates. This week's meeting place was at the church near the intersection of Rocky Ridge Road and Crowchild Trail. I was almost late, but made it to meet up with six others. My plan was to ride to Cochrane for some ice cream, and tackle the big hill.

I slapped on some sunscreen, did a quick gear check, and we were off. I got a little ahead from the start, so I waited at the lights, and kind of led the pack for a little while, until three stronger riders blew by me. They were keeping a pace that I preferred, so I hopped on the end of the line. I took a few turns "pulling" at the front of the group, and we made quick time to Retreat Road, the top of the Cochrane hill.

At this point, one rider peeled off-- she had other plans later in the day. The other three were nowhere in sight, and I was feeling good, so when Gary told me they were planning to go all the way to the Ghost Reservoir for the start of the Calgary 70.3 course, I jumped at the chance.

After a fun cruise down the hill through Gleneagles (off the main highway, less traffic and a lower speed limit), we all took turns at the front, chugging slightly uphill and into that ever-present west wind. At the Ghost, I still felt great, had another Larabar, and bought some water.

The next leg of the trip was where the wheels fell off. Back on the highway to Cochrane, we were making great time (averaging almost 40kph)-- that is, until we turned lfet off the main highway onto the loop of the 70.3 course. The road got much, much rougher, hillier, and pot-holier. 20kph was a challenge, and by the time we made it to the high point, I was fading. A right turn made for an easy cruise, and another right turn put us onto some gloriously smooth pavement, that looked like it was mostly downhill. I hoped it would be all downhill.

On a bike, gravity seems to be perversely reversed: "What goes up, must come down" becomes "What goes down must come up"! In the foothills, rarely is there such a thing as a steady downslope- it's all rolling hills! By the second rolling hill (which, because we're on a "secondary highway" is actually pretty steep), I was whimpering and barely moving. In my bottom gear way too soon, dropped like a ton of bricks, head down and feeling sorry for myself. My riding partners kept waiting for me, I think just to make sure I hadn't passed out!

The ride back to the main highway seemed like an eternity. The smallest uphill was agonizing! My legs felt empty- like there was no energy, none of the usual power there. They weren't cramping, but rather they felt like thousands of tiny daggers tearing into the deep tissue of my thighs, and they just flat out refused to go. I started to regret not having a more substantial breakfast, and not grabbing a couple of gels on my way out the door.

By the time we rolled back into Cochrane, we were at about 3.5 hours of riding, about 4 hours trip time. I told Gary and Heather to go on ahead, I'd need to take a long break and probably a sandwich before tackling the monster hill. I have to say, for near-strangers, they were great to ride with, and almost seemed reluctant to leave me. But I'm sure they recognized that I needed a break. We stopped at the gas station, and as they refilled water and gatorade, I stayed outside watching the bikes. Right next to the payphone.

Even as I was telling them I'd take a break, then tackle the hill, I kept glancing at the payphone. I started daydreaming about making that call. I reasoned that my parents only live a few minutes away, my bike would fit in either vehicle...I'll have to go to the bank and get cash, then buy something to get change...Maybe I'll go have a sandwich first. Maybe my legs will stop screaming at me, and I'll regain feeling in my butt if I sit down on something other than my saddle. I'll probably regret it if I don't make it back unter my own power. But my legs! They've never hurt this much! Sandwich, then maybe ice cream, more water and gatorade, and then if I still feel crappy, I can make the call...

..."You've got everything you need to fix a flat?"
"Wha...? Oh, yeah, and then some."
"Okay, well, we're off then. Bye!"

It's amazing how quickly a footlong sub will disappear! Add some chips for salt (apparently it helps with cramps-- at least, that's how I justified it in my mind). Ice cream was a no-go, just because the lineup was out the door, but I was starting to feel better.

After about 45 minutes, I felt that I could probably make it. I started slowly up the hill, taking the Gleneagles route, and feeling okay. The legs weren't complaining quite as loudly. Until about halfway up, where I stopped, stretched, and kept going. Stretching did nothing. There's a point on the hill where there's no houses, just grassland between the golf course neighborhood and the houses on top of the hill. At that last intersection, there's a bit of lawn, and it just looked too inviting to my now screaming legs to pass up. I laid there for about 20 minutes, hoping the pain would subside enough to get up the hill. It wasn't.

So I started walking. Shuffling. Hobbling up the hill, pushing my bike. Half steps, really, and even those hurt. Twenty, twenty-five minutes later, I was only a few hundred metres further, but there was a bit of a respite- a dip in the hill. I got on the bike, got up as much steam as I could muster, and willed myself up the final pitch to the highway. I made it! I wanted to yell and scream!

From there, the road is generally downhill, and the morning's headwind was now a glorious tailwind, ushering me home. As much as my legs hurt, as powerless as they were, I still did 40 the whole way back to my car. The lone car in the parking lot.

Since my parents live nearby, I headed to their place for an icebath and a hot shower. After 6 hours on the road, nothing is better.

I'm glad I didn't call for a ride. I'm proud of myself for making it, and glad that I did it. I've never, ever pushed myself and hit that kind of a wall. Oh sure, when I was playing team sports, coaches always pushed us to max cardio, but I've never had muscles just tell me to stop. I've done very long hikes where I've been sore the next day, I've done runs that really hurt, I've had races that hurt... but nothing compares to that. But now I know my limits. I know how important nutrition and fuel are. I know what to prepare for, and that I can get through it.

Maybe it's a little masochistic to say so, but I can't wait for the next time.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Chinook Heat and Bow Pathway Speeding

Busy, busy weekend! Nicole's out of town, and I really miss her, but fortunately I kept myself occupied, which helped.

Saturday: cleaned house at 6am, volunteered for the Chinook Half/Oly, picked up the bike for a quick ride, went for dinner with my cousin who was in town, then had a few beers and japanese-hobbit-style second dinner sushi, then a late movie (Angels and Demons- good if you haven't read the book, bad if you have).

I didn't realize until that evening that I'd forgotten the sunscreen- I was a little pink around the neck and face, and my calves still feel a little tender. I spent the early part of the morning watching the race starts, chatting with fellow volunteers, and wondering/asking what I was supposed to do. I had time before I had to be out on the bike course at the (third) aid station, so I cheered people on with the cowbell, and directed traffic as the Olympic racers were coming out of the water. A lot of UCTC folks were there-- about 8 by my count (I have to admit I recognize everyone, but sometimes it's hard to learn names...) including coach Tony. I don't know how anyone felt about their race yet, but I noticed that the club took two age groups, and 4th in another.

