It’s Not About A Medal: USATF New England Open Championship Race Report

November 10, 2016

Man, just the title of this report makes it sounds kind of bad ass, doesn’t it? THE NEW ENGLAND CHAMPIONSHIP! Feels like the sort of thing you should qualify for, right? Well, thankfully, all you have to do is be a USATF member and pay the entry fee. The harder part of getting into this race was actually making myself sign up to race. I’d been meaning for a couple years to run a cross country race as part of my quest to challenge myself with new athletic experiences. Now, XC, as we like to say, has always been near and dear to my heart, but I haven’t run a cross race since 1999, which puts it outside of my “adult runner life.”

There were two factors keeping me from just leaping in feet first into this race at historic Franklin Park, which happens to be my new neighborhood. First, the race was 10K, quite the jump up from my memories of 5K races in high school. Second, there was a very real possibility that I’d come in last place. In 2015, last place was somewhere around 44:05, slower than my new PR, but not out of the realm of possibility given that it isn’t a road race. I wasn’t so much concerned about finishing in last as I was about the course shutting down, etc., which fears were likely unfounded, but there you go. I turned to my fellow Heartbreakers for advice, with every last one of them strongly encouraging me to just do it and have fun. Without singling any out, there were a few that were particularly encouraging and motivating, so I say thank you to them.

Part of the appeal of the race was that there would be a cheering section of non-running Heartbreakers at the race. Coach Dan arranged for a bus to take us from SEAC to Franklin Park, which I decided to take, rather than simply drive the 2 miles there, to fully maximize the high school nostalgia. It did not disappoint.

14956657_10104391448374060_6550171335910167082_n

After a bumpy trip down memory lane, we arrived at Franklin Park, which was decked out in its finest autumnal livery, and endeavored to find all the fast, young people who were smarter than us and came in actual cars.

14900354_10104391448254300_5798252104962141459_n

Things started to feel real when I saw this sign.

14915270_10104391448199410_8671056277032020377_n

Two of the Heartbreaker women who were in a similar boat as I was, at least in the sense that they were running the race but did not expect to be scoring, and I broke off to find the rest of the racers, who had encamped at a corner of the park.

img_3173

We met up with Captain Louis, who had our bibs, and tried to keep each other from being too nervous about the upcoming endeavor. I’ll admit, it felt pretty cool pinning this bib on.

img_3179

After getting situated, I met up with the cheer squad to watch the start of the women’s race, which was crazy deep and featured some really top-notch runners for the 6K course.

14980840_10104391447914980_316098783360767202_n

After cheering a few loops of the course, I figured I should do a little warm-up thingy. So, as is customary, I jogged for roughly 3 minutes before joining the boys for some drills, which mostly meant me doing carioca, skipping and high knees in some haphazard fashion. I lied, “haphazard” is  way too generous a description of the level of planning I put into that warm-up. With a couple minutes to go before the race was set to go off, Captain  Lou called the team together for a last second pep talk, the details of which shall remain in the circle, but suffice to say it was motivating.

img_3332

Photo Credit: Some Heartbreaker (Maybe Coach Dan?)

And so, pepped up, I took my spot on the line. Unlike a traditional road race, which would have a relatively narrow starting area, with everyone lined up rows deep, a cross country race like this has boxes for each team spread across a long line, which leads to a mad dash start, particularly in a race like this where the the course narrows fairly early on. I knew the field was going to be very fast, so I set myself at the back of our corral and did my best to start the race at my own pace, not trying to maintain contact, even early on.

img_9403

Here you can see just how spread the field is.

img_9412

I knew from Coach  Lou that the first mile of the race would be quick, so I tried to stay within myself, get a feel for the terrain, and find a pace I could settle into. The opening mile was fairly flat, with a few small bumps, and a mix of grass and dirt trail. I had some visual contact with the field, which wouldn’t last long, but didn’t make any effort to latch on to to the guys at the back of the pack. I was surprised to see a 6:26 pace for the first split, and knew I wouldn’t be hanging on to that.

The race basically consisted of a set of loops in different orders.

xc-course-map

After mile 1, the race ventured into the zoo, and the infamous Bear Cage Hill. Bear Cage Hill, at least according to the Strava Segment, is 0.3 miles, with 52 ft. of elevation.

elevation

Bear Cage Hill is the bump at miles 1.5 and 4.5.

It certainly wouldn’t be a particularly onerous hill in a road race, but it sure felt difficult in this one. It’s made harder by the fact that it is looser terrain than most of the rest of the course, with some uneven, rutted out, footing.

bzit4894

Headed towards Bear Cage Hill. Photo Credit: Josh Campbell Photography

So, there was the “basic loop” done for the first mile, the Bear Cage loop, and then The Wilderness loop. As the name implies, The Wilderness was the most “trail-ish” portion of the race, but also probably the fastest. At this point, I basically had the course to myself, at least in the sense that I couldn’t see any racers, so I did my best to just maintain my pace solo. Thankfully, running on your own means you have a chance to get shots like this.

wmle5901

Photo Credit: Josh Campbell

Really the only negative aspect of this race came after I exited The Wilderness the first time. As I ran up the path, there was a fork in the trail, with no one from the race telling me where to go. I saw a group of women cooling down from their race as I came up to it and asked “which way do I go ?!” to which they thankfully all said “LEFT!” I really didn’t have to break stride and got myself going in the right direction. At this point, the lead bike came rolling past me, so I moved myself to the left side of the path, letting the rest of the field fly by and cheering on the Heartbreakers with what little breath I had left.

img_3330

Headed into The Wilderness…I think?

The second half of the race included another trip up Bear Cage Hill, which I felt like I was walking up the second time around, and more Wilderness time. Each mile split got slower and slower from mile 1, 7:02, 7:06, 7:09, 7:10, until I hit mile 5 going into the final Wilderness loop. At this point I knew the terrain well, knew there were no hills left, and it was time to give whatever else it was I had to give until the finish.

