Sunday, February 28, 2010

Some "cold" weather reviews

As promised, here are a few of my go-to items for cold weather bike commuting. Cold is relative, so make of it what you will.

SmartWool PhD Cycling Mini-Crew socks I used to be very anti-wool - dude, it itches! But then I discovered some incredibly soft and cushy wool socks at REI one winter - cute with flowers on them. They kept my feet warm! (My toes are always cold. They're cold right now actually, though cozy in UGGS boots, indoors...) So I picked up a pair of wool cycling socks once and loved them. They keep my toes mostly warm, but they're still thin like my other athletic socks, so they fit in my bike shoes and running shoes just fit. Now I have about 5 pairs and they are my go-to socks all winter. I brought them to Ironman Florida in case it was cold at all, but I didn't need them. In theory wool is good at regulating temperature, so my feet shouldn't get too hot in these. But I have on rare occasion felt like my feet were overheated when wearing these socks. Those occasions have been either while running more than 40 minutes or so (this morning I wore them and didn't have hot toes after 40 minutes, so that's why I picked that number. Very unscientific of me..) OR while riding home from work when it's over 90 degrees or so or on a reeeally long ride when it's just relatively warm out. These have been a great purchase for me and I love using them when it's cold. I've worn thick socks (wool and not) to cycle in, but cycling shoes just don't work with a wide variety of sock thicknesses. I used these today - it was in the mid to high 40s - my toes were cold, but not achingly numb. But I also only had a 30 minute ride.

Next up are my Pearl Izumi Therma Fleece Leg Warmers. I bought these at REI two years ago in the spring when I first started bike commuting. The sizes seem to vary only by length (as opposed to diameter). I went with large and they stretch from the very top of my leg to my ankle. (Usually I have a slight gap between the leg warmers and the mini-crew wool socks.) I pull them up as far as they go and I put the legs of my bike shorts over the leg warmers. (This is not a flattering look, but it works for me.) The top of the leg warmers have a rubber-like band to help prevent them from slipping down. I've never had a problem with slippage while riding. However, after walking around in them, or crouching down, I have to readjust them. (i.e. these do not let you turn running shorts into running pants) These leg warmers are super soft - they are fleece lined after all. They keep my legs warm in the early morning. There is a 6" (or so) zipper near the ankle. On warmer mornings I find myself unzipping it about a mile away from work, just to help cool off so I'm not quite so sweaty when I arrive. I did try PI's full fleece-lined bike tights but they made my butt too hot! On the other hand, on extremely cold mornings when I'm wearing regular shorts with fleece lined leg warmers, I have on occasion briefly wondered if I forgot to put my shorts on because my butt is freezing and it feels like it's fully exposed to the cold air. These leg warmers have been a great investment because I'm a layering person. I hate committing to pants when it might get hot, just like I can't stand layering long sleeve tops unless the bottom layer is sleeveless or short sleeved. It must come from growing up in Phoenix. I just know it's going to get hot eventually. I can honestly say if I hadn't purchased these, I would've skipped a lot more morning rides. I've been known to shove these into my saddle bag on daylong rides that end in the hot afternoon. They're a bit bulky for a jersey pocket, but they fit there too. In a pinch they might even fit on aerobars? For bike commuting, these are a dream because most afternoons bike shorts are just fine for the ride home and these leg warmers just go in my backpack. Price is about $45 - often on sale in the spring.

The Halo Anti-Freeze headband! My ears are pretty much always cold because they stick out like I'm Charlie Brown. The yellow stripe supposedly prevents sweat from dripping down your forehead into your face. I've never worn the headband when it was warm enough to make me sweat, so I can't vouch for that. The headband is pretty thin, but it keeps my ears pretty warm. Last year I realized it's also great at blocking the wind noise (when the wind is really loud I think it creates a bit of a psychological barrier to speed....) Because the headband is pretty thin, it's light weight which means it's easy to shove into your jersey pocket if the day heats up. It also means you can mostly get by without having to adjust your helmet. Very helpful for commuting since I don't usually need the headband in the afternoon. This headband is great for running too, and it's small enough that if you get hot and take it off, you can carry it and it's not annoying. For wearing this under a running cap, I do usually adjust the running cap to be more snug when I take the ear warmer off, but it's not necessary. I just have a fear of my hat blowing off and then having to backtrack! This is a one size fits all thing. It's got some elastic stretch. I've had this headband for four years - it was a spur of the moment purchase at a race expo. $15. Worth every penny and has held up well.