I've been reading a few blogs by some of the participants, and it sounds like it was a tougher day on the Half Iron course... and I've been thinking. It was not a super-hot day, but it was very sunny, with just enough wind to make you feel it wasn't that hot. Which might explain why I felt so drained, even though I didn't race!

Sunday: hike in Kananaskis with Dad and brother Dan, dinner at their place, then grocery shopping. Poor Milo was starved for attention-- and worried that he'd run out of food. (He was fine until this morning, when the dish was *gasp* empty. He tap-danced on me at the crack of dawn to let me know, though). The hike was great, though overcast and a little damp. Maybe dad will send me some pics to post.

Tonight's workout was supposed to be "Cruisy Monday", but it turned into anything but "cruisy". I'm not complaining, it was great! It was me, one of the gals who is fast in the pool, Mike, and Tony. Because of the looming rainclouds and the wind, we decided to go west instead of east, and stay along the Bow River Pathway. Pretty soon, it was just me, Mike and Tony-- apparently our fourth rider felt slow (I don't think she was that slow), and told us to go ahead.

Without really talking much, we kept picking up speed, staying in a tight pack. I have to admit, Tony and Mike did most of the leading, but I did take a turn or two at the front. We went all the way from the Zoo to Edworthy Park, saw Coach Jill running with a few ladies, and decided to do a couple of hill repeats! I zipped through the parking lot to try and get a head start (I'm a Clydesdale, not a climber!) and kept looking behind me. I was shocked that Tony only caught up to me on the last pitch, but apparently he stopped because Mike had a flat.

After two times up, we zipped back on the south side of the river-- I'd never ridden the first stretch, and boy does it have some tight corners! I dropped right back to give myself a little more confidence, so I didn't feel bad about not leading, because I was gapped anyway, not getting pulled in the slipstream. It was a fun, challenging ride, and felt really good. I have to say, though that we were lucky not to run into a radar gun.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Perfect Ride Up Highwood Pass

...Except for the blown spoke halfway up.

The most excellent day really started the night before. We drove out to Canmore for the night – crazy Alberta thunderstorm most of the way—and had dinner at the Crazy Weed Kitchen. Someone had suggested it to Nicole, so that was the plan.

“So where is this place?”
“Let’s see, I’ve got the address ri..”
“Wait, don’t tell me, I know where it is. Let’s see if my memory is right.”

When I lived in Field, we’d come into Banff and Canmore all the time, and Crazy Weed was one of those great little hole-in-the-wall places with food that blew your mind. I was sure that it was on Main street next to the Bear’s Paw Brewery… we drove past slowly…

“There! That’s where it… was. Crap. What did you say the address is?”

Well, we did find the new building (It’s now next to the tracks at the west end of Railway Ave) and had the best meal we’ve had in a long time. The consensus among our friends is that with the boom over the past five or so years, service in Calgary has been horrible. So the combination of great food and great service has been rare, at best. Or, we’ve found that maybe the appetizer was good, the main not so much, or the presentation is good, but the food is over-complicated but falls flat, and we’re left feeling like we paid too much.

Crazy Weed was phenomenal. From the complimentary flatbread and red-pepper dip, to the mussels, to our mains, to the wine, through dessert, the food was fabulous. Unique without being pretentious or over-thought, we could taste the high quality of the ingredients, and the perfect preparation. And the view! The skies had cleared, and the large windows offered a fantastic view of the mountains. We will definitely be going back.

The next day, we met Kim and Dan, Steve and Heather at The Summit Café for a great breakfast, sitting outside on the patio. I highly recommend the Maple Latte! Fuel tanks full, we caravanned into K-Country (Kananaskis for you non-Albertans) to meet up with Kaely at the end of the road. That’s right- the End Of The Road. From December 1 to June 15th every year, a section of Highway 40—Highwood Pass—is closed to motorized vehicles, making it the Perfect Ride, if you get the weather. Last Saturday, it snowed, so was probably un-rideable, but we had Perfect Weather!

About an hour after leaving the café, we were at the gate. As we crested the last rise before the gate, it was obvious we weren’t the only ones hoping to ride the traffic-free highway. Judging by the number of vehicles parked on the side (and how many people we saw), there were easily 200 cyclists. And everything from mountain bikes, tandems, parents hauling chariots, to “sponsored”, fully spandexed, full carbon-fiber riding serious cyclist. The variety was expected, the volume was almost . Though there were so many out enjoying the weather and the view, it certainly did not feel crowded once we got going.

We took our time. Our group was somewhat varied: two every-day commuters, an Ironman who hasn’t ridden much this year, a Marathoner, a Ride-to-Conquer-Cancer participant, and two evening-and-weekend triathletes. Ironically, the smoker was by far the strongest rider—but he also commutes by bike daily. We rode hard in places, easier in others, a few of us looped back once or twice, and we all took a lot of breaks on the way up.

Minor Disaster

I was having fun with my bike computer – probably not super-accurate, but it was fun to see how fast I could go on the two downhills we faced on the way up. I hit 61 km/h – but it was starting to feel a little wobbly, so I backed off. Good thing, too. As the uphill began in earnest, just as I dropped to my bottom gear for a long slog, PTWAANGG….CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK.

I looked down, twisting out of my pedals as I lurched to a stop—broken spoke. It sheared off right near the rim. As everyone pulled up around me, I worked it free from the hub, wondering what I’d do next. Steve, the self-made bike mechanic, rambled on about spoke wrenches and trying to true the now-wobbly wheel, and how Clydesdales like us need more spokes than I was riding (love you, dude), Kaely cut to the point—yeah, we could try and fix it, but we could also royally f*** it up. Best thing to do would be to unhook the back brake (that was rubbing against the crooked wheel), and either keep going, or turn back.

After a few experimental meters, there was no way I was NOT going to make it to the top – not on a day like this, on a ride like this, with great friends like this. I was less worried about the climb, more worried about the descent. No speed records for me.

