Running a new distance is always fun, because it's a guaranteed PR—and this race was no exception. Thanks to the Hot Chocolate 15k, I can put another PR in the books! :-) Here are a few other highlights of the day.
The Hot Chocolate 15k delivers on the chocolate theme, starting with the inflatables on the race site. I tried to take this mug of hot chocolate home with me, but as you can see it was a little too big to fit in my suitcase. ;-)
As you may notice in the picture, the park was a bit flooded from the rain, which did put a bit of a damper on the day. I gave up trying to keep my shoes dry pretty quickly—it was basically impossible to get around to bag check, etc. without walking through the muck. My shoes were a muddy mess after the event, but after a quick spin in the washing machine they were like new before I packed to head home. Thanks, Angie!
I was lucky to be joining local friends who have done this race many times and knew where to park, etc. so that took a fair bit of stress out of race morning. Once at the site, all of the tents were well marked and super-efficient:
One of the many nice things about the Hot Chocolate race series is the opportunity to apply for a preferred corral. I've not had this experience before, nor do I consider myself fast. However, I've gotten just fast enough to appreciate the opportunity to avoid the dodging and weaving that becomes a part of races where the seeding isn't very accurate (or formalized at all).
I was surprised to learn that my corral, "J", was the first corral. It turns out that the lettering scheme begins with the 5k which started earlier in the morning. The 15k lined up next. The line up is where things got confusing, because apparently the signs the pacers were using had two different times on them for the two different races. I didn't realize this, and happened to find the "wrong" group of 9 min. mile pacers. By the time I discovered my error and started working my way forward, the race was already starting. Oops!
I spent the first bit of the race catching up to my teammate, and after that the miles flew by. This was our first time meeting each other, and running a few miles together was a great way to get to know each other and forget about the drizzly day. Thanks for keeping me company, Amy!
The course was well designed to be a closed course and take in some local scenery. On a less gloomy day, I'm sure it's a beautiful course! Much of the race is along the Mississippi River, which should have been a clue to me that it wasn't going to be a truly flat course. (After several years of riding RAGBRAI, I've learned land gets "rolly" around the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.) The elevation map would have been a clue, too, if I had looked at it. ;-) Not that the course is hard—and according to the locals the course isn't hilly—just normal for around town. I'll let you be the judge based on the data and where you live:
After all of the pre-race chatter about treats on course like marshmallows and such, it was a disappointment not to experience that. I'm guessing that the rain may have been a factor in this. Though I'm not sure the rain explains why there also wasn't nuun at some stations? In a 15k, it's not a big deal, it was simply a surprise to be told there wasn't nuun at one of the later aid stations given their sponsorship and all. I've heard so many good things about the Hot Chocolate aid station experience, I'm sure this isn't typical.
If you're in to collecting medals, the Hot Chocolate medal is definitely one to add to your collection! The chocolate bar is a cool idea, and a serious piece of bling. Here are my friends Theresa and Angie showing off their new hardware.
After picking up the hardware, the next stop was the post race food—the true highlight of the Hot Chocolate 15k. I had as much chocolate as I could possibly want and still took home a huge mug full of treats! Fortunately, the teenagers back at Angie's place were happy to help us with the leftovers. ;-) Amy snapped this nice photo of the huge mug full of dipping chocolate and treats to dip in it:
The biggest thing I would change about this race is to have the water bottles near the food vs. at the finish (on the other side of the park)—or to at least have *some* water accessible near the food. It's a little hard to wash down chocolate treats with hot chocolate, especially after a long run.
All in all, it was a fun event with a cool medal, great treats, and good friends—both old and new. With a PR to boot! Highly recommend the Hot Chocolate 15k!
Did you know bike choice in Zwift makes a difference? I've been riding for awhile (876 miles), and only just learned this, so I'm guessing it might be news to others, too!
The idea that what bike you're on make a difference is not a foreign one, and one that I did assume made SOME difference in Zwift, I just didn't realize how much. Given that I recently upgraded from a road bike to my first tri bike IRL (In Real Life), I did the same in Zwift as soon as I "unlocked" one (i.e. earned enough points) figuring a tri bike might be faster in game as well.