Bike Commuting and Coach Jamima

Last Friday I canceled my downtown parking pass. I like to indulge in driving to work when it is dark and cold and wet outside. In previous years that's meant roughly December-March. March has usually been an add-on just out of habit. It's easy to just keep driving to work when it might rain and it's kind of still cold... Inertia is really the issue. This year I got my parking pass in January and I abandoned it in February. It looks like tomorrow shouldn't be too awful to commute by bike. No rain at least! I may be driving the rest of the week though!

This is probably a good place to admit that I take advantage of a discount the city offers to people who normally use alternative transportation and I get to buy 12 one-day discounted parking passes each quarter. It's pretty awesome because it's more than half off the normal parking rate, and for the most part, I can bike to work (or run!) and avoid the hefty monthly downtown parking fees (close to $200!). It's a great deal and I encourage you to see if there's a similar program where you live!

Since tomorrow begins bike commute season for me, I thought I'd post a little bit about a few of my cold weather commute necessities this week. But first, I want to write about my all time favorite Ironman training necessity - my coach!

Jamima Wolk (formerly Iley) coached me to my amazing Ironman Florida finish last year. Lucky me - she married a friend of mine from law school! When Dave and I moved to town almost 2.5 years ago, Dan organized a happy hour so we could get together, and that's when we met Jamima for the first time. Dan had told me before that she was a former professional Ironman triathlete, so I was already in awe of her. She is the sweetest person in the world too though. We met just a few months after my first half ironman - St Croix, in which it took me 9.5 hours to get to the finish line. Jamima is such a nice person that she managed to make me feel like I was awesome anyways! Really she is the most supportive friendly person you could imagine. Fast forward a year and I'm sitting at their dinner table telling them how I'm going to sign up for Ironman Arizona. They let me drink out of the pint glass prize Jamima won at some triathlon in Arizona. Closer to greatness. :) We talked a little bit about how a coach might be helpful in my journey. She offered to give me any advice and help along the way. Shortly after that I ended up signing up for Ironman Florida instead. I'd looked into hiring a coach but decided it would be too expensive, after all I'd gotten through all of my other events without coaches, and Jamima had a new baby so I didn't really want to bother her. I figured once I had my training schedule worked out, I'd visit her and see what she thought of it. I got some more books on triathlon training to add to my library and I thought I had a big master plan for training in my head. I just needed to write it down. My weekend to-do lists constantly included "write training plan; bike; run; laundry; etc." I had some vaguely specific plans for the training, but it was hard to follow because it wasn't written down, which also meant if something came up, I'd just tell myself that I could accommodate it and change the next workouts since I hadn't really written anything down yet. Whenever I had time to write down a plan, I was basically paralyzed by indecision. I had too many ideas. There are lots and lots of different approaches to take, and I just couldn't decide what would work best, so I never did come up with my annual training plan, despite many attempts.

After quite a few months of irregular training, Jamima asked me if I had a coach yet. By then I thought maybe she could save me and I hired her before she could change her mind. I never had time to figure out my training plan because I was too busy training. I had just gotten myself through a half ironman (Vineman) and PRed it by over 2.5 hours, but what I really needed was for someone to just tell me what to do and when to do it. Jamima asked me tons of questions to figure out what my preferences were. I like to ride long on Sunday and do long runs on Saturday. I wanted to be able to incorporate my workouts into my commute whenever possible by biking or running to work. There were certain days or weeks that I knew I'd be super busy at work. Or I'd point out a weekend that would be my only chance to see my husband for two weeks. I only wanted to swim twice a week because the swim was the least of my concern, etc.

Jamima came up with this amazing month long calendar for my workouts that fit my life. It was Kendra's Workout Schedule. Not some generic thing that might work for an average person. It fit into my life perfectly and was exactly what I needed. Within a day or two of receiving the first workout calendar, I got dreadfully sick and she had to redo it all!!! I'm still a little amazed she didn't give up on me and send me back my money. I loved getting those emails at the end of a month, letting me know what I'd be doing all of the next month. Jamima basically planned my life for me. She made me into such a stronger athlete and helped me get ready for Ironman Florida like no book could have. I emailed her all the time during those last few months before Florida asking so many questions, and she always had an answer for me. I called her the night before so she could ease my nerves, and as soon as we got back to the condo after the race I called her to let her know how I did. Like a good coach, she'd been tracking me all day, so she already knew, but I wanted to give her details. I'd thought about her a lot during the race, whenever I used a mantra, since that'd been her suggestion. And one of her specific mantra suggestions had really been great. "I'm strong, I've trained for this, I'm ready!" And I was all of those things because of her. I really can't write enough about what a wonderful coach Jamima was for me. She was really invaluable.

I'm not sure if Jamima is taking any new clients right now (if you're interested, let me know and I can find out!), but Jamima has also developed an iPhone app (available for Android too!) for first time triathletes! You can read more about it on her website here. Jamima was the best investment I made for Ironman Florida. I'm a convert now. Having a coach - one who gets you for the athlete that you are - is really the way to go.

