Betty Designs Insider Sale!

Why not kick off the holiday season by treating yourself (or ok, others too) with some discounted shopping at Betty Designs​; click here to shop and make sure you use the code THANKS2BETTY at checkout for 10% off:

Things I Love: RIP Laces

I love A LOT of things, but I don't do this recurring "Things I Love" feature enough.  I'll try to write more about the things I'm totally jazzed about.  So today in the series, I am loving my RIP Laces!

My friend Amy found them at Vineman this year, and sent me a pair.  They are elastics held by little plastic thingies, and the plastic thingies in our case are... you guessed it... skulls!  You choose the elastics based on size; they loop through they eyelets in your shoes and are held in place by the skulls.  Amy originally sent me blue elastics with pink skulls, but the pink skulls didn't stand out very well on my pink shoes, so the fantastic people at RIP Laces sent me some white skulls instead.

They hold your shoes at just the right tension for running, and the best part is there are no laces to tie & untie when taking your shoes on and off!  Actually, the best part is how fun and cool they are, but bonus in that they are also super functional.  I've run with them quite a bit, and they stay snug and keep your foot secure in your shoe.  Really comfortable too.

They have lots of different colours and styles... great for something like triathlon where speedy transitions are a must (and looking cool is a must), and also great for your regular around-town-kicks.  I'm also thinking I could use the smallest elastics as hair elastics, and use my leftover skulls to hold them in place around a ponytail.  Check them out at and let me know if you can think of any other uses too!

Ironman Louisville Race Report

There's nothing like travelling to an Ironman to make a long weekend pass by in the blink of an eye.  It was less than two weeks ago, but already seems like ages ago.  Louisville turned out to be an amazing city, and the race itself was fantastic and I definitely recommend it.  Here's how it all went down.

Arriving only a couple of days before the race didn't leave much time to see the sights.  We did our best, but really the focus was on getting everything ready for racing.  Between checking into the race, driving the course, packing our gear bags, checking in our gear, and doing our pre-race training - the days went fast!  We did squeeze in enough time to try some bourbon (verdict: surprisingly delicious) and a historic speak-easy tour (which turned out to be a total highlight - if you're ever in Lousiville, put that on your must-do list).

Transition area.

We went by Churchill Downs when pre-riding
the run course.  I'll probably watch the Kentucky
Derby every year from now on.

Our hotel - the Embassy Suites Downtown -
was the perfect location.  This was right out the front door,
steps away from the finish line!

When in Kentucky...

Onto the race itself...

Ironman Louisville is different than many other Ironmans (and different than any Jason and I had done before) as it has a first-come-first-served time-trial start.  The downer was it meant lining up really early if you want to be near the front of the line - which, being stronger swimmers we did, to minimize the number of people we'd have to swim around.  There was lots of chatter before the race about athletes worried about cut-off times getting to the start around 3:30am to line up (the race started at 7:30 but still finished at midnight, meaning you had 16:30 rather than 17 hours to finish).  Yuck - and definitely not our plan!  I was a bit stressed thinking of how long a line with 3000 athletes would be, when would we get there, etc. etc.  We decided to be at transition as soon as it opened (5:15 am, we got there about 10 minutes before that), put our nutrition on our bikes, pump the tires, turn on Garmins... then walk the mile to the swim start (it's a point-to-point swim).  We got to the swim line probably around 5:40 and there were a few hundred people in it already - some looking like they had been there for awhile. We hung out, ate breakfast, put our wetsuits on, and soon enough they were playing "Sweet Kentucky Home" on the bugle and herding down onto the docks!

Hanging out on the sidewalk, waiting for the start.

Athletes jump off the docks two at a time, and I could see from the clock that it only took us 7 minutes to get from where we were in line to jumping into the water - not bad as apparently it took about an hour to get all 3000 in.  (BTW your time is chip-activated and doesn't start until you jump off the dock).  There was some stress leading up to the start of the race, as there had been a water quality advisory for a month - toxic algae was in the river and it was closed to swimming.  Ironman got the go-ahead two days before the race that the swim could proceed.  I have to say it wasn't the nicest body of water I've swam in, but it wasn't the worst (not really a high bar when I think of some of the places I've swam, but whatever).