I rounded the final corner and encountered a fairly non-stop cheering section of Heartbreaker teammates cheering me on towards the finish line, giving me the boost I needed to dig deep and produce whatever semblance of a kick I had left.

tmln3127

Photo Credit: JCP

It hurt.

witn0147

Photo Credit: JCP

With cowbells clanging, and Heartbreakers cheering, I crossed the line, utterly exhausted, in 43:10, my second fastest 10K ever. Immediately after the race, our team photographer for the day, Josh Campbell, did a quick portrait session, as he did with everyone else, to capture the spirit of cross country racing.

hvyu8326

I think this shot perfectly captures the pride I felt in my performance at this race, and the pride I felt in simply deciding to toe the line in the first place. There were so many  positives to take from this race, so many amazing experiences. I have to share the note Coach Dan included in the weekly Heartbreakers email to really convey just why I feel the pride I do wearing the❤ on my chest and repping this club and HHRC in general:

“First, let’s review the USATF-NE XC Championships. There were many noteworthy things about it but many of those were by design and expected. We’ll get to those too. But, first, the unexpected – our whole cheer squad happened to have gathered near the finish when Michael Robertson made the final turn into the home stretch. Michael was in 110th place of 112 runners and our squad cheered their guts out. I could see that Michael was touched and the squad was so proud. It’s not easy to put yourself out there. I, for one, had no idea the race would be that fast at the back (Michael is not slow). Running is always relative: to ourselves, to the field, to our expectations, to our youth. You can ask Matt S and Emily about that. Both are BQ runners in the well over 20 min category and both found themselves in the back 1/3 of this one. It was a shock. That is championship cross country though. It’s fast. It’s rugged. There are few fans. There are no medals. There are teams. There are personal victories. There is great pride.”

To make a long story short, couldn’t have said it any better myself.

img_3253

Wave Rider 20 Review

November 1, 2016

Fact: Getting new shoes is always fun. Double Fact: Getting new is especially fun when they come in shiny boxes.

img_2737

It even came with a note!

img_2739

The shoes inside the shiny box did not disappoint in terms of commensurate shininess.

img_2740

All about the platinum.

 

IMG_2742.JPG

And the outsole.

Some basic facts about the Rider, according to Running Warehouse at least, the heel stack height is 30 mm, and the forefront is 18 mm, resulting in a 12 mm drop. RW lists the weight at 10.4 oz., but Mizuno’s own site says 9.6 oz. soooooo, who knows. But you get the general idea. This is a traditional, neutral running shoe.

Like most Mizunos I’ve run in, the Rider 20 offers a firm, responsive ride well-suited to both tempo runs and longer training runs. I haven’t yet tried them for pure speed work, as I prefer a more low-slung, lighter shoe, for that purpose, but I do think that they would be firm enough for the track. The uppers of the Rider feel like they will be great in warm weather, but I do have my concerns about the airy mesh as the temperature dips. But, hey, nothing a thicker pair of socks can’t fix.

If you’ve never run in Mizunos before, you’re probably wondering where the cushioning comes from. While other brands, rely on air, blown foam, or gel, Mizuno uses a Wave plate, which you can see as the wavy black thing in the heel. The Rider uses Mizuno’s Parallel Wave, which is for their neutral shoes. The Wave works by dispersing force through the plate, rather than absorbing it vertically like other cushioning systems.

So far my only concern to report is a hot spot on my forefoot about 8 miles into an uptempo treadmill run. I’ll report back on whether that continues as well as durability of the outsole and upper as I put in more miles. Until then, I’m happy to have another shoe in the rotation!

 

Knuckle Lights Review

October 26, 2016

Let’s face it, seeing in the dark is hard. At this point in my life, I’m man enough to admit that, absent some sort of aid, I’m not really good at seeing things that are not illuminated. As we creep towards November, the availability of natural illumination, i.e. sunlight, on my preferred running paths has disappeared earlier and earlier, which makes it that much harder to run comfortably without fear of tripping. This is especially problematic on some sections of the path on the Charles River that are both dark and rooty, which roots are difficult to distinguish in the dark, leading to many a misplaced footfall. Enter, Knuckle Lights.

I previously reviewed the original Knuckle Lights way back in 2013 and, now, thanks to the gracious folks at Knuckle Lights, I can tell you all about their brand new version, which maintain the basic concept of lights on your hands while adding in new features, notably among them rechargability (please note, “rechargability” is not actually a word, but it should be). Here, you can see the dock used to recharge your lights.

img_2786

As the name implies, Knuckle Lights go on your knuckles, as opposed to a headlamp, which goes on your head.

img_2394

The lights are held on by an adjustable rubber strap, which I found a bit difficult to adjust at first, but had no problems with once I got it locked in.

img_2397

The lights have 3 settings, which you can rotate through using the rubberized buttons at the top, high, low and blinking. For my purposes, the low has sufficed, even on darker sections of paths, but I suspect that there is still some ambient light helping out there, which wouldn’t exist on, say, a forest trail at night. According to Knuckle Lights, the high power produces 140 lumens per light, for 280 total for the pair.

img_2400

And this is on low!

Here’s a demonstration of the lights on a dark section of the Jamaica Pond path on the low setting.

As you can see, these are not weak lights. During my test run, I found that I could run at full speed without ever having to worry about my footfall, which is really all that you can ask for out of a light. What I love about Knuckle Lights is the ability to shine the light where you need it while keeping your head in a natural position. This makes it easier to scope out the whole path while having the additional advantage over a headlamp of not blinding a running mate every time you look over to chat. While running, the lights stayed comfortably secure on my hands without having to pay attention to gripping them. I would guess that they might become a bit sweaty during hot weather running, but I also don’t foresee running at times that I would actually need them in hot weather.

One neat extra feature of the new version of Knuckle Lights? They have magnets that keep the pair together as a set, making it that much harder for people like me to misplace one.

img_2785

Also, according to Knuckle Lights, they are IPX-6 waterproof. Other specs include battery life of 4 hours on high, 8 on low, 14 on blinking, and each light weighs 3 ounces.

So, if you’re looking to stay safe on the roads and paths as the sun sets every more depressingly early, I would suggest you get yourself a pair of Knuckle Lights.

Disclaimer: For the avoidance of doubt, I was sent these lights by Knuckle Lights to review. However, as always, all opinions expressed are mine, and mine alone.

Gay Head 10K Race Report: An Unexpected PR!

October 3, 2016

It’s always fun to do a race on Martha’s Vineyard given their low key vibe and generally beautiful views on the course, but the 2016 Gay Head 10K promised to be extra-fun because it was the first attempt at a destination race by The Heartbreakers Running Club. We headed two with a full car with R, two Heartbreakers, a fiance, and a dog on Saturday morning. It was tight, but cozy, and Lucy apparently made new friends along the way.

img_2010

Of course, Hem and I took an obligatory selfie during the slightly rough crossing.

img_2009

We even did some goofing around in Oak Bluffs.

img_2011

Saturday night we invaded The Black Dog Tavern with almost the entire crew, which I’m sure they did not expect for an off-season Saturday night, but hopefully, despite our large presence overtaking the dining room floor, we helped make it a better-than-expected night. It was nice getting to chat with teammates in a non-run setting and to introduce R to the team. I also got to meet THE Om Gal!