Any speed benefit of the upgraded bike in Zwift was quickly negated as I learned "TT" or Time Trial / triathlon bikes are not allowed in most (all?) group rides on Zwift, just as IRL. So I reverted back to one of the other frames and din't think any more of it. I also stayed away from the aero wheels, as I thought they might not be allowed as well.
Fast forward a year, and now that I'm joining Team ODZ for some rides, I need every advantage I can manage to keep up with these fast cats. We'll see if what I just learned about frames and wheel sets makes any difference (fingers crossed!)
The bottom line for newer riders is that you've got one choice—the one my avatar is pictured on above. It's the Zwift Carbon Bike (which every rider starts with in their options), with a Zip 808 wheel set (unlocked at level 10). Somewhat counter-intuitively, you'll continue to unlock other bikes and wheel sets after these that are NOT faster, so there's no advantage to switching until you've progressed far enough to hit level 22 and snag a Canyon Aeroad.
The good news is, the Zip 808 wheel set is as fast as you can (currently) get in game, so early on you'll be able to run on the best/fastest wheels. Working up to the fastest bike—the Tron Bike—is a whole different ballgame. It amazes me how many of them you see in game given you have to complete the Everest Challenge AND climb an additional 41,150 meters to unlock it! Someday...
To recap what's fastest for the beginner on Zwift: Know that the Zwift Carbon is the place to start and stay until you've progressed significantly in game. Keep an eye out for the Zip 808s, and switch to them as soon as you're able. Then it's a matter of working up the ladder another long big to the Canyon Aeroad. For more detail, including test lap data on the fastest equipment in Zwift, see the links below.
Disclaimer: I received Beachbody Performance to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"
I'm in the market for new triathlon nutrition options, and Beach Body walked in at just the right time. Last triathlon season I used Ironman Perform, and either a) I didn’t get how to use it or b) it just plain didn’t work for me or c) some combination of both… By the end of the season my GI system was in full revolt. Time for a change!
I do think there was some “user error” in my mixing of Ironman Perform last year, as I simply followed the package instructions, not understanding that the mix ratio they proposed was probably not for a relative lightweight like me. To their credit, Beachbody Performance spells it right out on the canister for their pre-workout Energize product, so you know the standard measure is for someone 160 lbs.
My tip of the day: No matter what nutrition product you use, make sure you understand the weight for the “baseline” mix ratio and adjust from there.
I'm halving the recommended dose for Beach Body Energize, using 1 scoop per 16 oz and calling it “close enough”. I think excess sugar is part of what made me so miserable last season, so I’d rather have too little sugar than too much at this point. Later in the season sweat tests will make sure I’ve got the right ratio of water, salt, etc. so I’m not worried about being terribly precise at this point, other than to avoid too much sugar.
I started my Beachbody Performance test with the pre-workout drink “Energize", and did a double-take after opening the bottle—the color is bold, kind of like tumeric! The drink itself is also a pretty vivid yellow and lives up to to the lemon flavor on the label. Even though I’m not a huge fan of lemon, I've grown to like the taste.
Actually, what I think I've grown to like is the caffeine kick! ;-) Beachbody Energize must have the caffeine equivalent of a triple-espresso, because I am AWAKE when I use it before an early morning workout. It delivers way better than a cup of coffee, which means I don’t have to drink coffee AND something else as I gear up for a workout or race. Simplicity for the win!
The “Hydrate” product is a lot more like the usual sports mix, so that was an easy switch. We’ll see how it continues to perform as my workouts get longer—so far, so good!
As I don't typically use a post-workout drink (other than the occasional chocolate milk), I'm curious to give the “Recover” product a try. In the short time I’ve been using it, it’s hard to know how much difference it makes, but I can say I was pleasantly surprised. You know its going to be tasty as soon as you open it, because it smells just like a chocolate bar. (Even kiddo wondered where the chocolate was when he wandered in the kitchen after I opened the jar!)