For my first time-trial start I actually enjoyed it, there was very little contact and it seemed like it only took about a kilometre before I'd swam around the bulk of athletes in front of me, and was pretty much on my own.  You swim 1 km upstream, then 3 km downstream.  I didn't really notice a current, and apparently neither did anyone else (I guess they had shut the dam to deal with the algae issue... rumour anyway... but I also heard afterwards one kayak volunteer saying he didn't have to paddle to stay in place, so the current was a non-factor).  Just before I jumped off the dock, Jason looked at me and said, "make every stroke count".  I thought about that the entire swim, and how hard I'd worked on my swim all year.  I really wanted to swim sub-1:05.  So I made Every. Stroke. Count.  When I hit the end and volunteers helped pull me up the ladder I'd done it!  1:03:30!  6th in my age group (I was hoping for top 10) - and pretty much the time I thought I could swim if I had the perfect swim.

I ran into the change tent and there were only three other women there.  My volunteer was awesome and got me all ready to get on my bike.  It was a long run (OK, I walked) with my bike to the mount line, probably 200m, but soon enough I was off and saw Ken cheering for me as I headed out of town.

I was really hoping I'd see Jason in the out-and-back section, and when I turned in I knew I would, as riders hadn't come out yet.  When I saw the lead car - guess who was in 2nd overall behind it!  Jason and I waved at each other and carried on... turns out later, partway through the first lap he'd passed the first guy, and was the lead cyclist the rest of the way into transition.  He said coming into transition in first on the road (remember the staggered start so he wasn't first by time) was the highlight of his racing career.

The bike was fairly non-eventful, as Ironman bikes usually are.  I spent A LOT of time looking at my powermeter, trying to modulate power on the hilly course.  It's a really pretty course - but I'm glad we drove it on Thursday otherwise I'd never have known!  It was actually really tough to ride even power with all the hills, and I knew I wasn't quite hitting the power numbers I'd planned, but the hills were tough and the winds were tough as well.  I was riding a strong pace, so I wasn't too worried about it.  One super frustrating thing was all the guys that would pass me, then pull in front and basically ride my speed.  It meant I had to slow down to get out of their draft zone (that's the rule when you're overtaken), and I could literally see later when looking at my power file all the times that happened.  Dudes, just because you see a woman with 45 on her calf doesn't mean you have to sprint ahead and pass her - unless you're going to keep going that speed.  I think I lost at least 10 minutes during the bike leg because of that.  Another annoyance was when I'd pass a guy and he'd pass me right back immediately - meaning he wasn't following the rule of dropping out of the draft zone when passed.  Why was it only guys doing that?

We had a headwind for the last 55km coming back into town, so I was a bit on the conservative side as it was tough to push into that after all the hills on the bike course.  I came back into T2 with 6:15 on the bike clock (18th in my AG - I was hoping for top 25 so success!), my goal was 6:14 (dammit!- I spent 3 minutes combined at a porta-potty and grabbing my special needs) and super-secret goal was 6:00 but with the hills and wind combo that day, I knew that wasn't going to happen.   Again, I walked the long chute into transition, it was still pretty empty in the women's change tent, and I had another awesome volunteer help me with everything I needed for the run.  Leaving transition again, I walked so I could get some food & fluids in, then started running as soon as I hit the timing wire onto the run course.

Bike elevation profile.  Hilly... and then at 73 miles when it
starts to decline/level off, add a headwind.

The run starts uphill from the river into downtown, and I was keeping an eye out for Ken (who somehow would have missed me if I hadn't yelled at him - how that's possible I'm not sure when I was wearing head-to-toe flo pink, but anyway).  Right after I went by Ken, Jason passed me on his second loop.  I am not sure what place he was in, but he had a bike with him which was a great sign.

I think I was yelling at Ken
who was looking the other way here.

Found me!