IMG_1971.JPG

Race Day kit.

Headed into the actual race I knew that my recent track workouts were suggesting that I had carried some fitness from IMMT through into the fall season and that I might be in better running shape than I let myself believe. Still, I hadn’t done a run longer than 6 miles since that race, not including cumulative mileage for a track workout, and I really wasn’t sure what the result would be for a 10K on a challenging course. In 2014, the last time I did this race, I ran 46:09, with a 44:04 at the 2014 BAA 10K (my previous PR), and 44:59 at the 2015 BAA 10K following thereafter as my only 10K attempts. I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be closer to 44 or 46, or beyond if my endurance gave out. I gave myself about 6 minutes of warm-up before getting to the start, which was packed with Heartbreakers.

img_1972

“Oh, I love your hearts!” – The volunteer exclaimed.

The race started with a laugh as the started got us going with “Runners on your marks, get set! 10, 9, [racers laugh], 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!”

start

Source: Vineyard Gazette

Knowing my tendency to start races far too quickly, and the fact that we’d be hitting hills early in the race, I did my best to start conservatively and not redline immediately. A pack of about 4 teammates set off more or less around each other, everyone seeming to feel out the course before putting the pedal down. As you can see below, the race definitely calls for pacing, with fairly unrelenting hills throughout. Of course, looking at the elevation now, miles 3.5-5.5 don’t seem so bad.

gay-head-10k-elevation

My goal for the first 3 miles, which I knew had the bulk of the hills, was to try to run a pace that I could maintain on the uphills while giving a little more on the downhills. I didn’t want to either push uphill and over-exert or take it extra easy on them to try to save energy, I just wanted steady running. As it turns out, I ran 6:37, 6:40, 6:38 for those 3 miles.

Making the only turn on the course at Moshup Trail, I saw that I was gaining on a teammate, which helped me focus on maintaining my pace and not letting up, despite some unexpected inclines along the way. As I passed him, we exchanged a few words of encouragement, but sadly his ankle was hurting too much to stick with me and I forged ahead, trying to track down the next Heartbreaker.

Gay Head 10K Map.jpg

Miles 4-5.5 were reasonably enjoyable, trying to stay steady while using the oceanscape immediately to the left of me as a distraction when needed. I did my best to try to catch the eventual female winner, and a Heartbreaker, but she had legs on the last hill that I could not muster. The race really gets tough right about mile 5.5 when the course begins its final climb up to the Gay Head lighthouse, with gradients in between 3-5.8% at times. I did my best to push as hard as I could, but I could really feel myself dying and got passed by a couple high school kids along the way. Where miles 4 and 5 were 6:37 and 6:52, mile 6 was 7:22. But after the final climb, you hit a brief, steep downhill to the finish for maybe 0.1 miles to the finish.

gay-head-10k-splits

Final Time: 42:19, which made for a 1:45 PR and my first time averaging under 7 minute pace on the road for anything over 5K. I’m not even sure I’ve run this fast on a flat treadmill, come to think of it. In any event, I was really happy with the result, and it’s made me start to wonder just what I’d really be capable of right now in running, especially at the 5K distance.

img_1982

PR happiness.

Maybe it’s time to take another crack at breaking 20 sometime soon? Until then, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, maybe fewer doughnuts mixed in, but continuing the track workouts that seem to be paying such great dividends!

team

Source: Vineyard Gazette

 

Salomon Trail 20 Review

September 29, 2016

It’s been a long while since I’ve done a review of any sorts, and that’s probably some combination of laziness and wanting to do in-depth reviews with lots of pretty pictures and whatnot. But I figure there may be some useful value to just sharing thoughts on products I use on a regular basis, not worrying too much about getting into nitty gritty tech specs, but just with the hopes of making your next purchase a little bit more informed.

Since moving from the suburbs to roughly 5 miles bikeable distance to Boston, I’ve been biking to work almost daily on my GT Grade. In fact, as of the time I started drafting this post, I think I took the subway 3 times into work as opposed to riding. It’s been a really wonderful change to my daily commute, certainly coming from upwards of 75 minutes by car from our suburban home, and I look forward to it on a daily basis.

Of course, one challenge when bike commuting is how to transport your clothes needed for work. Luckily, I work in an office with a pretty casual dress code, i.e. no dress code, when we don’t have clients, so my daily officewear is jeans, a button down, and sneakers. Since I started riding into work, I’ve left a pair of sneakers in the office, cutting down on the things I need to transport. I also am able to leave my U-Lock and cable locked to the bike rack in our office building. For the rest of what I need, I use the Salomon Trail 20 backpack.

l37998100

In this bag, I can comfortably fit a pair of jeans, shirt, and foundation garments (socks too!). Although I generally don’t take my lock with me, I can also fit the U-lock and cable when needed. I would not say it’s appropriate for a suit, but it’s fine otherwise. I think it’d also be tight if you bring shoes with you on a daily basis, but, again, not a concern of mine. For what it’s worth, Salomon states the pack’s volume is 20 l. and 1220 ci.

To keep the pack secure as you bomb through urban streets, the pack has both a chest and waist strap, both of which I find keep the pack exactly where I want it to be. I don’t experience any kind of slipping around, whether when “sprinting” or climbing. The waist strap has two pockets, a zipped one on the left, and a mesh open pocket on the right side. The zip pocket comfortably fits my wallet and keys. Each side of the pack also has deep mesh pockets, which I often use to hold my phone in case I need to access it quickly for, you know, directions. Definitely not for selfies. I never take selfies when riding.

14317532_10104236913393400_6516787172945783716_n

OK, this ONE time I stopped and took a selfie, but that was purely to illustrate the backpack for this post. Except that I took it a couple weeks before starting this post. And before I decided to write this post. Also, I take a lot of selfies while riding.

So, there you have it, if you’re looking for a streamlined pack for bike commuting, I’d recommend checking out the Salomon Trail 20!

I am an Ironman: Ironman Mt. Tremblant Recap

September 22, 2016

I think, deep down, I always knew that some day I’d want to do an Ironman. Even after swearing off marathons, I couldn’t help but have this itch in the back of my mind that I could not scratch, even with a half Ironman and other races. Unable to shake the feeling that I needed to take my shot at this pinnacle of race distances, I signed up for Ironman Mt. Tremblant. I picked IMMT in large part because of my lifelong obsession with Canada, particularly the French-speaking part and because I had heard nothing but wonderful things about every aspect of the race, including the beautiful venue where it is hosted.