UPDATE: Jamima is currently accepting new clients.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Yeah, I hope not sporadically

Sorry about the sporadic blogging. So many things going on, and I haven't been feeling super well so have been opting for sleep rather than blogging most evenings. Even though it would be so easy to transfer our Party Pardee 100k registration to other people, it looks like we're going to try to tough out the ride on our own. We still have til April 3 to get ready. But last year I was doing 40+ mile rides in February on the weekends and riding on the trainer before work twice a week too. This year, well... not so much. The trainer is folded up and hidden behind an end table. I'm basically just riding on Saturdays. Last year hills weren't something I worried about because St Croix 70.3 hadn't been that long ago and any time I rode outside when we lived on St Thomas I was riding on hills. This year, well... until a week ago the last time I rode on a hill was probably at the Vineman Aquabike. Who needs hills when training for Ironman Florida?

This past Saturday Dave and I rode hills again. By hills I mean hills for someone who lives in Sacramento. We rode from the hatchery up to Beals Point and back, then did a few extra miles to get closer to 25 miles. When we first moved here from St Thomas, we rented bikes and rode up to Beals and we figured we must have misunderstood the directions since we'd heard it was a hilly ride. I can't really remember right now but I am not sure if there is more than a 7% grade on that part of the bike path. So, for someone who'd ridden the Beast a few months earlier, well, this was a flat ride. Now that we've lived in Sac for 2.5 years, that's the part of the bike path we ride when we need to do hills and don't want to have to plot out a ride in the foothills on roads with which we aren't familiar.

The ride was fine, not great, not awful. It stopped being fun for me after about 10 miles though. Worked up a sweat riding up and then cooled off really quickly and then rode downhill. I was not comfortable and not smiling. I felt like such a wimp. Last year during my tough weekend workouts, I'd tell myself "This is what I'm doing today." to remind myself I had nothing else to do and this was just part of the plan to get to Florida. It doesn't work quite as well now because I was remembering fondly the weekends we had in January when it just kept raining and raining and we just stayed inside in pajamas all day watching movies and drinking hot tea. Saturday around 11am when we were on our ride, I tried telling myself that I just needed to ride 25 and then I could sit on my butt all day. But wow that was so hard. Ended up getting up to 24.something. Put me in 2009 and I would've ridden back and forth until my bike computer hit 25.0. Not in 2010.

I'm not really looking forward to the physical challenge of Party Pardee yet. I'm not backing out because it's a pretty ride and my husband and I haven't done any organized rides together and it's a great excuse to do the route and not have to worry about cars as much. Being gluten free means I don't get to enjoy the wonderful buffets of delectables at these events, but I still get to appreciate the value of having hundreds (sometimes thousands) of other riders on the roads with me. My main hesitation in riding on the roads is safety. Automobile drivers just don't seem to see bicyclists. Some bike safety instructors teach cyclists to act like their invisible. I hate feeling that way, but the closest calls I've had with vehicles I was about as lit up and reflective as possible. So clearly I must have just been invisible. Point being, if I can't convince everyone to ditch their cars and ride a bike whenever possible, I can at least take advantage of having lots of other cyclists on the road to hopefully serve as a visible reminder to Share the Road. Critical mass baby.

So, April 3 is my big event. It's going to kick my butt and I may be miserable and wondering why I'm doing it. I just need to remember it's not a race, it's just for fun, and we can take all day because I can't eat the food at the finish either. But hopefully I won't be too slow for my husband to enjoy himself. He may need to bring the camera...

(Blog title quote is from Clueless, in case you were wondering...)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Back to normal!