I stuck to my plan, ran the pace I'd trained for, walked my pre-determined walk breaks, and just kept going.  Somewhere out past Churchill Downs Jason came back towards me, with the 3rd place overall bike!  After a very quick hug we continued in opposite directions, and I just kept doing what I'd planned.  I got back to downtown to finish the first lap (right on my goal pace), had a quick chat with Ken and Jason (who did finish 3rd overall and won his AG - hello Kona 2016), turned a corner and had a very quick hug and chat with Betty teammate Kate (her husband was racing), turned another corner and grabbed my special needs bag, then headed out onto the second lap.

My other goal on the run was to keep smiling.
About 5km later my knee (yep, that knee that my doctor, chiropractor, and ortho surgeon said no more long running on) started to get really sore and I noticed it was super swollen.  I didn't think that was a good sign, so I started walking which didn't hurt, but didn't make it less swollen.  I walked and walked and tried to walk at an ok pace.  I didn't want to give up, but I didn't want to really hurt myself.  So I kept walking.  Of course, who can walk once you're almost done - so I "ran" the final km to the finish.  I finished with my 2nd-best time - 13:50 - and 72nd in my AG.  I wanted to be under 14 hours (and think my walking cost me about 15 minutes overall), so I'm happy with how the day went.  I also wanted to finish in the middle of my AG, and there were 151 women in the 45-49, success!

It was great to have Jason & Ken at the finish line, and then limp the half block back to our hotel to shower, change, eat, and head back out to watch the late-night finishers.  Not an easy task when I felt like I'd been run over by a semi-truck!  I was hoping for a celebratory glass of bourbon, but in the end, nope!  Oh well, I picked up a bottle when I got home instead.

My fourth Ironman is done, and I am more than likely done with Ironman for good.  I love the training (usually - sometimes those 6+ hour bike days though...), but have to be honest that my knee is done even if my heart isn't.  I still have lots of racing plans, though, so stay tuned!

Jason's podium.

Winner winner veggie dinner!

Of all the bourbons we tried between
the three of us - this one was our favourite.
Post-race souvenir!

Thanks to Betty Designs for getting me through my training and racing in style, 
and thanks to Sound Probiotics for getting me though healthy!

Ironman Gear

You sure need a lot of gear for an Ironman (or maybe it's just me).  I'm working on my packing list for Louisville, so here is what I'll be using during the race.  It doesn't include my bike or my nutrition - and it's a long list!

The whole day:
- my sweet Betty Designs tri kit
- timing chip & strap

The swim:
- my Roka Maverick Pro wetsuit
(super comfortable and fast)
- tinted goggles
- swim cap

The bike:
- Smith Overtake helmet
- Smith Pivlock sunglasses
- sleeved aero top
- aero shoe covers
- tri shoes

The run:
- Betty Designs trucker hat
- Garmin watch
- number belt with race bib
- socks (I wear Injinji toe socks - if you've
seen my feet you know why)
- shoes (Asics 33-M; they have Hoka-like
cushioning but fit my feet better than Hokas do)

Hurricane Ridge

A few weeks ago, Jason, our friend Joel, and I rode Hurricane Ridge.  A classic climb in Washington state's Olympic National Park.  It involves taking the 6:20 a.m. ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, riding up a mountain, then back down, and taking the 12:45 p.m. ferry back. 

It was a spectacular day for a ride.  Other than getting a flat about half-way up, I had a great time (and reached the summit about 15 min faster than last time).  Honestly, I didn't mind getting the flat tire as I hardly ever get them, and always relish the chance to practice fixing them when it doesn't matter (as in a race). Here are some pictures from the day.

Arriving in Port Angeles.
Elevation profile.  The ride literally starts at sea level
(considering we ride right off the ferry), and tops out
at just over 5000 feet.

Jason and Joel riding off.

Somewhere partway up.

One of the tunnels.

Just keep climbing...

Just keep climbing...

The top!

Back at sea level and onto the ferry.  Just in time for
an afternoon of wandering around downtown Victoria.

Snack Time

Sometimes I think what gets me through a hard workout is thinking about the snack at the end.  While I do have a weakness for potato chips, particularly Old Dutch ripple or salt & vinegar, I do try to have some healthy snacks available so I don't go right for the chips.  Here are my top go-to post-workout snacks:

1 - Greek yogurt (3/4 cup) with hemp protein (1 tbsp), chia seeds (1 tsp), and and handful of berries (I usually have raspberries, strawberries or blueberries, but any will do!).  Mix all together, and the great thing is that it takes hardly any time at all to whip this up.  The hemp protein is probably a bit of an acquired "earthy" taste, but I suppose any protein powder would do if you have a favourite.