Training for IMMT is really it’s own separate big post, so I’m going to stick to the race weekend itself. The way Ironman races are typically set up (I think), you pick up all your materials on Friday, rack your bike and drop off your race bags on Saturday, and race Sunday. We drove up from Boston on Thursday night to Burlington, VT to break up the drive, then up to MT on Friday morning. On the way, we stopped at a grocery store on Rt. 117 that was at least a quarter filled with Ironman racers (notable for their IM paraphernalia, visors, and compression socks. We picked up what I’d need for dinner Saturday night and breakfast Sunday morning before headed to MT itself.

Pre-Race

Mont Tremblant is a ski resort that also does summer activities like a roller luge and apparently lots of hiking. The village is a collection of shops and restaurants all done up to look like a classic European ski village. It even has not one, but two gondolas you can take for some spectacular views!

IMG_0507.JPG

Of course, while waiting in line for registration, I took the chance to take a selfie in the village with my Heartbreak Hill Running Company t-shirt.

IMG_0428

Registration itself was a well-oiled machine as the very friendly volunteers, which would be a theme for the weekend, shuttled you from station to station, one of which was a weighing station where they took your pre-race weight (more on that later) before finally getting to the part where you got your much-vaunted Ironman backpack containing your race bags.

IMG_0568

The one major hiccup I had during registration was entirely self-inflicted, and entirely in my own brain. As we walked through the village, it was impossible not to notice the many athletes wearing their previous Ironman gear, looking tremendously fit, and wheeling around their superbikes with carbon race wheels. In a moment of panic, I felt extremely overwhelmed, underprepared, and intimidated, more so than I ever have for any other race. But, I shared my feelings with Rebecca, she said all the right things, and the moment passed.

Taking a friend’s advice, after finishing up with registration and checking into our condo (Les Manoirs, which I’d highly recommend), I headed down to Lac Tremblant to get in a pre-race swim and see what the water conditions were like. Getting into the water and taking an easy swim helped me relax and feel a little bit more in the groove leading up to the race. The water was a pretty perfect temperature for a full-sleeve wetsuit and was fairly clear, though you couldn’t see the bottom once you were away from shore, which was just fine by me.

img_0434

I had some intentions of doing a course pre-ride on Saturday, but wound up spending the better part of the morning and early afternoon getting my race bags ready, which included making a batch of Skratch Labs rice cakes, before taking my bike down to transition. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, Ironman races differ from a normal triathlon in that you aren’t allowed to have anything with your bike in transition, including your helmet, so you pack up one bag with everything you need for your bike leg, one with the same for the run, and two bags with anything you will want halfway through the bike and run i.e. your “special needs bags.” It’s kind of a pain to get all the bags to check-in, but it’s also helpful to know that you are packing everything in one place and know it’s all accounted for. Of course, this also led to pre-race mistake #1, packing my tri shorts in my bike because, you know, it was what I was going to wear on the bike. Thankfully, I had my jammerz that I wore for my pre-race swim, which would do the trick for the swim leg in a pinch.

img_0451

Don’t put the shorts in the bag! Put the helmet in the bag!

Pre-race dinner Saturday night was my go-to meal of couscous, cherry tomatoes, and chicken sausage. In bed around 9:45 p.m. after watching some Olympic track.

Race Day

4 a.m. should never exist, but it does on Ironman race day. I dragged myself out of bed, started the coffeemaker, and made myself a toasted bagel with toasted everything bagel with peanut butter and honey. Not much later, Rebecca also got up so she could come down with me to transition and grab my bike pump from me when I was done topping off my tires. I’d been warned not to rely on someone else having a pump to borrow, which turned out to be excellent advice as my pump wound up being the one passed around. Of course, I couldn’t go without pre-race mistake #2, not realizing my helmet should have gone in my bike bag. This meant that I was one few morons wandering around transition with my helmet on, but was able to drop it off in my bike bag before heading to the water.

img_0467

Swim

First, if you’re doing this race in the future, you should know that it is a LONG walk from transition to the water, so plan ahead. And, despite the many excellent logistical details for the race, one of the few shortcomings also caused me the greatest stress of the day, namely the lack of port-a-potties. There were far too few set up at the swim area, which meant I couldn’t really enjoy neat touches like the fighter jet flyover, because I was too worried about having a chance to “go” before racing. When I finally was able to quickly get into my wetsuit and head to the water, I passed my good friend, Alett, who gave me a quick pre-race pep talk, telling me not to think about anything else besides the swim while I was in the water. I had quite the anxious few moments as my wave was literally getting ready to start and I was still behind the barrier with no way to get through the crowds to get into it. I wound up hopping the fence in my wetsuit, which I’ve never done before and hope to never have to do again. Despite the rushing and confusion, I made it into the pack a few moments before my wave started.

The start of any swim leg is chaotic, but this one felt especially so. I tried to find some feet to follow and draft off of while fending off the many elbows surrounding me and people crawling up my legs. I actually felt very smooth in the water, just trying to keep up a steady rhythm that felt comfortable without over-exerting and getting caught up in the churning. Now, here’s where I make my really, really dumb admission for race mistake #3: I thought the swim course was two laps. Yes, I had looked at the course map, and, yes, I knew that there were 13 buoys out before a turn to a straight stretch before a right turn back to shore, but for some reason I thought the map showed a run across the beach before starting lap 2. But, around buoy 7 it occurred to me that, maybe, the swim was actually one loop, which I’d prefer in any event. I checked my Garmin and confirmed that had to be the case. Sigh.

Around the first turn, the water started to get really choppy as we swam parallel to the shore. I was glad that I had practiced breathing to one side so I could switch up where I was breathing based on the waves, and not force myself to breathe into a swell. I was not much a fan of up and down movement with the waves brought on by the impending storm, but just kept on swimming…until I ran into a boat. A moored boat. You find yourself asking, what was a boat doing on the course? But then I’d be forced to admit it really was fairly off the course, I just happened to be swimming fairly off the course. I managed to shake off the head-to-hull contact and finish off the swim feeling fairly strong, if not a bit off kilter from the waves.

I hit the carpet on the beach and started to make the long journey to T1. I saw Rebecca and Alett along the way, informing them of my boat mishap, trying to keep the whole experience light and fun. Be forewarned, it is a long way to the change tent, so pace yourself!

img_0520

Official Swim Time: 1:29:28

Bike

The moment I got dressed for the bike in the change tent was basically the last time my kit was dry, as it soon began to rain, and did not stop…like, ever. In some ways, this wasn’t such a bad thing, if it was going to rain at all, because otherwise I have a feeling it would have been very sticky and humid when it stopped. It was just easier to accept I had a good number of hours ahead of me in the saddle in the rain and make peace with it.

