Swimming in the Rain

There's always one rainy day we end up open water swimming. Had we gone the last couple of days, we wouldn't have needed wetsuits; today it was pouring and let me tell you - it's pretty hard to get a wetsuit on when you're wet!

Pretty lonely day at the lake today...

Rain doesn't matter since you're wet anyway. Of course it was
pouring when we were putting our wetsuits on, but stopped
raining by the end of our swim.

We have such a great little lake to swim in, beats the cold
ocean while dodging boats and seaplanes.

My bony feet.

Jason finishing up his swim.

Here comes the sun - back to our regularly
scheduled summer!

One Weekend: two people, two cities, two races... two podiums!

This past weekend was a blur. Jason and I were both racing in Washington, and doing two races on the same day, in different cities was a bit of a logistical challenge.

We were up early to catch the 6am ferry (for the second time this week) to Port Angeles. We had four different places we had to be, so an early start was a must. I was doing the Danskin Seattle Sprint, an all-women's race. Jason was doing the Lake Stevens Ironman 70.3 in Everett. Our first stop was Seattle Center, where I picked up my race package. I had never done an all female race before, and to my surprise there were over two thousand women signed up. Package pick up went pretty smoothly, but then things started to go sideways.

Once again on the ferry as the sun came up.

We had to go to the transition area to drop my bike off. Seattle has a traffic problem, which is not exactly a secret, but Saturday was off the charts. The Mercer exit to I-5 (the one we needed) was closed, so we had to snake through downtown and some of the heaviest traffic I'd ever seen in that city. Finally out of downtown, the road to the transition area was being paved and was single-lane traffic. I pretty much thought I would have a nervous breakdown - we just don't have serious traffic where I live, one of the benefits of island life!

We finally got to the race site and I dropped my bike off. Walking back to the car, I was grumbling to Jason about the plan for tomorrow... the organizers wanted us to park at Safeco Field, then take a shuttle to the race site. Problem was, bikes weren't allowed on the shuttle so after the race, you had to take the shuttle back to your car and then drive back to the transition to get your bike. If there's anything that drives me batty, it's inefficient use of time. I joked to Jason and said "I should pay one of these houses $20 to let me park in their driveway for the day". About a minute later, he pointed to a sign on someone's lawn: "Reserve Race Day Parking Here - $20"... is that coincidence or the universe smiling at me?

Bike dropped off, parking reserved, back in the car to drive to Lake Stevens where Jason was racing Sunday. We didn't want to go back through the paving zone, so asked my Garmin for an alternate route. Well, it was either set on "scenic and windy" or "let's screw with them", as the route we took to get back to I-5 wound around and around, circled, up, down, and I was pretty sure another nervous breakdown would happen.

In Lake Stevens, we had to go to the high school to pick up Jason's race package, then to the transition to drop his bike. Finally we were at our hotel for the evening, relaxing and setting the alarm for another ridiculously early wake up.

Once again up before dawn. I dropped Jason off at his race, and drove into Seattle for mine. At least no traffic issues on an early Sunday morning, so I was pretty relaxed when I arrived. I set up my transition area, and then headed to the porta-potty where I learned something interesting. Usually porta-potties are pretty disgusting at races, and I was expecting the same as this particular race had a couple of thousand ahtletes. I opened the door, and was shocked at the pristine condition. Sure, it had been used, but it was clean and tidy. My best guess as to why - there were only women that had used it. I can only assume that guys live out their fireman fantasies in the porta-potty, imagining the entire thing on fire and they are the only ones who can put it out.

My transition area. Normally my helmet is on my bike, but
(you can't tell from the picture) the racks were really high and
all the bikes were dangling off the ground. I figured if someone
bumped my bike my helmet and glasses would scatter.

Wetsuit on, down at the lakefront, where my wave was corralled together on the shore. This race had a lot of beginners in it, which is awesome, but many of them didn't have wetsuits. Lake Washington is cold, so I didn't envy them! One woman next to me said she was jealous of my wetsuit, but wouldn't be when she was already on the bike when I was still taking it off. Umm... what? I won't tell you what I wanted to reply to her, instead I just smiled. But for the record - hey beeyotch, I have no trouble getting out of my wetsuit, it literally only takes seconds.

