Outdoor Pools of 2015

This is the time of year where everyone does "look back" posts on things from 2015.  I'm doing mine on one of my favourite things... you guessed it, outdoor pools.  I don't travel anywhere without scoping out google to see if there is an outdoor pool nearby.  Here's where I swam in the sun (other than open water) in 2015.  Missing: Santa Rosa CA (Finley Aquatic Center) - for some reason I didn't take a picture!

Kona HI: Kona Community Aquatic Center

Also in Kona, getting instruction from Karlyn

Carlsbad CA: Alga Norte

Nanaimo BC: Bowen Park
It's great to have an outdoor pool close to home,
but their length swimming hours suck.
Vancouver BC: Kitsilano Pool
Probably one of the nicest outdoor pools in the world,
not only is it right next to the ocean, overlooking English Bay
and downtown Vancouver, it's also 137.5 metres!

Portland OR: Pier Pool
Edmonds WA: Yost Pool

Chilliwack BC: Rotary Pool

Palm Springs CA: Palm Springs Swim Center

Here's looking forward to more outdoor swimming in 2016!

Sunday's Surprise

It's winter here in the PNW, which of course means rain.   Instead of a soggy road run in the rain I decided to load the dog into the car and head for the hills west of town.  Tiki loves running on the trails, and I appreciate the company while running!  As we got closer to our destination, the roads got slushy.  When we got to the trailhead, it looked like this:

Say what - snow?  Surprise!
And to think I was debating what to wear,
and almost didn't wear tights!

I contemplated turning around and heading back home, then figured I shouldn't be such a wimp.  Tiki had only seen snow a couple of times, and she had a blast!  We passed a few hikers surprised to see someone running in those conditions.  It wasn't my fastest run, but it was pretty fun.  May as well enjoy a curveball when Mother Nature throws you one.

Back home... a 20 minute drive can make a big difference!

Ironman Aftermath

Yes, it's been 2.5 months since IM Louisville... and I'm still dealing with the aftermath. Of course I'm not talking about muscle recovery, I'm talking toenails. Is it possible to get through an ironman with all my toenails coming out intact? I'm going to lose my big toenail.... I haven't taken the nail polish off because it's helping cover up just how black it is underneath. Probably another month or so and I'll lose the whole thing. And I know from past experience I won't even get 10% off my next pedi. Sigh.

HITS Palm Springs Race Report

I haven't posted in a while, or very regularly at all lately.  I actually considered shutting the ole' blog down... but then I thought even just the occasional post will be a great memory when I'm old and grey (and stop dyeing my hair).  I'm also surprised how many people read it (or maybe it's just one dude in a basement somewhere, continually hitting refresh - ok now I'm creeped out).  So, sporadic posts or not, I shall continue.

Anyway, I digress.  I just finished what was my last race of the season, which I signed up for after what was supposed to be my last race of the season.  After IM Louisville, I just didn't feel ready to shut down training & racing for a bit.  The google machine led me to find the HITS Palm Springs race, and with my parents in residence in that area for the winter, it seemed like an easy & convenient place to go - so I signed up for the half aquabike event (1.9km swim, 90km bike).

I left the rainy PNW for the sunny desert... which was actually really cold (colder than here) between the hours of 4pm and 11am - but there were about 5 good hours of warmth and sun each day while I was there.  The race wasn't really in Palm Springs, instead it was almost an hour's drive to Lake Cahuilla, which supposedly is in La Quinta but you actually have to drive around through Indio in kind of a semi-circle to get to the park.

Lake Cahuilla
Transition area - everyone gets a stool.

Friday my parents drove me to the check in, where I picked up my race package, dropped off my bike, and then my dad made me go to the pre-race meeting (I never usually go to those).  Come on, dad!  It actually turned out to be a good thing, as they'd changed the start time to 7 (from 7:30 as it said in the package), and changed the swim to one loop (from two loops as it said in the package).

Saturday my dad took me to the race, and it was so cold before the start I got into my wetsuit asap. I was glad to have him there as I could keep my socks and shoes on right up to when I had to get into the lake... and holy crap that lake was frigid!  The race info said to expect between 60-63 degrees F (so around 16 degrees C, cold but not too bad, really).  Race morning they announced it was 52 degrees F (11 degrees C) and it was FRIGGING FREEZING!  I couldn't put my hands or face in as I was treading water at the start, and I was actually having trouble breathing once I was swimming, it was so cold.  All I could think about was getting done as fast as I could, so I was working hard.  It was very difficult to sight as the first stretch was straight into the rising sun.  Plus, there were only 6 buoys for the entire 1900m loop, so basically once I got to a buoy I couldn't see the next one for awhile.  And thanks to the volunteer on the red paddle board, wearing all red, paddling away from the red buoy...

Sunrise at the park.

My swim time was 35:30 (2nd overall in the aquabike) which is the slowest swim I've had in a couple of years.  Boo.  I found out later that people were getting between 2200-2300m on their garmins, so the swim was long.  My hands and feet weren't working at all as they were blocks of ice.  Thankfully there were wetsuit strippers, as I was really struggling with my suit, trying to get it off with frozen hands.  It was also the weirdest feeling running through transition and not being able to feel my feet; I started walking as I literally couldn't feel my feet making contact with the ground so was afraid I'd faceplant right in front of everyone.  My transition was pretty slow, as I was fumbling with frozen hands & feet.  I decided against putting my aero top on because I didn't think I could get the zipper done up.

Heading out on the bike... frozen.
The bike course was pretty uneventful, two out-and-backs of flat, straight stretches and false flats.  It took me about 20 km to warm up, but then I was fine, and the air was getting warmer which helped as well.  The course wasn't crowded up where I was (humblebrag?), but there were packs and groups forming that I could see on my way back.  I didn't see any marshals, and the two aid stations I think had two people each at them.  I had a couple of bottles of my own, and some gels in my pocket, so I didn't need anything from them which was good.  I rode hard, I didn't quite hit my goal of 85% FTP (I averaged 78% so still have a long way to go), but rode a PR of 2:48 (2nd overall).

There were two transitions for people doing the tri, and the aquabike finished at T2.  Before I rode back to the park, I watched T2 for about 15 minutes.  What a gong show.  Incredibly poorly organized.  They didn't have enough volunteers or any bike racks at all, so when athletes came in if there was no one to take their bike, they had to just lay it in the ditch at the side of the road.  If no one brought their T2 bag, they had to paw through a pile of bags on the table.  And, despite at the race meeting being told trucks transporting bikes back to T1/finish would have bike racks, I saw bikes being piled on top of each other in trailers.  I was glad I chose the aquabike and didn't have to deal with that!

Aquabike overall winner and 2nd place (me).
Further, the results were all messed up (they had a woman in the aquabike riding 1:48 for the 90km, which would be a world record faster than Starky!) and they said they were going to hand out the awards as is, and fix results later including adding in penalties.  That didn't sit well with a lot of people, myself and the woman who won included (as the 1:48 rider was listed in 1st place).  So they fixed any that people pointed out, but not all.  Weird.  

So that's it for my race season for 2015.  Sunday morning I got to go for a swim in the sun (which if you know me, is pretty much my favourite thing to do!).  I don't race again until March, so I get some downtime before having to think about gearing up for another race season.  But stoked for it already - can't wait until I can show you what the Team Betty kits will look like for 2016!  

Sunday morning swim.

Sunday evening sunset from the airport.

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: https://bettydesigns.refersion.com/c/aae9d

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 www.riplaces.com 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)