The bike course sets out from the village for a roughly 45 mile total out and back.

course-map

Everything to the left of the green dot is the initial out and back of each of the two laps you complete. As you can see from the elevation map below, this section contains some long flats with some good descents/ascents in the mix.

first-45

There is only one segment of this portion of the course that I would in any way consider technical, and that comes soon after you start on a long-ish downhill on a portion of the road that is marked as single-file only. That said, it’s not a technical descent, it just felt nerve wracking to me because I didn’t want to go fast down it and had the stress of people coming up behind me and passing when they shouldn’t have. Otherwise, the road surface is superb, you’re riding on a highway after all, and there’s plenty of great scenery, assuming that you can see it through the rain. I was able to stay in aero for a good portion of this stretch, which helped keep my MPH up, and felt completely comfortable just trying to keep up a steady rhythm on the pedals on the flats and spin up the hills.

img_0488

As you can see, the rain was fairly intense, and this picture doesn’t capture any particularly heavy moment. To be honest though, it wasn’t all that bad riding through the rain other than on the descents, which became that much scarier on wet roads, at least for someone like me. I’m not sure if it had any affect on specators that might otherwise be on the course, but you do a short out and back stretch through a town and the roads were lined with people, which was a nice distraction.

Of course, you can’t do IMMT without hearing about the fabled Chemin Duplessis, which was the focus of every pre-race discussion about proper gearing for the race. This leg of the race is what I call the “back half” of the course, even though it, of course, didn’t account for half the lap, it just felt that way. Here’s the elevation.

Hardest Riding.jpg

So, as you can see, no joke. I did my best to heed every piece of advice I’d gotten about hill climbing on this part and spin up the inclines in the saddle, rather than red lining my heart rate and trashing my quads by standing. For the most part, I was pretty successful in this and actually felt reasonably comfortable ascending, even as my average MPH slipped down and down. The more nerve-racking aspect of this section of the course actually came after the turn-around on the steep descents in the rain. I am not the most confident descender on the best of days in the best of conditions, so I was particularly nervous on these downhills in the pouring rain. On the steepest section, there was a race official (I later learned it was the Race Director himself) on the side of the road urging riders to slow down. He pointed at me and said “that’s the speed I want everyone going!” Of course, I was basically gripping my brakes at the time, just trying to stay under control. Further down the road, I saw why he was out there, as 3 riders were being treated after an apparent bad crash. Though they ended up in the ICU, word is they were all recovering. I also had to contend with a crash right in front of me as a woman tried to make it to the side of the road to an aid station, but wasn’t able to unclip from her pedals and fell over in front of me, causing me to have to swerve quickly and avoid not just other riders in my direction, but those coming at me as well.

After stopping to reload my fuel at the halfway point with my Special Needs bag, I carried on for loop 2.

img_0596

Fast forward to around mile 100 where my knees, the subject of a great deal of pre-race stress, really started to protest, to the point where I could barely turn my pedals over without pain. Of course it didn’t help, mentally, knowing that the hardest part of the course still lay before me. At this point I started to repeat the mantra that would carry me through the rest of the bike leg and its sharp hills, to wit, “THERE IS NO PAIN, RIDE UP THE FUCKING HILL!” Granted, it was a bit on the self-flagellating side, but it was exactly what I needed. I abandoned spinning up the hills, literally trying to minimize the number of times I had to spin the crank, and actually ended up passing people strongly, despite the pain. I even got some nice comments from fellow riders.

Finally, after completing the “back half” again, I rolled into transition, knowing that a marathon lay before me.

img_0530

Official Bike Time: 6:43:54

Run

At last, the run leg was upon me! I headed into the transition tent, excited about the prospect of changing into some dry clothes. Originally, I had planned on changing into running shorts from my tri shorts, but decided that: 1. I was just going to get new shorts wet again, and 2. the risk of chafing, given the rain, was less with the tri shorts than running shorts with a liner. I saw Rebecca as I made my way in to change and warned her that my knees were killing me, which might result in a very slow run, so she shouldn’t be worried if she saw a slow pace while tracking me. I also saw her leaving the tent, apparently in a really good mood before running a marathon after 2.4 miles of swimming and 112 miles biking.

img_0528

Again showing the kind of triathlete I am, i.e. not a very prepared one, I had very little idea of what to expect from the run course in terms of elevation. I knew there were no significant climbs to speak of and that, generally, the harder hills came as you finished each of the two laps.

run-elevation

And so, blithely ignorant, I set off at what I hoped was an easy pace that would keep my heart rate low and, contrary to most every other race I’ve done, I succeeded, at least for the first half of the race. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that my knees didn’t hurt at all while running, apparently the running motion is different enough from pedaling to make the difference.

The run course itself is mostly a two lane route, one coming, one going that starts through the town, then turns onto a rail trail before a turn-around, then back and on to a couple detours, including one along a gorgeous lake on a crushed gravel path, before heading back through the town and into the village where you either take a right fork back for your second lap, or a left to the finish.

run-course-map

img_0601

Second lap lake path.

The nice thing about the two lane set-up is that, at least for a large part of the run, and depending on the time of day, you’ve almost always got someone around you, either running in your direction or the opposite way, which helps when the mind starts to wander.

Somewhere around mile 10 or so, I became convinced that I was going to finish the race well within the cut-off time. I know I should have been convinced long before this, but I really didn’t want to get ahead of myself or take anything for granted. Of course, as you can see from the chart below, this is where the wheels began to come off.

first-half-pace

By the time I back to the village, I knew the second lap was going to be a struggle as I could barely bring myself to take in any of the fuel I had in my Special Needs bag, including the Sour Patch Kids treat I had put in the bag as a pick-me-up. I did my best to ignore the hoopla of the village as wicked fast people were coming in for their finishes, took the right fork, and headed back out onto the course, seeing Rebecca again shortly after starting the second lap.

img_0605

I’m really not sure what’s going on in the above picture, other than I think I’m starting to hurt but also trying to not show it to the cameraman.

I started walking soon after starting lap 2, and that would be my main method of forward progress for the remainder of the race. It wasn’t so much the fact that I was tired or hurting, which I was, but not terribly, but that my stomach was in full-on revolt with lots of fun cramping and vomiting. I wasn’t able to take in any fuel other than some water periodically, and even that I’d lose soon thereafter (sorry for the bodily functions, but you’re reading an Ironman race report). I would try to run for as long as a stretch as I could, sometimes half a kilometer, sometimes as much as 2 kilometers, but mostly I just tried to make relentless forward progress. If nothing else, the walking gave me some time to interact with other racers and all of the wonderful volunteers on the course. The pace chart below gives a fair idea of how I yo-yoed in pace.

run-second-half-pace

img_0606

Despite my best efforts, I was unable to avoid doing That Thing that I do with my hands in every single race picture of me.