I wanted to have a strong swim, so at the gun I sprinted hard - really hard - and figured that whoever was with me in 50 meters were the feet I wanted. It worked, there was one woman with me and I swam on her feet for the rest of the 800m. We had to swim through a lot of non-swimmers from earlier waves, some doing breast stroke and some literally just treading water. She and I came out together, and I was pretty happy to see 13:35 on my watch (my goal was to be under 14). The timing mats were a ways up the shore, so my official swim was 13:59... still she and I had the fastest swim in the 40-44 age group.

I had a great transition (despite the long run to/through) and wanted to push really hard on the bike. I had more miles in my legs from the summer of riding than a 20 km leg warrants, so I decided I'd at least ride as hard as I could. I didn't once let up for the whole ride, and passed literally hundreds of women - I was feeling like a rock star! Guess how many people passed me on the bike? None. Zero. Nada. Zilch! My bike time ended up as 36:42 (my goal was 41), good enough for the 4th fastest bike in the 40-44.

Another speedy transition and I headed onto the run course. I was a little worried that riding so hard would mean that I couldn't run. I started slowly and tried to increase the pace the whole time. As one woman went by, she told me how great I looked on the bike, which totally made me smile. I think I started too slowly, but I am not a good runner and am really trying to work on that this year. I can push the pace in the swim and the bike no problem, but I don't have the confidence to do this on the run yet. I really wanted to run 35 minutes, as the last 3 sprint races I've done (2 last year, 1 this year), my run has been 37.xx. I was looking at my watch for the whole last mile realizing I was close, so I really dug deep and ended up running 35:14.

My total time of 1:31 put me in tenth place in the 40-44, but I'd also checked the "Athena" division where I placed 2nd! I packed up my stuff, got my award, and headed back on the road to Jason's race... where he won the men's 40-44 in a blazing 4:23 for the day. Definitely a weekend worth the craziness.

My 2nd place award.

Jason's trophy.

Hurricane Ridge

You know how sometimes you want to do something, but then when you're doing it, you wonder why you wanted to? Well, that was me today. I'd always wanted to do Hurricane Ridge - a climb in Port Angeles, WA - but timing had never worked out. This year it was going to happen, and I recruited Kris and Michelle to do it with me. Here's a preview to the story:

Elevation profile. Yeah, starts at sea level and ends over 5000 feet.

The day started just before 4am when my alarm clock went off. I don't like early mornings, but sometimes they're a necessary evil. I drove into Victoria to meet K&M at their place, then we rode downtown to the Coho ferry 6:10am sailing. The sun was just coming up as we were leaving the inner harbour, and we settled in for the 1.5 hour crossing to Port Angeles.

Leaving Victoria as the sun is coming up.

Our bikes on the ferry.

Arriving in Port Angeles. Often gloomy. I guess
that explains all the vampires?

As soon as you get off the ferry, you start going up. I guess that is stating the obvious since at sea level there really is only one way to go. Anyway. The climb officially started in my mind at the visitors center at the bottom, where the three of us removed things like jackets that we wouldn't need, and headed up at our own pace.

Kris was out of sight pretty quickly as I turned the pedals over and over. The first 8 km of this 28 km climb were tough; there really is no gradual warmup. Just before the toll plaza (where the annual Canada Day Climb officially starts from) it levels off a bit and I remembered what a real cadence felt like. A quick stop to pay my park entrance fee, no Kris in sight ahead and no Michelle in sight behind, so it was back in the saddle on my own, climbing climbing climbing with no breaks.

Mother Nature was kind to us by giving us a cool blanket of marine layer fog today. After the toll booth I entered the clouds, and it felt great to have the moist cool air keeping me company. The road went through a series of three tunnels, then up some more, and soon enough I was poking my head out of the clouds into the blue sky.

Into the clouds.

First tunnel.

Out of the clouds, still going up.

I just kept climbing. What else was I to do, really. Kilometers ticked by, and my small chainring was earning its keep. I didn't want to stop (well, actually I did want to stop). Once in the final few kms, the road kicked up again and I was pretty happy to have the 27 in the back. The last 5km were interminable; I felt like every time I rounded a corner I should see the visitors center at the summit, but all I saw was another corner. Then another corner. Then another.

