Monday, February 17, 2014

2014 Race 2 - Tri the Oval 3

So the 3rd installment of the great winter triathlon Tri the Oval took place this past week. It is  race that was started when Halifax got a permanent outdoor long track speed skating oval and is a 5km skate, 5.5 km bike ride, and 4.2 km run (give or take on any of those distances).

This is a hard event to prepare for and the organizers always do a great job of dealing with crazy Halifax winter conditions. This years issue - rain and high winds and soaring temps over night, switched to a dump of big wet snow, followed by a temperature drop and high winds. Whew. Regardless, they managed for the 3rd year to get a race happening.

Due to the number of people and the relatively smallish size of the course (it is held totally on our local Commons which is a little over 1km in diameter) the organizers (MC and AD) like us to go off in 2 waves. This year I went in wave 2, oddly getting the nod as one of the faster skaters.

Huge kudos to the Halifax staff who worked really hard at getting the oval into skatable condition for us after the nights storm.

I actually practiced skating quite a bit this year. Lats year I had an issue with my calf which prevented me from skating, but this year that seemed to be gone. And while overall speed and grace is not my strong suit on skates, I could managed a decent overall bit of speed.

While waiting for the Wave 2 start, we were lucky enough to have a nice warm cup of coffee provided by our local favorite coffee roaster, Java Blend. I was bundled against the wind for sure at this point.

Finally the time arrived for the Wave 2 warm up. The oval was setup with an inner lane blocked from the racers. This allowed officials to be on the ice safely and for use to warm up without getting in other racers way. Wow, was the wind ever blowing. Gust were up to 80 km/hr at this point. That made on side of the oval very slow and one super fast.

We lined up when the first wave was completely done and as quick as possible we were off!

At first I kept up with many of the other skaters, but not wanting to die completely in the first few laps, I settled down a bit and allowed some people to pass me. There were a few super fast skaters on speed skates that were really flying. 2 of them passed me twice! Still I managed a strong showing, beating the 14 minute mark for my fastest skate yet in 3 years and getting off the ice with the 12th fastest skate of the day.

My goodness I look graceful and fast!

I got to the bench, quickly removed my skates and helmet and switched my biking helmet and trail shoes. Often referred at as the 4th discipline of triathlons, transitions can make or break a race. I managed the 4th fastest of the day. Nice. Then it was a quick run to the bike racks.

I quickly got on my Norco 26 inch BushPilot which I borrowed from the great guys at Sportwheels in Sackville. It was a really comfy bike and I quickly started making up some time on the faster skaters. I did have one mishap where I was coming in a bit fast to the final corner on the first lap, tried to break too hard and flipped the bike, losing the chain int he process (and a glove). But I got it all back together and kept going. What felt like a nasty wound only turned out to be a scrape, nothing bad.

Luckily that was the worst thing of the ride and most of it looked rather like this instead.

The course was 3/4 of the way on icy, snowy paved path and then 1/4 of the way on deep slush / mud. Overall a fast course that required a bit of bike handling to ride fast. It was 4 loops to make up 5.5 km and I managed the 3rd fastest ride of the day in 14:05. Not too bad considering my tumble cost me a few valuable seconds.

By now my quads were burning as I dismounted (cautiously due to the ice and my previous fall) and racked my bike. I headed for the run and quickly noticed the total lack of feeling in my feet. I assumed, though, that my feet were in fact still attached to me and ran off to start the first of my 3 (and a bit) laps.

The run was around the Commons and was probably 2/3rds on ice covered sidewalks and 1/3rd through crunchy snow covered hilly terrain. It was a good sight more fun to run on than last year which was mostly held in knee deep slush (ha ha). The crunchy "off road" trail running was the best part and was easy to run in, the sidewalk too some special attention.

I started to make up some time quickly on the run and passed a few people who were a bit faster than me on the skate. My legs were screaming, but I felt good. My overall pace wasn't too fast, but when I looked at the end results that was the story of the day for most. I ended up with the second fastest time for this 4.2 (ish) km course, running it in 20:03 for a 4:28 min/km pace. 

  The last minute switch to trail shoes was a very good idea

At the end I flew down the final stretch of sidewalk, carefully took the last turn and crossed the timing mat in 50:20.  And while I could try to compare it to previous years' times, each years course is different, so comparison aren't really useful. But I can compare my finishing place, which ended up being the best I have ever had on one of these events, 3rd overall.

Only a few of us were brave enough to stick around for the awards due to the on coming blizzard, but I was awarded a very nice hand made "cassette sprocket" bronze medal for my placing (very Olympic-y). Oh and a rather nice box of chocolates as well, mmmmm.

Thankfully we had some more coffee and yummy cookies waiting for us after the race. Those were so good.

And a huge shout out to the volunteers cheering us on in the "fun" weather, to Tim for the great photos, to Tri NS officials and Speed Skate NS  and the race directors Marie Claude and Andrew. All around great effort to pull this off. 

Now it is time to clean up the bike, ugh.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Cycling Commuter's Dream - Power in Motion Heated Gloves

So this is actually a slight redo of my earlier blog post on this topic, if it feel like you have read this already.

About a year ago I blogged about buying some heated gloves to get me through the worst of winter cycling in Canada. Temperatures below -10C meant my hands were practically frozen by the time I got to work and I just couldn't find a decent glove to help me with the ride.

Well I found the Power in Motion Heated Gloves and decided they were worth the try. My reasons for the purchase and my initial reactions to the gloves are documented in an earlier blog spot here. Needless to say I was really impressed.

So a year later and it is the middle of winter and how are the gloves? Well in a word, awesome.

In case you didn't want to read my old post, these are glove liners with a filament that runs along each finger and over the knuckles. So this means warm fingers, not palms, and it means I get to work after a 50 min to 1 hour cycle commute with fingers that work.

