Stuff I Love: my Tracer360 vest

Winter on the island means running in the dark.  A lot.  Before work or after, whenever I choose to run, it's dark.  I live in a semi-rural area, which means some streets have streetlights, and others don't.  So I've long looked for decent reflective clothing to be safe, and this year have found the absolutely perfect solution: the Noxgear Tracer360.

I've had those wimpy flashing lights on an armband before, but they're pretty pathetic.  I have reflective vests, reflective jackets, reflective tights, etc etc... but you never really know what weather you'll be running in here - tonight it was 3 degrees C (37 degrees F) - as in friggin' cold - but last week it was a balmy 16 C (61 F) - not exactly tights and jacket weather.  Plus, reflective clothing depends on lights shining on you, and I've scared the crap out of people walking down the road as they didn't see me coming in the dark.

Enter the Tracer360.  It's a "vest" made of fiber optics with LED lights.  It is crazy bright, and you can set it to flashing though a multitude of colours, or set it on to the solid colour of your choice.  It's super light and I don't even feel it on.  You can wear it over a tank top or a jacket - all weather versatile.  I've worn it in the pouring rain (hello PNW winter) and it works just fine.

I feel super safe running in the dark wearing it, and have had heaps of positive comments from people who have seen me and Jason wearing them.  It really is the greatest thing for running at night that I've ever found.

Jason modelling the Tracer360 -
doesn't look like much when it's off.
video
Jason running with it set on solid green.


video
Set on flashing.

Because it's so awesome, I emailed the people at Noxgear and told them how much I loved it... and they offered me a discount code for anyone reading this!  To get your very own for 15% off, go to https://www.noxgear.com/tracer360 and use the code: YROFALISON - how cool is that! (good until Feb. 28)  Happy running!

PS - they're coming out with a dog version, can't wait to get that for Tiki!



Full disclosure: they didn't pay me or provide me with product or anything for this review.  I somehow stumbled onto it online, bought the vest and loved it.  I contacted them about a discount code for anyone in the future... I paid full price!

Triathlon Holiday Gift Guide

Now for the world's laziest blog post... I wrote this one last year and am "re-gifting" it.  Perhaps it will become a new holiday tradition of mine.  I did update the pictures from this year, so that's something!


It seems like every blog is posting a holiday gift guide this time of year.  I thought I’d get into the spirit as well, but with my own take on it.  First of all, full disclosure: yep, I do love gear and all kinds of “stuff’;  but several years ago I decided that the most valuable things to give are time and memories.  I no longer exchange gifts with Jason, family members, etc., but we choose special things to do with each other instead.  Here are some suggestions for “gifts” for the active people in your lives.

The swimmer
A super-fun, yet challenging, swim workout.  My most memorable swim was of course swimming 100x100m with Jason in Hawaii.   Another was last xmas when we swam the “12 Days of Christmas” swim: 78x75m (5850m).  We’ll be doing that one again this year together, but starting at 12 instead of 1.  You see, the workout goes just like the song, where you do 1x75, then 2x75 , then 3X75… so on.  It didn’t take long to get the first 6 “days” out of the way (1575m), but the last 6 (4050m) took forever.  This time will start with 12x75, then 11x75, then 10… same mileage obviously but mentally more fun to be counting down rather than up.

Jason at the start of Victoria Triathlon
(photo by Pelle Gustavs)


The cyclist
How about a ride on a cool, out-of-the-way route that you don’t normally ride?  Get your cycling buddies together for some flowy singletrack, or a sweet road ride on backroads where you don’t have to worry about traffic and can ride in a group and chat.  Or create a fun mock-cyclocross course through some local parks and share the laughs with your best riding pals.

Riding with friends in Red Rock Canyon


The runner
Meet early one morning for a long run, then head out to the best brunch place afterwards.  Mimosas and carb-overloading feels soooo good after up to two hours of pounding the pavement or trails.  Or maybe a shorter run, but try to find one of those Participarks to play on the fitness circuit while running!  Participarks may be a strictly Canadian thing – they were built in parks around the country in the early 80’s to encourage Canadians to get more active.  It’s basically a fitness circuit with 12-ish exercise stations, placed throughout a 2-3km loop through a park or trail.  Fun!