As I neared 2 kilometers to go in the race, the sky was dark and the temperatures were dropping, though still comfortable. It wasn’t much of an acceleration, but I did my best to make myself run, however slow, for the rest of the course. I’ve never finished a marathon running, at least anything beyond the last 10 yards of the race, and really wanted to be able to do so for the Ironman.

Approaching the village, I was hit by the volume of music playing and screaming fans, not to mention the streaming lights. It was a party, and it helped propel me on.

img_0603

I have never experienced a finish like Mt. Tremblant, including Boston. The finish chute you run through for about 100 yards or so is fairly narrow and is lined with fans 4-5 deep, all urging you onward. Despite the pandemonium, I spied my friend Alett, a nice little surprise. At last, I approached the line and heard a slight variation of his famous words from Mike Reilly informing me that I was, in fact, an Ironman.

img_0627

img_0598

Official Run Time: 5:03:27

Official Ironman Time: 13:42:19

Post-Race

After crossing the line, I was greeted by a volunteer who would essentially be my escort through the finishing zone. He put his arms around my shoulder and guided me from station to station, first getting my finisher’s medal and then to get some water, etc. We chatted in French about Boston and hockey before he handed me off to Rebecca with a smile. At this point I was in pretty rough shape, feeling quite nauseous with awful stomach cramping. I couldn’t decide if I needed a medic or not, knowing it was probably pretty normal to feel terrible after 140.6 miles, so Rebecca took charge and decided I should at least get checked out, but not before surprise gifting me with the official finisher’s jacket!

The first cut of the med staff sat me down and asked some questions before taking an instant read of my blood sugar, which was low. I tried taking in some chocolate milk, but was barely able to take a few sips. They decided to bring me inside to the larger medical area, if for no other reason than to get out of all the commotion of the finish area, which I think they believed would help. They loaded me into a golf cart, which took me inside, where I was put into a wheelchair and taken to intake. The med staff weighed me, determining I’d lost 8 pounds over the course of the race, which apparently is not unusual. They had me lay down on a reclining cot and sip some hot chicken broth for a while until I eventually started to feel better.

img_0476

Eventually, I felt well enough to leave and meet back up with Rebecca, who let me hang out on some steps in the village while she got us some take out pizza.

img_0479

We picked up my bags and bike and, thankfully, were able to take the shuttle bus back up to the condo, where Rebecca had a variety of beers that she’d previously bought waiting for me! We debated going back down to the line but, when I reminded her that our friend had said we absolutely had to go see the midnight finish, we got off our butts and made our way back down. I couldn’t help myself and got some poutine in the village, managing roughly four gravy, cheesy bites before having my fill. The midnight finish itself was everything it’s cracked up to be. It was tremendously inspiring to see those athletes giving everything they had to be official Ironmen and I am very happy we went to see it. It’s not to be missed.

Prologue

While I thought I’d sleep forever the next day, I barely made it past 6 a.m. Despite feeling fairly good, at least my muscles, after the race, my knees were absolutely awful and I could barely manage stairs. Once I got walking I was OK, but standing up was the worst. We went and had a great breakfast before going to the expo for swag. When we got there, I was sorely disappointed to find that the one thing I really wanted, the race mug, was all sold out, which I should have known would be the case. However, Rebecca came to the rescue, spotting a mug containing stickers on a random table, grabbing it, dumping the stickers, and triumphantly presenting it to me.

img_0490

As you can kind of see, I also managed to get the last men’s bike jersey in my size at the expo along with a running cap Rebecca also found. All in all it wound up being a great haul. Afterwards, we took the gondola up the ski mountain and took in the beautiful views.

img_0503img_0506img_0507

And of course took an ussie.

IMG_0492.JPG

Plus, I managed to find my favorite, or at least most nostalgic, Canadian beer, Alexander Keith’s IPA!

IMG_0512.JPG

At 4000+ words and a month after the race itself, it’s probably time to bring this post to a conclusion. In conclusion, Ironman Mt. Tremblant was an absolutely incredible, fulfilling, challenging, humbling experience that I would highly recommend to anyone looking to take on the Ironman distance. One more huge thank you to Rebecca for everything she did both during training and the race (and after).

I think I can safely say that I am done with the Ironman distance…unless I change my mind.

img_0466

 

 

 

 

 

Jawbone Up 2 #ExpertGear Review

March 21, 2016

One of the perks of working in a running store part-time is the chance to learn about a variety of great brands and products through a site called Experticity (and then have the chance to purchase those products at a discount). OK, that’s a big perk of working in a running store. Pro pricing is a wonderful thing but, aside from the personal benefits I get from it, it also allows industry pros to train with a wider variety of products, which in turn helps them provide better advice to customers.

Through my relationship with Experticity, I now have the opportunity to review products, beginning with the Jawbone Up 2 fitness tracker! Until now, I’ve never hopped on the fitness tracker bandwagon, figuring I stay relatively active as a triathlete. Still, the health implications of sitting at a desk all day go beyond not getting exercise during the day and it always helps to have a reminder to get up and move every now and then. But I figured I’d get even more useful information from the sleep tracking, which would give me a better idea of just how much of a sleep deficit I have. No part of me believed I was getting enough sleep before tracking it.

Now, you’ll have to bear with me as, in the interest of efficiency, I did my unboxing while on the trainer while watching results from Super Tuesday 2. That’s right, I’m a multi-tasking triathlete politics geek. NBD.

IMG_2050

IMG_2055

What you’ll get in the package is the tracker, a charger, and “instructions.”

IMG_2057

IMG_2058

Now for those instructions.

IMG_2064

So, get the app. Plug your tracker into a computer. Got it. Now, when I was able to actually do this, it was an exceedingly simple process. If you have a modicum of familiarity with apps, you will be able to set up the Up 2. As I recall, there’s no pairing to fumble through, no passwords etc. But, my quibble with the process would be that you need to plug the tracker into a computer to do the initial set-up, which seems to be an “antiquated” requirement. On the subject of connecting to a computer/charging, you may have noticed the charger looks a little funny, with no obvious clips to attach to the charger. Turns out, it’s magnetic! Neat!