2 - The ole' smoothie.  I don't know about you, but a smoothie doesn't really feel like a snack.  It is, however, a great way to refuel after a hard workout, and you can make them out of pretty much anything.   This is what I throw in a blender, along with a bit of water, and blend:  banana, protein powder, berries, and spinach.

3 - Protein balls.  These take a bit more work, so need to be done in advance.  And then try not to eat them all at once, as they are super delicious and nutricious.  Plus, the recipe is pretty flexible, so perfect for a non-chef like myself.  I get out the food processor, and dump in about 1/2 hazelnuts (or filberts for my Aussie friends...).  You can use almonds, walnuts, probably pretty much anything.  Chop them into small pieces, then add: 15 pitted dates, 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or any dried fruit, but I'm giving you my favourite combinations), 1/4-1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I tend to go a bit on the heavier side with the chocolate chips), 1/4 cup shredded coconut, 2 tbsp protein powder, 2 tsp chia seeds, 1 tbsp coconut oil.  Mix in the food processor until it all starts to stick togeher.  Sometimes I have to add a bit of water.  Then I scoop out spoonfuls, form into balls, and stick them in the fridge to gel together.  Yummy and healthy, and perfect for after a hard workout.

Check out for some other healthy snack ideas.
There are also great recipies at Fueling Endurance Performance and Cotter Crunch.  

I Survived a Pretty Big Week

I knew September would rush by in a blur; here we are on the last day of summer.  Basically, if I haven't been training, I've been at work, or I've been recovering on the couch.  Last week was the biggest week of training I've had for this ironman, possibly my biggest week ever (definitely in terms of combined volume and effort!).

To be honest, when I looked at my training plan for the week last Sunday, I was anxious.  It looked hard!  I got a pep talk from a friend, and got down to work.  Chop wood carry water - which means I did what I needed to do.  Here's what my training week looked like.

Monday: 4000m swim, with the main set consisting of 6x400m race pace.  Nothing like a good swim before breakfast!  Then after work, a 2-hour ride with some FTP intervals.

Tuesday: 1 hour easy run, and a 30-minute strength session.  I did both of those after work, as every Tuesday morning I have a 7 a.m. meeting.

Wednesday: Another early morning swim, this time 3500m with an endurance set of 3x800.  After work, back on the bike with some VO2 max hill repeats.

Thursday: Ah, I love Thursdays as it's the only day I only have one workout.  A one hour hilly trail run with the dog.

I amuse myself with fun socks.

Friday: 4200m swim before work, including a 10x300 race pace main set.  After work, when my boss wanted to head to happy hour, I had to pass and hop on my bike for a 2 hour easy spin.  Sigh - I love happy hour!  The struggle is real, people.

Saturday: This is the day that was causing me some dread.  I'm getting burned out on long rides, and while I figured this was coming, I hoped I'd luck out with something else.  Anyway.  It was a race simulation day so I started with a swim - only an easy 50 minutes.  Then immediately out on the bike for a really long, over distance day.  Instructions were to go up to 7 hours (really, my enjoyment factor decreases sharply after 5 hours, but I'd see what I had) with 5 hours at ironman pace (75% FTP).  Despite the dread, I had a great ride, hitting some good power numbers and my fastest pace in training ever; I got to the 180km IM distance at 6:14 - hopefully I can do that on race day on the hilly Louisville course!

The results from Saturday's ride.

Sunday: 2 hour long run.  My longest run in 3 years, and it actually wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.  Adaptation, anyone?  Followed by a 30 minute strength session, at which point I was sure my coach was trying to kill me.

Recovery session on the couch with
SpiderTech tape and Marc Pro.

It all added up to almost 23 hours, although I don't sweat the hours because I know it's what do you with those hours, not how many hours.  And what I did with those hours was exactly what I needed to do that week.  One more hard week, then two weeks of taper - bliss!