The gloves have 3 temperature settings, which are controlled on each glove by an easily accessed button, to suit your needs. Personally I tend to like warm fingers and with the winds we get in Nova Scotia, I need the extra warmth. And being liners, they are thin enough that you can wear whatever top glove you want on them. I have a moderate weight windproof cycling glove, which I find allows me decent dexterity but holds the warmth in well. And for extra cold days, I can slip on a heavy pair of mittens to keep even more heat in.

When you order a pair opt for a tight fit as this helps transfer the heat best to your hands.

The long cuff is an essential part of the glove. First it keeps that cold away from your wrists, second it holds the electronics and switch and third, it has the option of holding the battery.

With these gloves you have the option of buying 2 batteries so that each glove is independent and has a run time of 3 hours, or you can use a wiring harness that means you can get away with only buying one battery. The original wiring harness I bought a year ago was fine, but sometimes was tedious putting on. I recently got a hold of the newest version of that harness which is quaintly called the Stickman and I must say it is significantly better.

I was nervous at first as the Stickman loops around your neck and holds everything in place, but it is really well designed and was not an issue at all in 2 weeks of riding. No wires protrude from your coat, nothing seems to snag when putting it on, and it allows for future adaptations, as Ken, the owner told me in an email that they hope to add to their heated wear collection.

What looks like a lot of wires, is really nicely designed and simple to use. The battery happens to be in my back pocket, but Easily tucks into a cycling jersey pocket or could be used in a front pocket as well. The wires down each arm or more than long enough that they do not pull, but aren't so long they are a problem. And the neck loop is incredibly loose fitting without any weight pulling on you.

This harness takes away the added battery weight from your wrist. Personally I found the wireless system to be quite comfy, but will likely switch over the the wired system for daily riding. I'll save the batteries in the wrists for other things, like skiing, mountain bike rides, skating and even running, all of which I have done with these gloves quite easily.

So, one year down the road and how are these gloves holding up? They are practically like brand new. As they are liners first and foremost, they are well protected by your over gloves. They can be hand washed, so they don't get too dirty either. My batteries still hold a full charge, which is usually enough for me to get to and from work with warm fingers (1.5 hours for 1 battery, 3 hours with 2 batteries on maximum setting).

The charging system is really just a plug and wire, so it is simple to throw in your pack and recharge at work if you need.

Power in Motion has a great video on the link I posted above showing their gloves and filled with the technical talk which some people want to see.

In short if you like being active in the winter these are a great way to keep warm and extend your outdoor time, even on super cold days. No hiding from the Polar Vortex!

Originally I contacted Ken at Power in Motion to see about buying some gloves, as they had no one on the East Coast. He put me in contact with John at Bay Cycle and Sports in Pickering John was really great to deal with and shipped my gloves quickly.

Hopefully I gave you all the info you need but if not leave a comment. They are tough, durable and warm. Well worth the price. And Canadian designed from a company that knows about winter and electronics!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Last Night My Run Training Was A Failure...Or Was It?

So it was Monday night and it was time for my threshold run. The purpose of this run is to help elevate the barrier between the aerobic engine and the anaerobic engine. The higher the aerobic capacity you have, the faster you can run for longer. Seems simple enough.

It is for training sessions like this where it is very useful to know what you aerobic limits are. As I have mentioned before, this is where I have had my lactate threshold (that barrier we mentioned) tested by Jeff Zahavich at Kinesic Sport Lab in Halifax. There are less precise ways to calculate this barrier, but I figure, why bother having all these technological gadgets on our wrists and do all this training and not be as precise as possible. So armed with a small range of heart rate numbers we call Zone 4, I headed out for this weeks threshold run.

I started my doing my threshold runs 3 weeks ago (start of phase 2 of my training program) with a 15 minute run at pace. Then I increased that by 5 minutes for the next 2 weeks hitting 25 minutes in Zone 4 last week. This week was going to be a 30 minute run in the zone, but I finally hit a wall.

I ran through the 10 minute Zone 1/2 warm up gradually increasing my speed and heart rate and at 10 minutes picked it up. I started running pretty fast, my lungs adjusted and things felt okay. But then 10 minutes in my legs said, no more. It wasn't pain, it was just a lack of ability to run fast. I had been running at a pace around the 3:50 min / km mark. That seemed awfully fast to me, but the heart and lungs were quite happy. It was just the legs that said no.

At first I was rather sad as this was the first failure in my training plan. But then I realized, I am 10 weeks into my plan and this was the first real failure (other than being sick for 2 days). Now the question was, where was the failure?

I spent the rest of the scheduled 45 min run dropping back to a Zone 1/2  recovery run, eventually covering 10.5 km. And during that run I had plenty of thinking time.

During that time it all became rather simple to see the failure of my ways. Simply put, too much. I really should have been able to run a 30 minute threshold run at this point. But not 2 days after an 18 km easy run, because even though it is called an easy run, it is 18 km. Also last week I began experimenting with an increase in my running cadence, which while fine on shorter runs, obviously requires a slightly higher energy output until adaptation occurs.

So yeah too much and not enough rest. But why that title for this blog post? Because this one run could have become a huge set back if I didn't use my brain and adapt. I could have pushed harder and tried to get the 30 minutes in or even 25 minutes, but I didn't. I held back, dropped to an easy pace and made this a recovery run. I then used that time to analyse why things went wrong, and it is through these small failures that we figure things out.

So next week? Well, the increase in my long run distance will be slightly less, and I will make sure to rest better before I attempt hitting 30 minutes in a threshold run again.

On the plus side my athlete kicked butt and finished her run and is flying heartily through her training program.