While there is plenty of controversy about whether chocolate milk or a recovery drink is the "best" fuel, one of my current goals is to get 20g of protein in post workout. There are 20g of protein in a serving of Beachbody Recover, vs. 8g in a serving of the chocolate milk we've got sitting in the fridge. Given the current goal, Recover makes sense. If my focus later in the season shifts to whole foods, then it's nice to know there's an easy swap at the ready.
Last but not least is the vanilla “Recharge” product, which was an entirely new concept to me. I’m aware that recovery drinks are important after working out, but I guess I’m behind—I didn’t know we were supposed to be drinking them before bed as well! In talking with the InsideTracker team about evening whey protein drinks, I learned a few interesting things. They help:
I foresee using Recharge more later in the season when the big miles kick in and evening cravings set in. The “Energize” looks like it could easily become a go-to late-night “snack” that’s designed to help with recovery without sabotaging the work of the day.
The true test of a nutrition product is how well it serves you over the course of a whole season, and on your big day(s). Given the positive experience I’ve had thus far, I’m looking forward to giving Beachbody Performance a go for the season!
Disclaimer: I received XX2i sunglasses to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"
While I may be guilty of (over)analyzing many aspects of my triathlon gear, sunglasses haven’t yet made that list. Frankly, I’ve got such a talent for abusing (and losing) sunglasses that investing in a really nice pair of sunnies hasn’t been a consideration. I tend to race in the Ironman brand of sunglasses that Target sells—that’s how fancy I get. 😉 Consequently, I was happy to review the XX2i France2 sunglasses and find out if there's a noticeable difference in higher-end shades.
Because XX2i is running a special through March 28th for ***50% off*** let me cut to the chase. With the special, you can spend just a few bucks more than I’d be spending for my basic shades at Target, and have better glasses with all kinds of extras—it’s a great deal! I honestly couldn’t believe how much stuff XX2i includes in the package—it was like pulling one of those un-ending ribbons out of a magic hat as I unpacked the box.
Just to show you I'm not exaggerating about the value in the XX2i France2 package, here's an example of what it would cost to buy all the elements they include separately:
Disclaimer: I received a @StuntPuppy Stunt Runner to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"
I admit, I was won over just by the name. "Stunt Puppy" is a bit of brilliant marketing from this marketers perspective! But there's a lot more to love about the Stunt Puppy products than just the name:
While we were on the website, Rosie started building a wish list. (It may have been a mistake to include her in the process. ;-) Next on her list is the Stunt Puppy Buff—which just happens to come in orange to match mine... Granted, Stunt Puppy doesn't actually have a "wish list" feature on the website, but they could with the variety of products they offer!
The one thing I had hoped would be on the website wasn't there—tips for using a hands-free leash. Maybe if you've got a docile dog, it's a total non-issue? Perhaps it's just a small group of people like me with dogs that are pure muscle and determination that need to consider how to introduce a hands-free leash? While I don't want to scare anyone off from hands-free leashes, I do think they ought to come with a "heads-up".
So here's my heads-up: My previous experience with a hands-free leash left me laying flat on the ground; a possibility I hadn't considered.(!) My best guess is that Rosie a) felt more free on a hands-free leash and b) wasn't used to feeling free at running speed with a human attached, and then c) the chase instinct kicked in without the usual "checks" to reign it in. Between her weight & muscle, I'm pretty much along for the ride, so that was the end of that.(!)
Fast forward a couple of years, and Rosie and I have learned to be better partners, running and otherwise, and we've completed some agility training, so I felt comfortable volunteering to test the Stunt Runner. Only this time, we walked first. Based on previous experience, I figured she needed to learn to stay by my side while we were running. From agility class, we had learned the basic technique and just needed to practice. Here's what we've been working on in a tutorial by the late Dr. Sophia Yin, a well-respected trainer: "Running With Your Dog: How to Train Fido to Run by Your Side".
I'm happy to report Rosie is very happy with this training process as we haven't done treat-based training in awhile. And I'm very happy as well, as it hadn't occurred to me how handy a hands-free leash would be for dog training! Extra bonus! (It would have been a big help in agility class where juggling a leash, treat bag, and treating required three hands where only two were available. ;-) Rosie and I are slowly easing into a mix of walking and jogging with the Stunt Runner leash, and I have faith we'll soon be truly running hands-free. And that will be a day for both of us to celebrate!