According to “Done In A Day – Calgary, The 10 Premier Road Rides” – the guidebook I’d picked up at MEC earlier in the week, the final pitch to the Pass would be rated a Category 1 ascent, and I have no doubt it’s true. Dan was ahead of me coming up to it, so I pushed a little to get on his back wheel, and just stayed on it for the whole final grind. Despite the cool breeze (there was snow just off the road at this point), the hot sun and effort had sweat and sunscreen pouring into my eyes. I didn’t dare stop, I had to stay on Dan’s wheel!

Just when you’re starting to wonder if it will ever end, you see the festival that is the summit. On either side of the road, two signs that both say: "HIGHWOOD PASS 2210 m 7250 ft" and what first registers as an accident – cyclists and bikes lying on the road, bikes everywhere. Dozens of people milling about. It’s no accident—we’ve made it!!

Slowly, the rest of the group pulled in, and we spent a good half an hour lounging around, snacking, sunbathing, and talking to other victorious cyclists (some of whom were there for the second time that day, having climbed the opposite side, coasted down to where we were parked, then climbed back up). Such a great feeling!

The Descent

I headed down first, because I knew I’d want to go slow. My back brake was still disconnected, so I was riding the front the whole way, sitting up in the saddle to offer as much area to the wind as possible, instead of riding low and aerodynamic. Still, I slowly built my way up to about 55, without feeling too unsteady. At one point, though, I passed Nicole, and she yelled at me to “slow down!! Your back wheel is wobbling!!”

Of course coming down was a lot faster than going up! We stopped a few times, and after the first of the two minor hills we had to climb, Kaely crowed: “Dude, I just passed two sponsored guys on that last hill!”

“What were they wearing?”
“Matching jerseys with (name of a local bike shop) all over them!”
“You know you can buy those, right?”
“Ha! That’s so lame!!”

I don’t know if any of you readers wear shop jerseys, but I kind of agree that it’s pretty funny when someone wearing a jersey like that gets passed by some dude on a cyclocross bike (with knobby tires) wearing a plain t-shirt and baggy shorts. But who am I to talk? I’ve got all the gear, and buddy was passing me, too.

Just after that, we were flying down the hill again, when I spotted two riders on the side of the road, standing next to their bikes, staring at what turned out to be a very flat tire. I slowed down, turned around, and cranked back up the hill to check it out. They were about 5-6 km from the gate, heading up the hill, and had nothing to fix the flat!

Well, maybe it was the sprung spoke, or the beautiful weather, or the recollection of the half-dozen flats I’ve suffered (at least one of which I was similarly unprepared for), I pulled off my backpack, fished out my gear, and started pulling the back wheel off the bike. The sheepish rider was very, very thankful, as I showed him my tire levers, how to take the tire off and the tube out. I pulled out my pump, and tried to find the leak to see if it could be repaired, but it turned out to be more than one pinch flat—not worth patching. I had no less than three spare tubes on me, so I wasn’t going to miss one. I made them promise to go and pick up some spare tubes, tire levers, at least one pump, maybe a patch kit, and suggested a floor pump with a pressure gauge would also be a good investment, since pinch flats are usually due to a lack of tire pressure. Most bike shops have courses showing you how to fix a flat—and YouTube has some pretty instructional stuff, too.

I’ve learned all those lessons the hard way—it’s much better to have an extra spare to help someone in need!! I have to say too, that most of they cyclists who passed us while we chatted and fixed the tire, slowed down “Got everything you need?” “Everything okay?”.

What a great sport, a great day, and a great ride. The ice cream at the gas station just capped it off!

Pictures are coming—that’s a whole other story of the sneaky camera that didn’t make it up the hill because it was hiding. Fortunately, Kaely brought a camera, so I just have to get the pics from him. I'll post them when I get them...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More Data, Gearing and Highwood Plans

Went on a bit of a shopping spree yesterday at MEC. Like a kid at a candy store!

The main thing was to replace the pilfered pack and it's contents. You can never have too many spare tubes, either. Or snacks: Clif bars, Clif Shot Bloks, Honey Stingers, Sharkies... And having lots of water is important too, so I broke down and bought a Platypus "bladder" for the backpack.

I've been thinking about picking up a cycling computer for a while. A Garmin Edge 705 would be great, but I just can't justify spending $600 on something that only works on my bike, and that--according to my wife-- I'll probably just break/lose anyway. So, in an uncharacteristic move, I went for the cheapest 'puter I could find. 22 bucks for speed, odometer, tripmeter, clock, and cadence. That's all I need right now-- we'll see how well I've calibrated and installed them. Yep, got one for my gal, too. She knows generally what her cadence should be, so now she'll be able to see if she's over or under.

***
I also made a brief stop at Pedalhead to chat with the guys about gearing. Nicole rides a Frankenbike that she bought second-hand, and it has a smaller cassette on the back wheel, meaning that her bike is potentially faster, but requires more effort, especially uphill. Pedalhead had suggested rather than a "granny gear" (a third smaller, "easier" gear near the pedals), switching the cassette for a slightly larger one, ie more teeth, making her gearing slightly easier overall. Since that conversation, I realized that my cassette is larger, and that I could maybe handle the extra effort.

So we're going to experiment. After installing the cycling computer, I swapped our rear wheels, so we can both try the different gearing. I tested both bikes, and had to fine-tune the front derailleur on mine, but hers ran through all the gears no problem. The big test will be tonight-- it's Wicked Wednesday.

If all goes well, I'll bring the bikes in on Thursday for the swap (so I can get my "fast" wheel back) ;) and we'll be ready to rock up to the Highwood Pass on Saturday!

The plan so far is to meet for breakfast in Canmore at 10am, then be at the gate around 11:30-12:00. We'll ride to the summit (if we can), then probably just head back to the cars. I doubt anyone (aside from me) in our group will want to do the climb twice.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Vulcan Tinman 2009

The day did not start off very well at all. You might think I’m referring to the weather—I wish. We weren’t running late, either. Nor was the excellent Moroccan Lamb I had the night before at Escoba bothering me…

It seems that every year or so, something happens that tarnishes my faith in the goodness of my fellow man. Hopefully, this will be it for at least another year.