IMG_2068

You can also see how you actually put the tracker on here. There is a metal clasp that attaches via hook to another piece, which you can move up and down the rubber band to adjust the fit. When you set the app up, there is a video that shows you exactly how to properly put the tracker on. Of course, I’m one of those guys who figures I can figure stuff out on my own – instructions are for sissies, and so ended up putting it on like this.

IMG_2062

I’m a moron, which is plain to see here. After watching the instructional video I was able to do it the right way, which is actually quite easy to do.

IMG_2069

Much better, right? And here’s how it looks on the wrist.

IMG_2061

The tracker itself is thin, light and comfortable, meaning I hardly notice it’s on during the day and never am bothered wearing it at night. Personally, I don’t see it as a drawback that the Up 2 lacks a display as it makes it more business-appropriate for daily wear.

On The Wrist

As for functionality, as mentioned, the Up 2 tracks steps and sleep. That’s it. And, really, given that I have GPS watches for keeping track of my swim/bike/running, as well as giving me smart notifications, that’s all I need from a fitness tracker. When you sync the Up 2 using the UP app, you’ll see a progress chart showing your steps for the day and your sleep for the previous night, both of which you can then dive down deeper into for more stats, as shown below.

IMG_2256 IMG_2257

Please don’t judge me for my inactivity today, so far all I’ve done is taken a train from Boston to NYC.

The best thing I can say about the Up 2 is that, seemingly, it works. I’ve never actually taken a hard look at my sleep stats, but I like that it tells me light and heavy sleep, which seems to line up with what I experience at night. If nothing else, it reinforces that I need to get more sleep. As far as cons about the Up 2, I wish that it was fully waterproof so I could swim with it, but it is resistant enough so that you can shower with it and not have to take it off. I do find that it can be a bit of a pain to take on and off, but also don’t have to do that all that often.

All in all, the Up 2 is a worthy option to consider if you are looking for a slim, simple, stylish fitness tracker!

Cauliflower Steaks with Olive Relish and Tomato Sauce

December 17, 2015

Webster’s Dictionary defines “steak” as:

  1. 1a :  a slice of meat cut from a fleshy part of a beef carcassb :  a similar slice of a specified meat other than beef <ham steak>c :  a cross-section slice of a large fish <swordfish steak>

  2. 2:  ground beef prepared for cooking or for serving in the manner of a steak <hamburger steak>

As a lifelong meat-eater, I’ve always found it a little silly to call a thick cut of a vegetable a “steak,” but in my recent veggie-curious incarnation, I think I can finally get on board with adding “a substantive slice of vegetable, vaguely resembling the shape and size of a beef steak” to the definition.  With this newfound acceptance of nomenclature, I set off to make my first “cauliflower steak.”

For this dish, I principally relied on a recipe found on Epicurious.com, which itself was a Bon Appetit dish.  Not being a fan of black olives, I substituted green pitted olives and, being a huge fan of capers, I added capers.  Also, we don’t do sun-dried tomatoes, so we nixed those.  That would make the revised ingredient list as follows:

 

  • 1 large head of cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup pitted oil-packed green olives, finely chopped
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 plum tomatoes, cored, quartered

Because colors on the plate are fun, I decided to go with purple cauliflower instead of the plain old white version.  As near as I can tell, it tastes just like the white stuff.

IMG_9474 IMG_9477

See?  Isn’t it pretty?  I won’t go through the detailed steps of the recipe, not that it’s all that detailed, but rather hit on some of the high points in it.  I just tore off the leaves from the stem of the cauliflower rather than trying to trim them.  Be careful when you are cutting the stem to make sure the core stays intact to make sure you have a cohesive slice.  I found I ended up with a lot more florets breaking off than the recipe perhaps anticipated, but it just made for more in the relish and I roasted a few of the bigger ones as well.

The relish is super-easy and quick to throw together and was probably my favorite part of the dish.  I think it would make a great topping for other dishes as well, perhaps swordfish or tuna.  The capers and green olives play very nicely together with the other ingredients and make for a great salty, herby, acidic topper.  Here’s the final product.

IMG_9484

To cut the steaks, I started in the middle of the head, as the recipe suggested, and literally just cut slices of cauliflower, it’s pretty straight-forward I’d say.  I then gave them a quick “sear” in the cast-iron pan before putting them in the oven to roast.  One thing I neglected to do was add some more olive oil to the pan after flipping the cauliflower, which I definitely should have done.  Still, they came out pretty well, I think.

IMG_9486

IMG_9487

I transferred the cauliflower to a baking sheet and set to work on plum tomatoes and garlic.  Now, here was an example of my issue with fully reading recipes closely before working on them.  I had thought that all I did was cook the tomatoes and garlic in the pan before blending them, not realizing I was supposed to roast them after.  Luckily, I had prepped both while the cauliflower was searing and had enough time to brown them and get them in the oven to match up with the timing for roasting the cauliflower so everything would be done at the same time.

IMG_9488

With everything out of the oven, all that was left to do was make the tomato sauce.  The recipe calls for using a blender, which I’m sure would work fine, but we have a mini food processor among our kitchen toys, which got the job done nicely.

IMG_9493

From roasted ingredients…

IMG_9495

To tomato sauce.  Next time, I’d double the recipe for the sauce.  It was very good, but didn’t make all that much.

Just to make the meal a bit heartier, we did it with couscous.  Smear some tomato sauce on the cauliflower, top it with relish, and you’re good to go!

FullSizeRender

Happy eating!

 

 

Chana Italiana

November 29, 2015

A couple weeks ago, R made a great chickpea dish based on a Smitten Kitchen recipe called Chana Masala.  It came out very well and made for a hearty, vegetarian dinner.  Tonight, I decided to try mixing it up, having done several Indian-inspired dishes lately, while using the original dish as an inspiration.  Instead of Indian, I went with an Italian-type theme to the dish.

I started off with two medium-sized onions coupled with 3 cloves of garlic, all diced, which I put in a cast iron skillet containing hot olive oil.

Onions

I let the mixture cook down, softening the onions, before adding an herb mix containing the herbs pictured below.  You’ll have to use your best judgment when it comes to cooking down the onions, as well as your own personal tastes.  Some like their onion to have a bit of crunch, others like them very soft.  It’s your dinner, eat your onions how you like them.

Herbs

How did I pick the herbs I did?  I looked in my spice cupboard and picked out green things I thought would work well together.  How much of these herbs did I add to the onions?  This much.

Herbed Onions

I’m not trying to be difficult here, but rather to show that, yeah, recipes are great and they can provide some really good inspiration for cooking, but don’t feel limited by them.  Add things that sound good, take out things you don’t like.  The more you do it, the more confident you’ll feel experimenting.  When it comes to the kitchen, you do you.