P.S. Grab your own Stunt Runner before 3/15/17 and save 20% with the code "BIBRAVE217".
Disclaimer: I received @LEGENDlegwear to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!"
Whether or not compression gear works is a hotly debated topic, and kept me from looking into compression gear for several years. After all, it's not cheap, and if you're not sure it's going to work, is it really worth the investment?
Although there is plenty of diversity of opinion on compression wear, the benefits are clear to me; both on in the themes emerging in the research, and in practice. As it relates to athletes, compression gear is often recommended in the following areas, which I'll address individually in this article:
While initial studies were mixed, there seems to be more consensus building around the use of compression for recovery as illustrated in these studies:
About Compression for Travel
Another well accepted use for compression wear is on travel days leading up to big events. Being couped up in a car or airplane for hours right before a race is not ideal prep, and fortunately, compression can help.
According to airhealth.org, "about 85% of air travel thrombosis victims are athletic, endurance athletes like marathoners." This topic alone is substantial enough for it's own article—in the meantime I encourage you to do some research before you get on a plane after an athletic event. While you may find contrary opinions on this subject (as with nearly anything health related!), when even Ironman admits that its athletes "are a perfect storm for a DVT", it seems prudent to take note. After all, if it simply takes putting on a different pair of socks to help reduce your risk, why not? (Learn more about other risk factors for DVT through Mayo Clinic or discuss with your doctor.)
About Compression for Performance
While there is not yet much research to support the benefits of wearing compression gear during performance (training or racing), I'm going to go out on a limb and say the lack of scientific proof doesn't matter so much in this case.
One thing that clearly stood out in talking to fellow athletes and researching this topic is that there is a well established positive effect of compression gear during performance. Even if it is a placebo effect, people "feel faster", or "feel sleeker" or "feel stronger" and sometimes "more able to push through" tough spots where they might have otherwise struggled.
Given that so much of being an athlete is about putting in the training and then being in the right mental space to compete at your best on the big day, if putting on some compression gear acts like a superman cape did when you were a kid, why not? There is no evidence to say that compression gear hurts, and plenty of anecdotal evidence about how much it helps.
Why LEGEND Compression
With more companies offering compression gear all the time, it can be hard to make heads or tails of what truly differentiates brands. I'm glad to have tested LEGEND, because I frankly wasn't that familiar with their brand before the test. Along the way, I learned a few things I really appreciate about their company, and maybe you will, too!
Go ahead. #Make2017LEGENDARY and use the BibRave discount code "rave20" for 20% off LEGEND compression!
"Disclaimer: I received Knuckle Lights to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!"
Would you see me running in this high-visibility vest?
It’s a trick question. One I’ve had too much time to think about while logging the miles.
The answer is no.
Not if you were looking at your phone as you rolled through both the crosswalk and the stop sign.
The funny/not funny part of this is it happens to me most often crossing roads that go by our schools. My easy run with #stuntpuppy is a 5k loop that passes 3 schools, and already since election day, I’ve twice watched people roll on by without seeing me. (Both times, in the school zone.)
I use election day as a reference because one of the schools doubles as a voting place, and someone in a hurry to get home from the polls never saw me. It’s one of those moments you remember with too much clarity. It’s the first time I had an urge to chase a car—and I did make an effort—but the driver was speeding away before my chasing and waving to “wake up” and watch for fellow human beings could register.
Soon after that day, I bought a florescent vest, hoping to improve my odds.
Nope. Didn’t work.
It’s amazing what you don’t see when you think you have a moment to check your phone while rolling to a stop.