When we went to the bike locker (a chain-link cage with bike stands and about 30 or so bikes in it at any given time), I noticed that my under-seat bag was open. Then I noticed it was a little light. Then we both noticed that Nicole’s was completely gone! Grrr…

So after a brief stop at Pedalhead for some spare tires, we headed south. I was simmering, but tried to put the theft out of my mind, and focus on the race.

Here’s something not too common—snow on the ground, in June! (Well, it might be common if you live in the southern hemisphere, but that doesn’t count) We could see the snow out our window when we woke up, but it was still shocking to see the snow-covered hills that popped up on the horizon just as we passed Chaparral.We had both filled the car with extra clothes- gloves, tights, rain pants, toques, extra shoes, extra sweaters, even wool socks. We even stopped at Walmart to buy two plastic bins for transition, even though I’d always silently mocked guys at other (sunny) races who toted around similar kits. I figured we were so over-prepared, the weather just had to improve—that’s just how the weather works in Southern Alberta!

And, for the most part, it did get better. We were pretty cold getting organized—especially the body-marking part!! (For my non-triathlete readers, there are three ways that race organizers keep track of you on the course: a computer chip strapped to your ankle, a numbered “bib” that you usually pin to your clothes, and the same number written in permanent black marker on your calves and upper arm). Peeling ones shirt off in the blowing rain will chill anyone—even someone as hairy as me!

Because quite a few people didn’t show up, and because Vulcan has a small pool, meaning the heats are VERY spread out, we had our choice of spots in transition. We got organized, and went to watch the action in the pool. Because so many people had wimped out, the lanes were pretty wide open, and they were allowing people to get in early. The only downside to this was that it made it a little more difficult to figure out when to jump in—no one was standing on the pool deck discussing lap times like usual!

Despite the less than ideal weather, the worst part of the race was stripping down, and getting onto the pool deck, waiting to get into the water! I could tell that Nicole was having second thoughts…so I put on my coach hat: “C’mon, get going! Give me your jacket, just get in, focus on the race, and you’ll warm up real quick! Go! Go! Go!”

You know what, it actually worked! (That, or she’s getting good at blocking me out). She got out there, swam great, had a very slow T1—but that was expected-- finding that I enjoy watching races almost as much as I enjoy competing! I get a blast talking to first-time athletes, (not so long ago I was one myself!) first time spectators (“how many of these marathons have you done?”), and lending out the cowbell to whoever asks. Even in the rain, sleet, snow and hail, there are people out cheering at every race supporting friends and family. It’s just such a great atmosphere.

But I wasn’t in Vulcan just to watch. Because people were getting into the pool early, I needed to get ready shortly after I watched Nicole cross the finish line. And I needed to get warm! Fortunately, the change rooms are indoors, so I went in, went through the race in my mind as I got ready. I was hoping to be able to get into the water quickly, but it seemed like forever before they gave me the thumbs up, even though there was no line on the deck. I’m sure it was just the goosebumps.

Once I finally got in the water, it was great! Sooooo warm—like a hot tub! At least compared to the air; I’m sure it was only a few degrees warmer than usual. Right away, I settled into my stroke. The goggles were great, and I felt strong. On lap 8 though, my cap was starting to come off, so at the wall, I tossed it. The goggles also fogged up, but they didn't leak. I think my eyeballs just run too warm for them.

Out of the water, short quick steps, I didn’t even notice the cold concrete. The usual fuzziness, but I got to my gear no problem. I’d packed the box in the order that I’d need things- towel, tech shirt, tech sweater, tights, socks, jacket, race bib, gloves, sunglasses, helmet, bike shoes. That’s a lot of crap to put on!!! The usual 30 second transition became 4-5 minutes.






The bike is pretty much a straight-shot out-and-back on a great little highway- not much of a shoulder, but a typical Alberta prairie view—gently rolling hills, gold and green fields, an old homestead or two, and wild skies. I don’t remember what anything looked like on the way back. It was head down, make myself small, and focus on circles!

T2 felt really fast—change shoes, change hats, and go. Despite the tights, my legs were almost numb for the first few blocks. I kept them going, turning over as quickly as I could, then settled in to my usual pace. At the halfway point, I shed my jacket, and picked up the pace just a bit, but my hip flexors felt a little sore, and I could feel a bit of a stitch coming on. If I can work on my core, and do some more speed work, I think I could push more. Anyway. Saved enough for a final kick—I was so fast, this was the finish line photo:

On the social ride last night, someone asked me what the best part of my race. My answer was the first part of the swim, and the final kick. But really, the best part was how quickly I recovered. I was really surprised how quickly my breathing and heart rate came down.

Results:
Overall Place: 35
Age Group Place: 4/15
Swim Rank: 18
Swim Time: 9:17
Bike Rank: 55
Bike Time (includes T1 and T2): 34:40
Run Rank: 42
Run Time: 23:38
Total Time: 1:07:34

Friday, June 5, 2009

Vulcan Tinman and Chinook Half

The Vulcan Tinman is looking like it's gonna have crappy weather for the second year in a row- hopefully it doesn't get canceled again! I'm bringing lots of clothing choices and a rubbermaid box for transition just in case. Race organizer Barb has some great info on their website - basically, the show must go on, but some folks might miss the bike portion if the road is unsafe (they'd just give everyone the same time...) I, for one, will not be missing the event; they have great food, and a decent race package. Here's my packing list for racing and spectating, aside from the usual gear:
  • umbrella
  • chair
  • rain jacket and pants
  • sweater
  • full finger gloves
  • tarp
  • extra shoes
  • knobby bike tires (although i haven't decided if this will help or hinder if things get icky)
  • rubbermaid box
  • ski goggles (?)
On the other hand... it is Alberta, and the weather can change so fast around here, that you never know, it just might be okay by the time I race.

******
Since I'm not really doing anything better that day, and I'm not planning to race, I decided to volunteer for the Chinook Half (and Oly) this year! I'm looking forward to seeing a race from another perspective, and checking out the course... maybe I'll do it next year?

Open Water Mele

Swimming in open water (ie a lake or ocean) is a lot different than swimming lanes- so of course it's important to practice, to get a feel for what it's like. One of the big differences is dealing with the crowds that happen at a mass start--okay, it's not quite as bad as the video, but swimming in a pack is a whole new game. Sighting can be practiced in the lanes, but it's kind of tough when you don't have much to look for, but cornering is strictly an open-water skill.