After letting the onions cook with the herbs for a couple minutes, I added a full 15 oz can of diced tomatoes, along with the tomato liquid in the can and 2/3 of a cup of water, using the liquid to deglaze the pan i.e. scrape up any stuck bits.  I then added a can of drained, rinsed, cooked chickpeas (“chana”) along with a solid helping of aged balsamic vinegar and some sprigs of fresh thyme.  Next step?   Let it all simmer for roughly 10 minutes.

Cooked Stuff

Oh, don’t forget to season with salt as you go.  This is crucial.  The dish is ready when the chickpeas have softened to the point where you like to eat them.

All that remains is to plate the dish, then eat!

Plated Pre Cheese

Now, me being me, I couldn’t help but stir in some goat cheese and gussy it all up with some fresh parsley, because we had some, and why the heck not?

Finished Dish

I’d say the entire dish took roughly 40 minutes or so to make, perhaps not even that.  Fairly easy for a weeknight and it makes a good amount of leftovers, at least another night of serving two people.

Eat athlete food, be a better athlete!

Hannukah Gifts/Stocking Stuffers For Your Triathlete

November 20, 2015

With the weather in Boston in the 50s today, it seems crazy to think that the holiday season is nearly upon us.  I’m not even sure how I’m supposed to know it’s the holiday season when Starbucks cups are just plain red in color, devoid of any symbolism.  Still, Hannukah is a scant couple of weeks away, which I did not even realize until beginning this post, starting the night of Sunday, December 6, and Christmas is, the 25th?  It’s hard to keep track of it with it changing dates year to year!

Last year, R and I switched things up and did a gift each night of Hannukah, rather than one big gift.  I think we kept the price range under $10, allowing for some bigger gifts balanced by some smaller ones.  It made us think a bit more about what we’d get for each other and was pretty fun.  I figure the same guidelines work for stocking stuffers, but I’ll admit I’ve only ever received a stocking from my in-laws, and have never stuffed one myself.  There is truly no shortage of holiday gift guides out there for runners, cyclists, running cyclists, swimmers, triathletes, etc., but I honestly never find them all that useful, and most don’t focus on smaller gifts.  So, here’s hoping this list of gift ideas for the triathlete in your life, any of which I’d want to receive myself (hint hint R if you’re reading this) proves helpful!

1. Bike Tubes

Any cyclist will tell you that you can never have too many spare tubes around.  I’ve ended rides thinking that I was coming home on a perfectly good tube only to find the next time I went to go out that I’d somehow gotten a puncture at a late point in the ride and was in need of a tube.  Road tubes will generally be 700 (diameter) x __ (width).  Do some digging in your triathlete’s stash to see if you can get the size they use.  Otherwise, something in the low 20s will be just fine.

It’s tough to go wrong with a Continental tube.

2. CO2 Inflator and Cartridges

So, you’ve got a flat, you take out your brand new spare tube, and what do you use to inflate it?  While some roadies keep a frame pump or mini-pump on them, those pumps often can’t get a high enough PSI for a road tube, are bulky and heavy to carry (heavy in a roadie sense) and don’t work with tri bikes.  Maybe it’s not the sexiest of gifts, but it’ll help keep your triathlete rolling!

To actually use the cartridge, you need a chuck.  The chuck screws on to the cartridge and lets you actually get air out.

If you want to splurge a little, I use the Portland Design Works Shiny Object CO2 Inflator with 16G Cartridge set, which is $27.76 on Amazon.  What I like about this set is the chuck lets you regulate the flow of air into the tube, which is quite helpful when changing a tube, and the leather sleeve protects your hand from the cartridge, which gets very cold in use.

3. Socks

Good socks are the best.  Like, seriously, the best.  Some prefer short socks, some prefer long socks.  Me?  I like long socks when it comes to training, short for racing, mostly for ease of use with an ankle chip strap.  Socks have special significant, for some reason, in the cycling world, earning multiple references in the Velominati rules, and are a source of expression for riders.  Plus the good ones are super comfortable.  Personally, I prefer socks from The Athletic, based out of Portland.

4. Casquettes de Cyclisme/Cycling Caps

I first fell in love with the cycling cap from an unlikely source…

That’s right, White Men Can’t Jump.  Now, I’ll admit, these hats are rather controversial, with some very strong opinions on both sides.  I happen to love them, both on the bike and off, and have a fairly good collection going right now.  Some hats are made from technical fibers and go well under a helmet to help keep sweat out of your eyes.  They are also great for sweaty trainer rides.

There is a large variety of hats out there, some are vintage cool.

Some are groovy.

And some are just wicked awesome.

5. Fuel

Having the right fuel for training and racing is vitally important.  Especially during peak training periods, this means going through a lot of gels, chews, powders, waffles and bars.  You really cannot have enough of your favorite source of energy and these items make great small gifts.

For drink mix, I like Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix, which is sold both in 1 lb bags and singles.  The singles are great for their portability, which is especially handy for traveling for races and for taking on long rides to refuel with.

For chewy fuel, I dig Skratch Labs Fruit Drops, as documented in my review.

6. Tools

Is your triathlete a tinkerer?  Does he or she like to do maintenance on his or her own bike rather than take it into the shop every time it needs an adjustment?  If so, your triathlete might enjoy some new additions to the toolbox!  This might be the kind of thing where you might have to do some inquiry into what tools are already in hand, and what may be needed.  Your triathlete may also have a brand preference for tools.  Personally, I love the look and performance of Park Tools.  Some options to consider include:

A pedal wrench.

Three-way hex wrench.

Mini Chain Brute Chain Tool.

7. Lube

Get your mind out of the gutter.  A properly lubed bike drivetrain is a happy drivetrain.  Give your triathlete the gift of a well-lubed machine.

 

8. Custom Name Stickers

This gift was absolutely my favorite one from last Hannukah.  Most pro riders have custom name decals for their bikes, and now your triathlete can have the same.  Name stickers help set your bike apart from the rest of the field, make you feel like a pro, and give you a chance to add some self-expression to your steed.

Sticker Name

9. Swim Gear

Finally, swimming involves a surprising amount of training tools, many of which your triathlete may not have bought for him/herself, instead relying on the grody stuff at the pool.  To upgrade their gear, consider:

TYR Pull Float

Speedo Mesh Equipment Bag

TYR Kickboard

 

Should I happen upon some other neat-looking gift ideas, I’ll be sure to update this post.  Until then, happy holidays to all!