I couldn’t be more grateful to @BibRave and @KnuckleLights for showing up at just the right time with an opportunity to test some BRIGHT handheld lights. We’ll see if they prove to be more of an attention-getter than high-visibility gear alone—so far, so good! I believe these lights in particular serve to tip the scales in favor of the runner because they tick all the boxes:
The only other light I’ve run with to compare this to one came out of my backpacking gear—an ultralight, retractable Petzl headlamp. As the days got shorter and dusk kept sneaking up on me while I was still running, I tried the Petzl to improve my visibility (more so than lighting the way). It worked “ok” as a run light, though if had I not been wearing a winter hat, I don’t think it would have been super comfortable for running. Headlamps also create a “bobbing” light vs. a continuous beam like the Knuckle Lights—making the Knuckle Lights a clear choice for running in the dark or on a trail where you need a clear view to avoid obstructions, etc.
I’m excited to continue testing these lights and trying them out on other adventures. When Ironman finally rolls around, I could see using these on the run course, as lights are required after dark and I’m expecting to be rolling in during that timeframe. I wish there was a bike version—these are so much easier to charge than the current set of USB bike lights I’ve got! I'm also thinking these lights will give me another reason to be more confident to try more trail running as they seem really well suited for trails.
Where I really expect Knuckle Lights to “shine” most is on my typical gray-day winter run. I feel like the lights make me more visible, and give me a shot at getting a drivers attention if need be. (They certainly work to get the attention of kiddos in the house. 😉 )
A quick tip before I go—if the price seems high, consider getting a less fancy pair of running/winter gloves and invest more in lights instead. I've started using a cheap pair of knit gloves that come with screen-friendly fingers—and somehow the cheesy knit gloves seem to keep my always-freezing-cold hands warm (and work better with my Apple Watch) than other, fancier options. When it’s bitterly cold running weather (teens & below), I turn to my Turtle Gloves with heat packs tucked in the fold. Although that's a post for another day...
One more tip to help with the cost: Get a pair of Knuckle Lights now and save 10% with code "bibravepro"! Enjoy!
And be safe out there.
Note: Running in Zwift is currently in beta, and they really mean "beta". That's why the feature is only available as an "Easter egg" or extra piece of functionality developers cleverly hide for the truly devoted to find. If you do try running in Zwift, be prepared for buggy behavior, lack of support, etc., and most importantly, a totally new running experience!
The gear you need for running in Zwift is pretty straightforward:
1. A bluetooth foot pod
We'll start with the bluetooth foot pod, as this is the one piece that might send you on a detour to the store before running on Zwift. My first impression from beta reviewers was that Zwift only worked with a couple of foot pods; however, as more runners experiment with more bluetooth devices, it appears many different foot pods will work. And as with everything running and triathlon related, you have choices ranging from $ to $$$ to do the trick.
MilestonePod. Somewhat suprisingly, this little square seems to have much of the functionality of its mid-range counterparts. Judging by the success of people using it on the Zwift Facebook groups, I decided to start with this option and see how it goes. Mine is on order as we speak! The one "catch" with the MilestonePod is that you need to contact support for a beta firmware update first, as explained in this MilestonePod video "How to: Pair MilestonePod with Zwift iOS app".
Foot pods & foot pod "converters"—$$
DC Rainmaker covers a couple of options in the mid-range foot pod category:
As far as converters go, if you've already got a foot pod and don't want another, this may be what you're looking for. (That said, I have a Garmin ANT+ footpod already & decided I might as well try MilestonePod as it's cheaper than either converter would be.) DC Rainmaker also reviewed the two most popular ANT+ to Bluetooth conversion options here:
Stryd. Stryd is in a whole different category than the other foot pods mentioned here, as it serves as a virtual power meter for running. Stryd is a Team Endurance Nation partner, so I've been hearing a lot of (good!) things about it, and team members get a sweet discount. If you're a triathlete who already likes using power on the bike, this option would be a worthy consideration.
2. A Treadmill
One of the exciting things about Zwift running is that it doesn't require a special treadmill. The footpod captures the metrics needed "in game", so you're good to go once you've got a comptible foot pod (or converter).
3. The Zwift iOS app
I already had Zwift installed on my computer for cycling, but it sounds like the running function currently exists only on the new iOS app. The Zwift iOS app was easy to install on my iPhone 6+, not so much on my ancient iPad. (First it claimed it needed a newer iOS; after updating, it said it wasn't compatible with the device :-/.) Assuming you have a reasonably new iOS gadget, you should be all set.