Finally, the summit appeared and Kris met me at the top. Total climb from the base center was 2:48 (just under 2 hours from the toll booth where "official" times are usually taken). I was pretty happy to be getting off my bike to wait for Michelle, but first headed into the cafeteria for a snack. I emerged with a coke and some freshly-made in house chips which Kris and I made short work of. Sorry Michelle!

The summit at last.

Michelle arrived, but no time to celebrate as we needed to bomb back down to make the 12:45 ferry home, as we didn't want to wait around for the 5:15. Jackets back on, but the first half of the descent in the sunshine was nice and warm, with thermals blowing up from the valley below. Those interminable last few kms climbing up disappeared in about 5 minutes as we blasted down.

After the first few corners, I decided to take it pretty easy on the descent as I was tired and didn't want to make a mistake. Still spent most of the descent cruising around 50km/h. Soon enough we were headed back into the clouds, which hugged us with cold, wispy arms. Despite my jacket, my teeth were chattering through those few damp kms. Once we were below the clouds it wasn't bad as the air was warm again. We regrouped at the base (descent time - from summit visitors center to base visitors center 37 min), then rode through Port Angeles onto the ferry for the trip back to sunny Victoria.

Now time to rest up as I'm racing on Sunday!

Slurpees for Science

We are getting some hot weather, which isn't a big deal because as it's summer holidays I do most of my workouts in the morning. But Thursday is run group, and run group is at 5:30 p.m. As in the hottest part of the day.

Last week I really struggled for the first half of the run, although I know my body was trying to cool itself because I was super sweaty betty. Dripping. Absolutely soaked. Then I remembered an article going around last year about "ice slurry pre-cooling" (a PhD thesis by Rodney Seigel from Edith Cowan University in Australia) and thought I'd do a little experiment.

Here is the abstract from the study: (you can scroll down, I summarize it)

The rise in body core, skin and muscle temperatures associated with exercise

in hot environments (~30°C and above) is known to impair performance over a

variety of exercise modes and durations. Precooling has become a popular strategy to

combat this impairment, as evidence has shown it to be an effective method for

lowering pre-exercise core temperature, increasing heat storage capacity and

improving exercise performance in the heat. To date, the majority of precooling

manoeuvres are achieved via external means, such as cold water immersion and the

application of cooling garments; methods which have been criticised for their lack of

practicality for use in major sporting competitions. However, recent evidence has

shown that internal or endogenous cooling methods, such as drinking cold fluids, are

able to lower core temperature and enhance endurance performance in the heat. This

method may be more advantageous than current forms of precooling, as ingesting

cold fluids is easily implemented in the field and provides the additional benefit of

hydrating athletes. Based on the law of enthalphy of fusion, which states that a

significantly greater amount of heat absorption is required for water to change phase

from solid to liquid (melt), the ingestion of an ice slurry mixture may be a more

powerful means for lowering pre-exercise core temperature. Therefore, the primary

focus of this PhD thesis was to determine the effectiveness of ice slurry ingestion as

a precooling manoeuvre for improving submaximal exercise performance in the heat,

as well as investigate the potential mechanisms behind the improvements observed.

Study 1 of this thesis was aimed at determining whether ice slurry ingestion

was able to significantly lower pre-exercise core temperature and increase

submaximal run time to exhaustion in the heat compared with the ingestion of a cold

(4°C) fluid. The results showed that ice slurry ingestion significantly reduced rectal

temperature compared with cold water ingestion (0.66 ± 0.14°C vs. 0.25 ± 0.09°C; P

= 0.001), and remained lower for the first 30 min of exercise. Running time was

longer (P = 0.001) after ice slurry (50.2 ± 8.5 min) versus cold water (40.7 ± 7.2

min) ingestion. During exercise, mean skin temperature (P = 0.992), heart rate (P =

0.122) and sweat rate (P = 0.242) were all similar between conditions; however,

mean ratings of thermal sensation (P = 0.001) and perceived exertion (P = 0.022)

were lower following ice slurry ingestion. An unexpected finding from this study

was that at exhaustion, rectal temperature was higher (0.31 ± 0.11°C; P = 0.001)

with ice slurry versus cold water ingestion. It was speculated that this may have been

due to the influence of ice slurry ingestion on lowering brain temperature or in

altering thermoreception.