Jason & I after a run on his surprise Hawaii trip


The water lover
Even though it’s wetsuit season here in the PNW, get out the SUPs and go for a paddle.  Find a calm morning, or brave the afternoon winds and have some fun in the chop!

The hiker
Scout around the rumour mill for some off-the-beaten track places and go exploring.  The other day my friend Candace and I (and her dog Shadow) poked around an abandoned property to find a fabled waterfall – involved some scrambling, climbing over fallen trees, tall grass, jumping creeks, eating dirt… and was fantastically fun.

The multi-sport athlete
Do some chores or something to free up some of their time, which they could use to have a nap.  'Nuff said.




The special someone
Book a trip to a training mecca (Kona, Tucson, wherever…), and up the mileage in this off-season by training like crazy and creating your own triathlon training camp.  All it takes is the desire to swimbikerun every day in a warm, sunny spot, a comfy couch to recover on, and some good food to fuel up with.  And of course, time with the peeps most important to you to create those special memories.

Kona training holiday last March


Oops I Did It Again

I have a bad habit.  A habit of making emphatic declarations, and then not following through.  In 2000, I did Ironman Canada, and said one-and-done.  Then in 2010 I did Ironman Arizona then declared my Ironman days over.  In 2012 I did Ironman Arizona again, and loudly proclaimed, with emphasis, that I was done with Ironman - I had achieved everything I wanted to.

Oops, I've done it again:

Just Keep Swimming...

Just keep swimming... just keep swimming... just keep swimming... I often get Dory from Finding Nemo stuck in my head during a workout, especially one with long sets.  And almost always during the swim leg of a triathlon.  I think Dory has great advice, particularly for this time of year, the "off season".

Many triathletes drastically reduce or drop their swimming all together during the off season.  While I definitely agree it's nice to have a couple of months of lighter workouts, I disagree with dropping swimming all together.  My recommendation is not to reduce the number of times you swim.  Most of the year I swim 3x/week.  There are times building up to a race I may throw a 4th (likely another open water workout) in there, but I think 3x is the minimum.  Instead of reducing frequency, I reduce duration.

Here's why.  Swimming is the most technique-based of all three triathlon disciplines.  It's so easy to lose parts of your stroke you've been working to perfect (not that I'll ever achieve perfection, but I'll keep trying!) by reducing the number of times a week you swim.  Honestly, it happens quickly!  So rather than dropping down to swimming 1-2 times a week at this time of year, keep your three (plus?) workouts, but make them shorter.  When I'm training, my swims are at minimum an hour, usually around 1:10-1:15, and once/week they're 1:30.  Right now I'm doing 30-45 minutes.  I still get a break, but I'm not losing the feel for the water and don't have to restart my technique work.

I'm currently just focusing on my stroke, doing snorkel work, swimming with fins to work on my glide, and drills.  I'm not a huge fan of drills; my caveat is you have to know what your stroke weaknesses are, and pick drills that focus on those.  Don't just blindly do drills you see other people doing, without knowing why or what that drill is accomplishing.  

Soon enough, I'll be back to 60-90 minutes, 3x week.  Here are a couple of basic workouts you can modify.  If you're not sure about the abbreviations, just drop me a quick note.  They are in metres, so if you swim yards then just add some more of the main set.

60 minutes, 2800 metres
Warm up:  3x200 (easy, kick, pull)
Main set: 2x (400 steady, 300 easy full gear (paddles, pull buoy & band), 200 tempo, 100 fast (10 SR)) 1 min between sets
Cool down: 200 easy

90 minutes, 4200 metres
Warm up: 4x200 (easy, kick, snorkel & fins); 4x50 band only 
Main set: 6x200 build to fast 1-3 (15 SR); 6x100 full gear alt steady & tempo by 100 (10 SR); 6x200 build to fast 1-3 (15 SR)
Cool down: 200 easy

Once I get into "serious" training next summer, I may even up my frequency to 5x/week.  I really want to see if I can break 32 minutes for a half iron and 1:05 for an ironman swim.  I'm close, but it will take a lot of work!