The real issue I ran into was figuring out how to find the Easter egg in the first place! A few videos describe clicking on a specific area of the screen until the running options appears, which simply does not (currently) work. The video that finally helped me to get in was this one: "How to run on Zwift!! - Zwift iOS Running App". After that, it should simply be a matter of pairing, then off to the races!
Yes, I do realize the way to stay warm in the pool is to swim harder. 😉 However, if you're one of us “adult onset swimmers” that does classes where there's a lot of drilling and standing for instruction and/or you’re a very lean athlete, the pool can get pretty darn cold.
After watching one of my teammates shiver through a workout, I lent her the gear I bought for my Total Immersion class. I had purchased an insulated long sleeve top for that class because I was afraid I’d freeze to death with two days of swim instruction in and out of the pool. (This coming from a person who has fingers that go white and numb at the first hint of cold.)
Thankfully, that class turned out to be well structured with a lot of classroom work first, and in between pool sessions there was a chance to shower and change into warm clothes. Between the structure of the class and the long top, I was comfortable the whole time despite my initial concerns. And since the top helped my teammate in class, too, here’s some info on where to buy similar swim tops for my fellow shivering triathlon swim training friends!
DAKINE Neo Insulator Rashguard - Long-Sleeve - Women’s
While this specific model is discontinued, there are other insulated rashguards on the market, which is ultimately what you’re looking for. They seem to be marketed most at surfers, so that’s something else to consider in your search. I picked up this model at backcountry.com, a great place to get high quality gear at good prices. For a special backcountry code, see the discounts page. (BTW - The short sleeve version is still on closeout at some places, and would probably work as it's the insulated core that's probably doing the most work to keep you warm.)
I've also picked up light-weight long sleeve swim tops at Land's End for outdoor swimming (sun protection in that case!). I see some people use them for water areobics as well, so they might be just enough extra insulation to work for a tri swim class, too.
Specs on the above Long Sleeve Half-Zip Rash Guard from Land's End:
In summary, you're looking for rash guards which are typically non-insulated, and might be considered surfing gear. Select a verison with an insulated/neoprene core for more warmth. And if you've got a favorite I haven't mentioned here, would love to hear about it in the comments!
When there's an opportunity to run for chocolate, and in the city of my adopted triathlon family, I'm in! I'm excited to say I'll be running the Minneapolis Hot Chocolate 15k on April 15, 2017! And wow, does this ever sound like a race to look forward to. Especially since learning it made the list of "World's Coolest Themed Runs" according to CNN.
As I've only done one out-of-state race so far, I was really curious to see how to manage packet pickup. Happily, the Hot Chocolate 15k website is full of great information and answered all of my questions. Given the race is staged in 15 cities (with 11 more in the works), they have the wherewithal to put together a comprehensive resource for runners.
Clearly they're used to dealing with out-of-towners, given that they offer an option to have packets mailed in advance for a small fee. Even though in-person packet pickup sounded like fun (with chocolate samples included!) I opted to have my packet mailed. And did I mention the packet includes a hoodie?! An award-winning hoodie, no less! The only hard part about having the packet mailed is waiting for months for it to arrive after ordering. ;-)
As I'm not great with the delayed gratification thing, I went ahead and ordered a couple of chocolate-themed items from the Hot Chocolate store to train in: a stocking cap and a thermal head band. Both items arrived super-quick, so I got to use them right away in winter training and racing. Bonus! Here's the hat in action at the Belle Isle New Year's Eve 5k, with my son Christian.
One BIG advantage for new/beginning runners about this race is that it includes a complete training plan. When I was running my first half I had no idea what to do training wise (except run a lot more ;-) and I really could have used a plan like this! I love that they even email it to you in snippits each week, so following the plan is as simple as opening your inbox. These days I'm working with a coach so I can't speak to the specifics of the plan, though it's put together by USATF coaches, so I trust it's solid and certainly more effective than my prior "run more" plan!
With so much to look forward to in this race, I hope you join me at the Hot Chocolate 15k in Minneapolis this April. Register by February 5th to beat the price increase, and use the code "MinnHCBR" for a FREE Visor!