So last night, we pushed back the bulkhead that usually splits the 50m University pool in two, cleared out the lane ropes, and dropped four "buoys" into the corners. Most of the team have wetsuits, but I haven't been able to justify the purchase yet, so I was one of only a handful that went without. But I can't really blame the crappy swim on not having the buoyancy of a wetsuit.

Yep, you read that right... it was a crappy, crappy swim. It felt sloppy, I couldn't find my rhythm, and I think I was just tired from Wednesday's training ride. I did about 90% of the workout, then did some core work on my own before calling it a night. I tell myself I would have pushed through it if I didn't have a race this weekend, but I still feel bad about not quite finishing.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

9x Up and Down

Ah, Wednesday hill repeats. How I love/loathe thee.

Love it, because I'm clearly seeing improvements in my leg strength, endurance, and bike control. And, it's kind of fun. Loathe it, because it hurts. Well, I kind of like the hurt too... at least, the muscle hurt. The coughing so hard I almost pass out because I left my inhaler at home, not so fun.



We're supposed to go easy the first time up, then a little harder, then really push on the third before coming down for a 5 minute run. I thought I had warmed up pretty well along the river, and thought I was taking it easy the first time up, but my legs told me otherwise! It was weird; my thighs were beyond burning, but not cramping. They just felt really thick, like I could feel ever fiber of muscle, and not really in a good way?

Fortunately, that only lasted two reps. After my first run, I felt pretty strong, and managed to keep it mostly in third gear for the rest of the workout- a total of nine times up the hill.

90 minutes - 9 hill repeats - 3x 5 minute runs

***
Just started following Chuckie V- great tips, funny guy. Here's his latest article on the taper.... good stuff

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Flying Lesson

So we missed the social ride last (Monday) night... sometimes it's just a pain to drive across the city.

Instead, we went for a later ride through Fish Creek Park. It was pretty chilly, butI think we both felt weird bundling up after Sunday's relatively hot ride in Drumheller. As we were getting the bikes out, I was a little worried I'd overdressed, but as soon as the wind hit me, I was glad for the layers!



(I got bored trying to re-trace the same route, so I just hit "loop"... you get the idea.)

The coolest thing about this ride was that we saw a family of owls! The two babies were learning to fly... well, one was, the other was pretty convinced that he couldn't do it, and just sat there. The adults were flying from branch to branch every 10-15 minutes, silently graceful and composed, coaxing the young ones with hoots and purrs. We watched one of the juveniles for about half an hour- he flew from one tree to the other, but chose a very twiggy branch to land on, and kept getting tangled in the smaller branches and twigs. He kept trying to turn around, slowly and clumsily walking towards the trunk, looking like he wanted to fly, but was scared. It was pretty cool to watch, only about 20-30 feet away.

~15km
About an hour of actual riding

Monday, June 1, 2009

Badlands Bike Ride


For the past few years, my parents, brothers, and our significant others have had an annual "Family Adventure". Last year, we went to Waterton Lakes National Park. The year before that, we went whitewater rafting near Longview. This year, we went to Drumheller for the weekend.

Saturday was really hot, even in the morning. Four of us went running-- we just kind of explored the neighborhood we were staying in, and tried to run as much in the shade and near the river as we could. It was a pretty good run- a few fartleks mixed in, some slower stuff, and some time closer to race pace. Roughly 42 minutes.

We spent the rest of Sunday at the Royal Tyrell Museum - and even did a "Dino Site" interpretive walk. I found a fossilized tooth! We all found some petrified wood, and chunks of fossil bone. Don't worry, it was part of the tour, and no one kept anything, it all went to the guide. That night, we went to Rosebud for their famous dinner theatre--what a buffet-- and saw a great rendition of "Man of LaMancha".

Although I heard mention of getting up early to avoid the heat, our planned bike ride on Sunday didn't start until about 10:30 - which was just fine, because it wasn't as hot. Our little peloton was made up of myself, Nicole, my dad, brother Chad and his girlfriend Laura. We rode through town on a nice bike trail along the river, east towards Rosedale and East Coulee. The highway had decent shoulders, and the traffic we did see was very generous, usually changing lanes one the two lane highway to give us lots of room.

For a while, I was a little worried about dad, as he was the only one without a roadbike and clipless pedals (as we were leaving, he was singing "one of these things is not like the other...") but he held his own, and we made time. I'd have to get the exact distances from the people with the cycling computers, but I think it was about 16 km to the Hoo Doos. I've seen countless pictures of them, and they're smaller than I thought they'd be!

We had a little bit of a headwind on the way back, but we made it back to the Newcastle Inn in about the same amount of time (roughly 50 minutes each way).
*****
I found out that my company is doing a "200 minute challenge" where you submit the number of minutes you exercise every 2 weeks, and you're supposed to shoot for 200 minutes every 2 weeks... I work remotely, so any chance to connect is great. I guess I've already hit my total for this week! (Not that that will stop me from training every day this week!)

Vulcan Tinman on Saturday! I'm excited!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Wednesday Hill Repeats

Forgot to bring the camera!

We had great weather for the weekly hill repeats at Edworthy Park-- we even went early for a warmup ride along the river, to Prince's Island and back.

I managed to do the hill 6 times, with runs of 7 and 10 minutes in between. I had time to go farther, but it was hot, windy, and I'd run out of water... that sounds really lame now, but oh well.

When we got there, we saw my buddy Steve, who was training for his ride to conquer cancer! Awesome! I tried to recruit him to ride up Highwood Pass before it opens on June 15th... looks like we might have as many as 6 doing the ride so far.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Getting Used to New Goggles

After taking a rest day Monday, it was back to the pool on Tuesday. Since I had such a great race on Sunday, I decided to go to the deep end. The workout there was 2500m-- not too long.

What killed me were the sprint sets - 4x50m descending on 1:10. That is, do 50m, and whatever time you have left under 1:10 is your rest. Oh, and you have to swim faster each time. It actually felt great, I was able to build gradually, and was going pretty all out by number four. The next set though, was 5x250m at 1500m race pace, and I just couldn't pull it together. I was drained for the first two, sloppy and sluggish. By the third and fourth ones, it was starting to come together, but it still felt relatively sloppy. Oh well.