If only I could swim outdoors all year -
I'd be happy to brave the PNW rain!
Have fun, and just keep swimming!



Goldilocks Vegas

Last weekend, a couple friends and I headed down to Las Vegas to do another Goldilocks century (we did one in Boise in July), and Jason tagged along to volunteer.  It was yet another whirlwind weekend away; lots of activity with a 100-mile bike event sandwiched in the middle.  We absolutely loved everything about the Boise event, and that's what sold us on this one.  Of course a good time was had by all... but the event itself didn't quite live up to our expectations.

We stayed at the host hotel - the Red Rock Resort - which was great because it was on the outskirts of town and had pretty much everything you needed right on site.  It's a huge hotel with 60 rooms per floor, and the hallways were super long so we started riding our bikes between the room and the elevator.  We timed it once walking, and the trip from our door to the elevator was 3 minutes, and we are not exactly dawdlers.  But despite the infinite hallways, it was a gorgeous hotel and we took advantage of as many amenities as we could.

Riding out to Red Rock Canyon the day before.


We're definitely not on the west coast!

Acclimating

Looooong hallways!  They curved so you
never saw the end.

Friday involved a morning ride through Red Rock Canyon, an afternoon of relaxing at the spa pool (we chose that one because it was adults only, and had lanes for swimming), then package pick-up and dinner.  Saturday was an early wake up as the start time was 7 am and we were riding to the start (probably only about 15 minutes).  There seemed to be more nervousness at this start compared to Boise (-1 for Vegas as there weren't as many porta potties - the lines were long!), and a couple of women crashed right in the start chute.  Catherine stopped to see if they were ok, but kind of got yelled at by one of them, so we just carried on.

Jason volunteering as a "Papa Bear" - got to ride the course
and provide any help along the way.  Nice as he got to
spend the day with us!

Strong wind from WSW = in our faces for much of the day!

The road markings were flawless (+1 for Vegas as we went off course briefly in Boise), but there was A LOT of stopping as 75 miles of the 100 were in urban areas.  Lots of stop signs, and lots of traffic lights (-1 for Vegas as Boise was almost completely rural).  According to my Garmin, we spent almost 20 minutes stopped at intersections.  Boo.  That's really the only reason I wouldn't return to this event: too much urban riding.  The final 25 miles were out of town and absolutely gorgeous scenery, so it behooves the organizers to reroute things to take more advantage of that.  Skip the entire Henderson part, as that was just city city city.

Besides the traffic, another downer was the wind.  No fault of the event though, but we ended up going straight into a pretty significant headwind for much of the day - probably from mile 40-95.  A lot of the ride was me with my head down, trying to hold on to Catherine, Corinne, or Jason's wheel.   It ended up being a total grind, just keeping the bike going and trying to keep spirits high.  For the final 30 miles, the 100km course joined up with the 100 mile course, and so many of the 100 km riders were dropping out everywhere.  It probably didn't help that there was a 20-mile 3% climb in there.  Not steep, just infinite.  It seemed like the highway between the city and Blue Diamond was littered with women pulled over and calling the sag wagon.  We stopped at a gas station for a coke (-1 for Vegas as the aid stations weren't that well stocked), and that coke was the nectar of the gods... and pretty much the only reason we were speaking to each other for the last bit as the wind had stolen much of our souls by then.


Combination of sugar and fatigue makes things REALLY funny!

Finally out of town and almost out of the headwind.

Once we reached Red Rock Canyon where we'd ridden the day before, the winds were finally at our backs and it was downhill, so we screamed into the finish.  We didn't stick around though, as the post-race food wasn't as deluxe as the spread in Boise (-1 for Vegas), so we rode to a grocery store and stocked up with as much food and drinks as our jersey pockets could hold, and rode back to the hotel.


Post-event 2 R's: relaxing and rehydrating!

What do you do when you finish an event in Vegas?  Head to the strip and take in a show!  The next day we had some time before our flight, so did some sightseeing, and then a swim at the Henderson pool.  Have to enjoy the sun while we can, as it's home to the wet west coast for the winter.





Hello, off-season!  Hello, planning for next year!



Surprise! I Took Jason to Kona!