After weeks and weeks of being lazy and lethargic after my Ironman, I'm back to exercising regularly. And it feels good! Last week I ran before work twice - just 30-35 minutes each time, but way better than just sleeping in. Saturday Dave and I joined the tri club for a group ride. In theory I was the leader of the shorter ride. In reality, I was lucky to see two people waiting for me at the top of the last hill. Three months off the bike and a 16 mile hilly ride was enough for me. The ride was partially rural (cows and horses!) and partially on busy streets. Actually I definitely could've ridden longer, even though my legs sure burned on some of those hills. But we planned to keep us this regular exercise routine for awhile so we saw no point in going out and riding the course a second time when it might poop us out.
Sunday morning we went to the Fleet Feet group run again. Dave ran 10 (longest run ever for him)!!! Sierra and I kept it to 5.5 miles with a stop at the doggie park near the end. (We didn't even try to keep up with Cameron, Jennifer, or Jennifer's husband this time.)  Monday was a beautiful day and even though I just wanted to sit at home and finish reading the last book in the Twilight saga, I knew I'd be kicking myself come Tuesday when I would be sitting in my office wishing I could go for a ride. So Dave and I went on a ride to explore the Sacramento Northern railway bike trail. We did a short loop, riding about an hour. The bike trail reminded me of one Lauren and I rode last March in the east bay. It's a paved bike path but every so often you have to cross roads - most of the crossings have crosswalks with lights. It's not nearly as cool as the American River trail, and I don't think I would ride it by myself. We saw some horses. We rode back along an empty levee road that was more enjoyable than the railway trail because it was so empty.
Yesterday I rode my bike to work because the weather was so gorgeous and it made it convenient to go to Cameron's birthday happy hour since Dave drove downtown for happy hour and we just threw my bike in the trunk for the drive home. The ride to work was wonderful! After happy hour, ended up going to PF Changs for dinner spur of the moment. Their gluten free menu once had me enamored but now every time I go in there one more item seems to be removed from the gluten free menu. Not sure what the deal is, but it's annoying to place an order and then have to change your mind because it's no longer gluten free.
This morning Sierra and I went for another short 30 minute run. Since time was short we did some intervals. Aside from my lungs burning from the cold air, I'm enjoying the habit of exercising before work again!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Collagephotos, Athlinks, and nostalgia

Just a quick note to point out two really awesome websites. - Helps you find workout videos/dvds. It shows clips of the dvd plus lets you sort by difficulty, length, type of workout, etc. Really if you are in the market for any kind of workout video, this is the website to visit! - Amazing collection of race results. Once you register, you can merge all your results (or they might already all be attributed to the same person if 1) you have a unique name and 2) all your races were in the same state) to view all on the same page. Now most of the races I did in the VI aren't on athlinks, but so far I've submitted a few races to them (Carnival Mile, 8 Tuff Miles, Beach to Beach Power Swim) and they've added those results quickly. I plan to submit all the other races that still have race results online, too. With all your race results on the same website, you can quickly see how each 5k compares, which one was your PR, what place you got, etc, and remember where you got all that bling! Here are my race results.

And here's some of my bling!

St. Croix 70.3 2007

Beach to Beach Power Swim (3.5 mile - 1st overall for Dave and 3rd? place AG for me;
and Dad placed in his AG in the 1 miler) 2007

Against the Tide swim (3/4 mile - 2nd place) 2006
(yes we came home and took photos from our deck and
you can see where we swam in the background. *sigh*)

hmm why yes, yes, I am missing the VI right now. It sure was nice to feel like a winner so often! And you can't complain about the weather. Except what it does to the hair...

Nielsam sweep for some 2 mile run

Mother's Against Gun run 2006

And in 2007 my mom did the 2 mile run and won her age group in her first race ever.

Bling for everyone! Oh, yes, I really do miss the VI.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Goals for 2010

A light bulb went on in my head this morning. I don't need to go long this year. That goal is a little daunting after training my butt off last year. Maybe I'll do some longer events or races, but I think I finally found a goal that will encourage me to exercise on a regular basis and it will be a fun one too.
My #1 goal is going to be to earn a new 5k PR. Specifically, I want to break 30 minutes. My current 5k PR is 31:51, earned on August 9, 2008, at the Susan B. Anthony 5k. Mostly thanks to my friend Jennifer running the first mile with me before she sped off into the distance.
According to (more on that site later), my 5k PR is actually 30:12, earned October 26, 2008, with my friend Bree pulling me along the whole way. But we decided that race was short. My Polar HRM gave it 3.0 miles, and the people around us with Garmins agreed.
Last year I didn't do any real 5ks or 10ks. Mostly because I didn't have time to fit them into my training. Kind of hard to go race a 5k when you have a 15 mile run on the calendar instead. The one "5k" I did last year was a little fund raiser race and it was clearly short too (my time was 25 minutes but my watch said it was just 2.95 miles). That was the event that made me start paying attention to whether or not events are USATF certified.
I haven't yet identified any 5k races that I definitely want to do. But I'm keeping my eyes open. There are two 5k races nearby this Sunday that I could do just to get a baseline for the year. I haven't been running much so I wouldn't have any expectations of a PR this early, but it'd be nice just to see where I'm at.
I have a few more goals in mind, but I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to them yet. Must discuss with the husband as it'd be nice to do the same events this year. Maybe the ride around Lake Tahoe? I have friends who want to ride their first century this year, so it'd be fun to join them too. I'm sure I'll do a sprint tri or two, or three. And the tri club is encouraging people to participate in an upcoming fun adults swim meet. I may have volunteered to swim fly in the 200 medley relay. What was I thinking?