I started off a little behind, too- trying to adjust the new goggles. They are awesome for visibility: sighting is easier, and I don't have to take them off to see the clock. But for something that suctions to my face that well, it's odd that they leak slightly. After some playing around, I figure I need to just not press them onto my face.

As usual, after the swim, it was onto the deck for abs/pushups with the team. Good times. It's actually getting a little easier, I think. I've decided to do yoga every morning-- I'm on day 4, I think.

Tonight, the hill at Edworthy. I'll bring the camera.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Try This Tri Results

Wow. Pretty good!
Full Overall Results Here
and Age Group Results Here
Overall Rank:  18  
Age Group Rank: 5/21 (Men 20-29)
Swim Rank: 12
Swim Time: 8:45
Swim Pace min/100m: 1:45
Bike Rank: 18
Bike Time: 30:10
Run Rank: 65
Run Time: 14:26
Run Pace min/km 4:15
Total Time: 53:20

I Love to Race!

... but I dislike getting up before 6 to get a decent spot in transition.

Yesterday's race (Foothills Try This Tri) was great. Both Nicole and I raced, and our heats were far enough apart that we got to watch each other, and the course is probably the best I've seen for spectators. Competitors do four laps on the bike, and three on the run, so all you have to do is walk across the street from the pool, then walk about 100 yards to see the run turnaround, then walk back across to the finish line.

The forecast called for sun/clouds in the morning, and possible thundershowers in the afternoon, so we had our fingers crossed. It turned out to be a very nice day, but at 7am, it was bloody cold (standing around in shorts). Once we grabbed a spot in transition, we stood in line for our numbers and timing chips, then went inside for the safety talk and orientation. So glad it was inside!

We watched the first wave of brave souls climb into the pool, then went to set up our transition areas. (My bike is the white and blue one, N's is the grey and baby-blue one. In this picture, I don't have my running shoes out yet- they were keeping my feet warm! Note the shiny new white bike shoes...)

Nicole was the first to race.. and she ROCKED! She swam very strong for a PR in the pool, and was so fast in T1 (first transition, where you grab your bike/ helmet/ shoes/ sunglasses/ race number) that we missed seeing her leave.

She was also very strong on the bike, passing drifters, yelling at them to get out of the way... (please stay to the right if you're slow!) On the run, which has always been her toughest event, she kept pushing, and had a great sprint to the finish, passing a few people at the line!

I took some pics, but then the camera battery died... Here's a link to my photos.

After congratulations and hugs at the finish line, I went to change and get ready for my race. I was a little nervous! Standing in line, waiting to get into the water, I kept playing with my googles, trying to get them to fit. Here's a piece of advice for my fellow racers; never try out new goggles at a race. The new googs were great, I could see much better-- except out of my left eye, which was a little waterlogged. I'm sure I'll get them adjusted properly for my next swim.

Anyway, my swim was good-- it's always tough to get into a rythm when you're fighting with three other swimmers who can't seem to swim consistently, and who first want to pass, then can't keep up the pace, so they stop at the wall... pacing, people! But I was happy with my time, definitely a PR in competition, an 8:45!

I always feel a little disoriented when getting out of the pool- I seem to get a little tunnel vision, but I was prepared for it, and had mentally practiced my transition. My only complaint about this race is that the transition area is very gravelly-- the parking lot really needs to be re-paved, which is no fault of the race organizers. Anyway, I got clear of transition fairly quickly, jogged my bike out to the road, and took off. I felt really strong and fast on the bike, but don't know if I could keep up that pace in an Oly race. I guess that's a good thing though, because that would mean I didn't go hard enough...

The run felt good, and I was grateful for Coach Tony's insistence on running off the bike so much in training. By the second lap, the legs loosened up, and it felt really good. I was fighting a bit of a stitch in my side most of the race though, so I felt I could have gone a little faster otherwise, but overall I'm very happy with my results! The official times aren't posted, so I don't know my bike and run splits or rankings, but:

500m swim (8:45)
16 km bike
3 km run

53:20

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fast Taper

Yeah, yeah. I know I've been terrible at updating. And I've actually had a lot to write about! I'll catch up, though.

This weekend is the first race of the year! Try This Tri is on Sunday, and I'm ready. The UCTC spring session started two weeks ago, and it's been tough, but great. My training this week has been pretty good, too (even if it's been out of town).

Tonight was about 1 km in the pool- warmup, 500m hard, then a cooldown working on stroke and sighting. The 500m was great-- I had to ask the lifeguard what the actual length of the pool was, to make sure it's actually 25m. It was that fast. For me, 8:38 is blazing!

I was really anxious to get a swim in this week, and tried to go on Monday, but wasn't able to because they were taking the roof off... apparently they do it every spring, and I happen to be in town for the exact day it happens. Sigh. Oh well. Monday was a bust.

But I did get out for an after-dark run on Sunday- that was crazy. As in, halfway through the run, I was thinking I was crazy. I'm not really staying in a residential area this time, and running on the freeway or in the ditch was not a good idea. 25 minutes was enough for me.

Tuesday was better - I decided to search for a park to run in. "Sycamore Trails" sounded like a good bet... except there aren't really any trails there. So, I found a nice residential area, with SIDEWALKS to run on, and lots of hills. Well, really about two hills that I hit from several angles. Roughly 50 minutes of interval-y hill attacks. It felt great. I got back to the car and decided to walk a block or two, and noticed a bike path (first one I've seen here-- big difference from Calgary!!). Decided to follow it, and found a GREAT park, complete with a pool! Unfortunately, this one doesn't open until Saturday. Just can't win. I'll head back there tomorrow for some easy laps around the park.

Not sure what I'll be able to do on Friday, but Saturday I'll probably do an easy ride and or run, just to stay loose and make sure the bike is working right. More about the bike later.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Running, Sunshine, Basketball and Karaoke

Finally had some nice weather! Until today, the weather in Ohio has been kinda nasty; cold and rain. (At least it's not snow!) After staying up late last night to watch the Flames beat Chicago (!!!), I made an early-morning decision to forgo the early run, and go in the evening. I'm sure glad I did-- it was absolutely gorgeous out!! I'm writing this at 1:30am, and it's still +14 C. Unfortunately, along with the sun came the bugs... mmm.... extra protein. I gagged pretty hard on one that stuck in my throat though. Not good.