I've been keeping a secret for the past few weeks, and on Thursday picked Jason up from work, bag packed... and took him to Kona!  You see, he's raced there seven times but has never been a spectator, and has always wanted to "see" Ironman Hawaii.  So now he can check that off the list. We had an incredible weekend and packed a tonne into 57 hours.

Jason just learned we're headed to
Kona for the weekend!

We arrived in Kona Friday at noon (after a literal ferry, train, and airplane extravaganza - the price of living on an island and traveling to another island) and headed straight to the expo.  Jason got to fill up with all the latest and greatest gear and take in all the sights and sounds.  Of course I stopped by the Betty Designs booth and got some cool stuff from Kristin.  All of a sudden we were wondering how our two small carry-ons would work for the trip home!

The view from our host's, Steve, place -
sorry we couldn't stay longer and use the pool!

Later that afternoon we met up with Karlyn Pipes and group to swim the Ironman course.  We entered from the beach in front of the King Kamehameha hotel and swam around the pier to the where the course starts, and realized it would be a fun swim with some pretty serious swells and chop (I actually felt at one point that I might feed the fish...)!  The group took off, and soon I realized I was swimming with "real" swimmers... I'm not a bad swimmer and it's not often I'm fighting to hang on to the back of the group!  No surprise as Karlyn is an amazing swimmer, so of course her swimmer friends would be as well.  We ended up swimming through a bunch of jellies and got some stings; for Jason and I it wasn't so bad, but one guy had some pretty big welts when we saw him back at the beach.

Our swim group - thanks Karlyn for the invite!

Then it was off to dinner at one of our fave Kona haunts: Lava Java!  First we watched the sunset at Laverne's (which we call Lulu's as that's what it used to be called, and we can't seem to switch). After dinner it was up the hill to the suite we were staying in.

Saturday morning the alarm clock went off early - 5:30 am - but we were already awake as that's 8:30 am home time.  We headed down the hill into town and set up for the swim start in a beach park down the road from the seawall.  The excitement builds as soon as you hear the helicopters buzzing overhead, and Jason could barely contain himself for his experience as a first-time spectator. Once the swimmers were all past us, we headed up Kuakini Hwy to watch the first part of the bike. Then walked all over town to catch cyclists coming in, runners going out, runners coming in... spectating is hard work!

Waiting for the swim to start.

Jason pumped to be spectating.

Waiting for the first runners.

Finish line.
Lucky shot with my phone of the
men's winner running down the finish chute.

We actually headed back to Steve's for a nap as we knew we needed a rest before the midnight finishers.  The last couple of hours are the best, so once refreshed we headed back to the finish line and stayed right until the end.

Best part of the race - the finish line at night.

Sunday we had the entire day there as our flight didn't leave until after 9pm.  We headed to the pier in the morning to swim the course, went for a run in Keahou, did some more sightseeing in town and in Waikoloa, went to the Kona pool for another (!) swim, then closed out our time on the island at Huggo's on the Rocks.

The "big pool".

The "little pool".
 
A great end to a great weekend.


Best weekend ever.

Thanks to all my co-conspirators for your help in pulling off the surprise!


Tough Love

What does a three hour trainer workout look like?  Not pretty... Today I did Tough Love, which is part of the Troy Jakobsen "Spinervals" series.  I have a love-hate relationship with this workout; it's incredibly difficult but super rewarding.



What do you need to get through three hours on the trainer? (For the record, the longest trainer session I've ever done was 5.5 hours... but that was training for Ironman and the weather was horrid.  I certainly don't have the mental fortitude to do that right now).  You need lots of fluids, snacks, a towel, a fan - especially on a hot day like today.  This time I wasn't doing this workout to avoid riding outside in bad weather, I was doing it because I needed to.  I have one more event this year, a century at the end of the month in Nevada.  I needed a workout to kick my ass, and this one does just that.

Essential supplies

So here is what three hours on the trainer look like:

Hour Zero.  Smiling.  Not sure why,
I know what's coming!

Hour One.  Still smiling.  Must be delirious.

Hour Two.  I usually crack about about 2.5
hours and think I won't finish.  I always do though.
Hour Three.  Done.


I need to do this workout one more time in the next couple of weeks.  Hooray!