After showing that ice slurry ingestion was an effective precooling

manoeuvre for improving endurance performance in the heat, Study 2 was conducted

to compare this method with the current “gold standard” method of cold water

immersion. Despite rectal (P = 0.001) and skin temperatures (P = 0.009), as well as

heart rate (P = 0.018) and sweat rate (P = 0.019) being significantly lower following

cold water immersion, ratings of thermal sensation (P = 0.750) and perceived

exertion (P = 0.278) were not different, and run times to exhaustion were similar

between conditions (CWI: 56.8 ± 5.6 min vs. ICE: 52.7 ± 8.4 min; P = 0.355).

Additionally, the result of a higher rectal temperature at the point of exercise

termination following ice slurry ingestion (0.28°C) was replicated. These findings

indicate that ice slurry ingestion is a comparable form of precooling to cold water

immersion, and provided further evidence that ice slurry ingestion may enhance

performance via thermoreceptive/sensory mechanisms.

As a result of the findings showing that the ice slurry precooling method was

consistently associated with higher end point rectal temperatures in Studies 1 and 2,

Study 3 was performed to determine whether ingesting a small bolus of ice slurry

(1.25 g·kg-1) was able to increase maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVC)

torque under conditions of heat strain. The results showed that following exerciseinduced

hyperthermia, ice slurry ingestion significantly increased mean torque

production during a 2-min sustained MVC of the elbow flexors, compared with the

ingestion of 40°C fluid (30.75 ± 16.40 vs. 28.69 ± 14.88 Nm; P = 0.001). This was

despite run times to exhaustion (P = 0.530), end rectal (P = 0.934) and skin

temperatures (P = 0.922) as well as heart rate (P = 0.830) being similar between

trials. The mechanisms responsible for this improvement with ice slurry ingestion

may therefore be an adjustment in afferent feedback relayed from internal

thermoreceptors pertaining to the thermal state of the body, and/or

activation/suppression of brain regions associated with reward, pleasure, motivation

or fatigue.

The main findings from this PhD thesis were that ice slurry ingestion was an

effective, practical precooling manoeuvre for prolonging submaximal running time

in the heat, and comparable to the current “gold standard” cold water immersion

method. Furthermore, ice slurry ingestion was able to prolong running time in the

heat by increasing the rectal temperature tolerable before exercise termination.

Finally, ice slurry ingestion may enhance exercise performance in conditions of heat

strain via thermoreceptive/sensory mechanisms. Due to its’ practicality for use in the

field, ice slurry ingestion may be a more preferred form of precooling than

traditionally used strategies.

I made it small because it's really boring and wordy. It basically says that when it's hot, run performance increases when athletes can stay cool. Duh. They claim that ice water isn't cold enough to make a difference to core temperature, so they experimented with internal pre-cooling by having athletes consume an ice slurry before their workout. They found, through several methods - including rectal temperature measurements, which I have no intention of duplicating - that yep, runners stayed cooler and ran longer when they used this form of pre-cooling.

My experiment consisted simply of drinking a slurpee on my way to run group. I like slurpees, but don't drink a lot of them, so I was eager to take part in my informal study. I didn't read their whole thesis to see if there was a recommended dosage (i.e. mL to body weight ratio?), I simply bought a small coke slurpee and drank most of it. I didn't finish it because I was sick of it by the time I got about 3/4 of the way through.

The test subject.

Did I run better? I'm not sure... ah, science can be so inexact. I'd probably have to replicate this study many times, using more research subjects; I wonder if I can get a grant for that? I had an ok run, still super sweaty betty though. I did feel a bit nauseous at the start, probably because I had a stomach full of coke syrup. And I burped a few times. I did have a lot of kick at the end, maybe because of all the sugar? I don't have conclusive results; as I mentioned I skipped the before and after rectal temperature probe. Ha.

In the future, I think I'd rather have a glass of ice water before a hot run. Or maybe a snow cone, perhaps I should try this next week with a snow cone...

But It's Only August

It's only August, and I'm already thinking of events and travel I want to do next year... too soon?