40 minutes, distance 8km

I had every intention of stretching... until I saw the basketball game. Let me just say, it is not wise to attempt to play basketball in running shoes. I didn't get hurt, or break my shoes, but there were moments.

After basketball, one of my work buddies and I drove to an outlet mall (all the Americans we were hanging out with thought we were crazy-- but they take the outlet malls for granted, unlike us Canadians), then made it back in time for Karaoke. It was a bit of a long evening, but I won't go into any details here.

Tomorrow (or today, I guess), it's back on a plane at 4, and hopefully there won't be any delays, and I'll be home at a reasonable time. I'm spending half my time hoping for no delays, and the other half hoping the snow is gone when I get home!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Running with Faith and the Thin White Line

I've been meaning to write this post for a few months now. Down in Ohio again, and again, it's a challenge to find a place to run-- I'm realizing how great Calgary is, with all the pathways and green spaces. Where I am this week, it's hard to find even a sidewalk to run on sometimes. So I've found a default run.

Right near where I'm staying there's a whole compound of churches--there have to be 10 churches within the same small area. I'm sure it's busy in the evenings and especially on Sundays, but early in the morning, it's deserted. Clear, perfect pavement, great landscaping and pathways, and even a bit of a hill. It's well lit, too, unlike the residential areas.

Unfortunately, it's not that big of a place. So my 30 minute run loop ends up on a back country road. Nice, quaint houses, even a horse stable. The crappy part is that the shoulder is 2-3 inches wide. A good time to run into traffic, with one foot in the ditch. Still, I don't think local drivers are used to seeing a runner on the road so I end up praying more as I tightwalk-run on the white shoulder line than I do around the churches!

~30 minute run, 6-7 kms (?)

*****
Also just updated the links to races I'm planning to run. Looks like the first one will be Try This Tri at Foothills pool, May 24th.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Adventures With Pedals

Growing up, I had two bikes (not counting the tricycle that I apparently broke). One was "BMX style", and the other was a mountain bike. I remember riding both of these literally ALL THE TIME. The mountain bike was an oversized birthday present when we lived in Lloydminster-- I will always remember the moment I first saw it in the basement cold room. It had actual gears! It seemed like a technological wonder-- and I fell off it all the time. It's a wonder I don't have more scars than I do; and I have quite a few scars.

That mountain bike, as much as I loved it, seems like a clunker compared to the bike I have now. I mean, I need special shoes just to ride the TCX! Sure, I've got a pair of "platform" pedals (which are slightly more advanced than "reglar" pedals, in that they are bigger, for a more stable platform), but as N has recently discovered, those don't provide nearly as much pedaling power as a pair of today's road pedals do. Yes, that's right-- she finally put the pedals Santa brought onto her bike.

I'm sure there are plenty of people out there like myself who are willing to just hop on a bike, and bind their feet to the pedals without thinking. Speaking from personal experience, though it might work for some, I don't recomend this method. You're almost guaranteed to crash-- at low (no) speed, most likely, but still. N is smarter than that, and much more cautious.

Teaching and doing are two very different issues altogether. Though I've never been a bike instructor, I've taught snowboarding, and participated in course development... not that either of those skills were immediately apparent, seeing the fear in N's eyes at the prospect of locking her feet into her pedals on the first ride of the year!

After a little trial and error, we came up with a pretty good progression for learning clipless pedals. She'd had some experience with them on the spin trainer, but it's different when it's on your bike, even if I'm holding onto it, trying to keep it from tipping over. Anyway, here's what we came up with:
  1. Stand over the bike, in front of the seat. Space your feet wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Choose a leg to stand on. With the other foot, move that pedal to the bottom position-- closest to the ground. Practice clicking in and out of the cleat-- toe in first, then push down. Twist your heel out to disengage.
  3. Now, click in that one foot, and push off with the other. At this point, just put your weight on the foot that is in, and coast. Brake, and put your foot back on.
  4. Next, you want to push off, and sit in your seat. Don't worry about clicking your other foot in just yet-- rather, rest it on the pedal, and pedal with the foot that is clicked in. (You need a little momentum to be stable.) Maybe push down on the free pedal with your heel, but just practice gliding for now, and leave that foot free to set down when you brake to a stop.
  5. Do the same thing, except click your second foot in, pedal a few times, then click that same foot out. To do this, stand up out of the seat, with your first foot in the bottom position, put your weight back on that first foot.
That's a lot of steps, and a lot of words-- it's actually hard to describe! But panick and fear is a huge barrier to learning, and baby steps are the best way to get through the fear. (By the way, after about 30 minutes of nerves, and 2 ego and butt-bruising crashes, N was flying around the Reservoir, even tackling stretches of snow that I walked through)

After the fact, I found this video:



****
I almost forgot my own adventures... my tri shoes are cracked from using the CrankBrothers Candy pedals that came with my bike : (
Well, they're really designed for mountain-bike shoes, not the stiff plastic soles that my shoes offer. So I decided to spring for a pair of Look Keo pedals-- just the basic ones, though. I'm hoping they'll make my shoes last one more season. The catch is, they're taking a little getting used to! Went for a solo ride yesterday (Saturday) through Fish Creek park (Sicome and back, then west all the way to 37 St and back via residential roads). They were great-- better power transfer, less wobble, but a slightly different unlock, just because of the deeper toe cleat. Didn't actually crash, but was a little worried at times.

Back in Ohio this week, planning to log some miles.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

2 Beautiful Mornings in Vancouver

Was in Vancouver for meetings the past two days, and brought my running gear-- just in case. I figured that there would be quite a lot of working and drinking (a bunch of sales guys getting together always is), but I thought I should at least try to get one run in.

I got in Monday night, and after meeting most of my team for the first time, we go for dinner and drinks. It wasn't a late night, nor a particularly crazy one, but drinks were had... nonetheless, I set my alarm early. I went to bed excited to run-- we were staying on Howe street, 2 blocks from False Creek, and I knew it would be a great day, and a beautiful time to run. That, combined with the fact that I had been stressing out all week about presenting my first sales plan (!) made it hard for me to sleep.

I woke before my alarm, got geared up, and out the door around 6:40-- blue skies, the sun still low on the horizon, the air crisp and fresh, perfect for a run. The concierge pointed the way, and I had no trouble finding the pathway, headed right. It was oddly familiar (I spent two summers living in the Lower Mainland, and spent a little bit of time downtown-- 8 and 9 years ago!) but still exotic, unusual, and a great adventure.


Past Granville Island, onto English Bay, I ended up at Second Beach. Did you know they have a new tide pool there? It's a manmade swimming pool that draws in oceanwater in the summer! All the way, there are beautiful parks, with huge trees, green grass (in April!) and lots of trendy little cafes, restaurants, marinas, and apartments. It was such a refreshing and wonderful run, I knew I'd be out the next day, too.

After another late night, this morning's run was equally spectacular. Rather than turn right onto the path, I went left. Much of the same, but more urban- new condos going up, quaint houseboats, more marinas, BC Place, and eventually, the Science Center.

View Interactive Map on MapMyRide.com

It was a busy few days, most of it spent inside the hotel conference room. The food, drink, and (most importantly) the company were amazing in the evenings, and I learned a lot at the meetings, but the real highlight of my trip were those two brief morning runs.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Overgear

I don't like that word.

O-ver-gear [oh-ver-geer]:
verb
  1. To shift bicycle gears such that pedaling becomes overly difficult, requiring more power, but resulting in more speed;
  2. To crank the tension on a spin trainer such that pedaling becomes overly difficult, requiring more power, increasing the likelihood of pulling right out of the cheap and loose clipless pedals;
  3. Torture;
  4. To use excessive resistance to build leg power;
  5. *%@$&!%#$!

---

After Moday's ladder session on the bike, Tuesday's long (and fast) swim, and Wednesday's Overgearing, my body protested at the Thursday bike-swim brick. The power-building bike session was great, it was the swim that didn't go so well.

About halfway through the workout, I was finally getting into the groove when I felt a pop in my shoulder. Nothing painful, and it does happen sometimes, but I was concerned enough to take a break, especially since I tend to really use my arms for a strong pull. Coach suggested I take some pressure off the shoulder by finishing the set in flippers-- good idea. Until I got the cramp to end all cramps 3/4 of the way to the other end! I'm talking full-on muscle lock for a good 15-20 seconds, and spasms after that!

Mentally calculating how much I'd done so far in the week, I decided my body was trying to tell me something, and climbed out of the pool.

Going to go for a short run today, and pull the bikes out of storage. Memo to Mother Nature: NO MORE SNOW, PLS. THX.

Friday, March 6, 2009

What Animal Am I?

Tuesday, I was a shark.

Wednesday, I was... well, whatever animal that would make a good cyclist. I was that. The same again on Thursday evening.

Later on Thursday night, I was a dolphin.

Then, an alligator.

Then, a warthog.

I think all the animal analogies had me a little confused. I did great as a shark, hunting down my lanemates and passing them in the timetrial. The bike was great too, both nights. As a dolphin, I excel- although I can't say that the arms portion of the butterfly is even close to elegant. Still, it wasn't terrible, and I could keep it together.

I just don't do alligator very well. The theme for Thursday's swim was sighting-- okay, I've done that before, poorly, but I've done it. Well, we were trying a new technique. Rather than sight on a breath, thus holding your entire head out of the water, the idea behind alligator sighting is that you just peek your eyes out of the water, like an alligator.

Coach Jill was videotaping us, and the only clip of me goes stroke, stroke, choke-- head comes right up, sputtering and cursing.

By the end of the session, it was passable. I found that if I only tried to do it after breathing on the left, I could get a bit of a rhythm. (I like to breathe every three strokes)

After the swim was the usual core workout. In this, I definitely need work. The workout was tough, but I was grunting and huffing like a warthog-- and I sure felt like one! So here's to being a shark (or dolphin) in the water, a kangaroo on the bike, and a wolf on the run.

Or maybe we should just forget about the animal analogies.

-
Okay, about the kangaroo... massive "quad" muscles = good cyclist, right?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Swim TimeTrial

Well, it just might be time for me to move to the deep end. (Yikes!)

What does that mean? Well, the deep end has faster swimmers, doing a higher-volume workout each time. I'd suspected that I was right in between, because the cutoff is a 30-minute 1500m, and I knew I was close to that. Today, I had the chance to really find out where I stack up, as the workout today was a half hour warmup followed by a timetrial. So how'd I do?

27:29

Yep. And that's all 30 laps, 60 lengths, 1500m. It's a great time, but it puts a little more pressure on me to make the move to the shark tank. I think I'll give it another week.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Making Tracks

I'm so proud of my honey! I remember when a 20 minute run was a real challenge - and yesterday, we did over an hour. Fish Creek Park sure looks different in the winter; it's bare, but beautiful. There's a sense of openness that is a little bizzare, until you realize it's because there's no tall grass, and no leaves on any of the trees.
You can tell there are a lot of people using the park-- you don't see as many as in the summer, but there are bike tracks, foot prints, tire treads from the plow, and even some cross-country ski tracks. We managed to do the entire loop.
Today, we also got to the pool portion of Super Sunday. I did 3,100 m
--
Although racing season hasn't really started yet, it's certainly Registration season! I'm signed up for Melissa's in September (thanks, Dan!), and early-bird registration for the Vulcan Tinman is next weekend.

More to come.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spicy Thai!

"Spicy Thai" has nothing to do with my workout today... aside from the fact that I'm glad I ran before dinner, because right now I'm eating Tums like they're candy. I ordered a 2 out of 5 for spice, and it was almost inedible. My cohort from South Carolina had a 4/5 and wasn't even breaking a sweat, but one of the other guys who ordered a "2" tried the "4" and said they were about the same. Could just be the buildup, or maybe the cook just spilled the chili flakes.

More to the point though, I found a solution to the rarity of streetlamps... run before sunset! I even saw a few locals out and about (no, I don't say 'out and aboot'--I don't care what the Americans think! It's not 'ahwt and abaowt', either.) The weather down here tonight is great; in the plus teens celcius. Makes me want to get on my bike and ride!

I'd better be losting weight. The pants are baggy, and I'm eating pretty darn healthy down here.

37:42, distance unknown, but I'd guess 6-7 km.