Thursday, July 29, 2010

Zensah Shin Sleeves - the right size!

A couple of years ago, I bought a pair of Zensah shin sleeves. Although I've seen compression socks around locally, I was more interested in the sleeve because it would allow me to wear whatever socks I wanted and I thought they might last longer than a pair of compression socks. I have been wearing them off and on for at least two seasons and I do believe that they have helped in recovery and as well as helping to stave off the shin splints that so often plague me. When I first bought my sleeves, Zensah had two size options to choose from: S/M and L/XL so since I'm only 5'3", I chose the S/M pair. However, they were still too long for me and I often found myself rolling down the top and/or the bottom up. This wasn't a big problem but I thought it would be nice to have a shorter pair.

One day, I tweeted my request to the Zensah people on Twitter. They responded by thanking me for my request and that they'd look into it. A few months later, they contacted me saying that their new XS-S sleeves were now available and they offered to send me a pair to try out!! It wasn't long before the new sleeves arrived in the mail. When I first opened the package and compared them to my old pair, they looked tiny! Not only were they shorter in length, but they also looked smaller around. (The picture shows my S-M sleeve on the left and my new XS-S sleeve on the right.) I was worried that perhaps they were going to be too small. But once I tried them on, they fit perfectly! (See picture below). Although they were tighter than my previous pair, I realized that this new size had better compression and were very comfortable. Not only that, I no longer had to roll down the top band! I've been wearing my sleeves for about a month now - sometimes on a run, and more often lately, as a recovery sleeve after a run, and they feel great! The value of compression after strenuous exercise has been researched and some studies show that they assist in reducing DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Here is a link to a review of one of those studies.

So, a big thank you to Zensah for letting me try out your new smaller size - I know there will definitely be other women out there who will appreciate them!

So how do they look, you ask? Well, at first, I was a little self-conscious putting them on with shorts and running out in public, but once I saw a few pro triathletes wearing them in races, I soon changed my tune. (Check out this list of "famous" people who wear Zensah products). I have the black shin sleeves but they have lots of colour choices, and even patterned ones now. Personally, I'm still contemplating going for that "school girl" look by wearing my shin sleeves with a running skirt and pigtails. ;)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sprint? Oly? Sprint? Oly? Hmmmmm....

So my "A" race this summer is supposed to be the Kelowna Apple Triathlon on August 22, 2010. The Apple was my first triathlon ever (2008) and this year it will be my 3rd time doing it, and my 6th tri in all.

In 2008, I did the sprint and I had a time of 1:30:04. I did well on my swim and bike and had a so-so run time of 29:45.

In 2009, my swim was a bit faster, my bike was a bit slower due to wind, and I had ITB issues on the run so ended up with a fairly crappy overall time of 1:33:11. (To be fair, I had spent 3 weeks of July's prime training time in France so I wasn't as prepared to race as I could have been.)

Now I head into 2010 as a much stronger runner, having run 27:35 at my last sprint in May, and I have the potential to PR the race this year. I could come in at 1:28 if I had a good day.

However, I have also been toying with the idea of doing the olympic distance this year, just for the fun of it. I've never done an oly and it might make a nice change of pace. It would also take the self-imposed pressure off because the oly is much more competitive than the sprint and there's no way I can finish in the top half of my age group, let alone podium, so I should be able to just get out there, have fun, and do my best.

So what should I do? Here are the Pros and Cons as far as I can see them.

Do Sprint (750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run)

* A chance to PR - finish under 1:30 - but only if I get my bike strength back where it belongs.
* I'm good at that distance.
* I've been having some minor running pains so 5k is more manageable than 10k.
* Starts earlier and finishes sooner so I don't have to run in the heat (done by 9:o0 am)

Do Olympic (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run)

* First time for that distance - try something new!
* Less pressure because it's my first time.
* I know I can do the distances - 1500m, 40k, 10k.
* Main negative is that the race starts later, (9 ish) so I won't be done until 12 - running in the heat of the day.

So what do you think? Sprint or Oly?

Click on the voting thing on the right and if you want, add your reasoning in the comment box. Thanks!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Across the Lake Swim

On Saturday , July 17, 2010, I participated in the largest and longest running (62 years) open water swimming event in Canada - the Across the Lake Swim in Okanagan Lake. The lake is about 135km long starting in Vernon and reaching as far south as Penticton It ranges from 2-5 km across and has a maximum depth of about 600 feet. The city of Kelowna sits about half way down the lake.

I've had this swim on my Bucket List ever since I started swimming in 2008 and now I can finally say I've done it! If you look at the map below, you can see where I swam from the green arrow at the old ferry docks just north of the Okanagan Lake bridge, to the red arrow at Hot Sands Beach in City Park. If you swim in a straight line, the distance is about 2.1 km. If you allow strong current to pull you towards the bridge, you'll have to swim a little further. :)

View Across the Lake Swim Race in a larger map

We started off at City Park at 7:15 am where I had to pick up my timing chip to be worn on my wrist. We hauled a borrowed kayak (thanks Shelley!) down to the water and I got my wetsuit halfway on, then packed my stuff in my backpack and left it at the finish line. Erik hopped into the kayak and paddled off to the other side of the lake and I walked down to the docks to wait for the houseboat "ferry" to the starting line. I was barefoot and carrying nothing else but my goggles and cap because I'd have to wade to shore from the houseboat when we reached our destination.

I chatted with a few other swimmers while on the 10 minute boat ride across the lake. Many had done this swim many times but there were a few newbies like me. Soon we were close to shore and we were asked to come downstairs and line up single file to exit the boat. The boat stopped and I could hear someone yelling "Go! Go!". It soon became apparent that we would be jumping off the houseboat into 50' of water. Uh oh. Not part of my plan. We're all swimmers right? This should be no big deal! But if you know me and my "inch my way into the water" method of getting wet, you'll know that jumping 3 feet from a boat into 50 feet of cold water is not my idea of fun. But I had no choice and so I jumped. Well - actually, I sat down on the edge and kind of allowed myself to fall in. Yikes! Where was my kayak support team when I really needed it?

I managed to swim/dog paddle close enough to shore that I could stand up and get my bearings, then once I spotted the blue kayak, I swam over to Erik. He was already laughing at the fact that I'd had to jump into the lake. He knows me too well. :)

The starting point was way out from shore and the first wave swam out to tread water until they started their swim. Two minutes later, the next wave left, and then finally, the slow wave (me :). Here's a shot of my wave start taken by Clayton Kessler from the Tracks and Trails website who was acting as support for his son who was swimming. (Thanks for the picture!). Erik in the foreground in the blue kayak and I'm one of the swimmers out there, not too far away. It was a little crowded at first although nothing like a triathlon, and I kept Erik in sight as I started to swim. Eventually we managed to make our way over to one another and he stayed about 10-12 feet away on my right side for the entire crossing. I could barely see the ReMax hot air balloon 2 km away marking our destination so I just followed the boats and other swimmers. The water was fairly calm and I was able to swim fairly steadily for quite awhile. I'd heard the current is strongest in the middle of the lake and that it will pull you towards the bridge so I tried to aim a little north as I swam.

After about 20 minutes of swimming, my left calf began to twitch, a sign of an oncoming cramp. Not again. I knew I had to be careful to avoid a full on leg cramp which would stop me in my tracks. I've had them before in the pool and can barely get myself to the edge of the pool when it happens so I really didn't want that to happen in the lake. I stopped kicking with my left leg and just let it dangle while I swam and I let Erik know I had a potential calf cramp. All went well for awhile. By now I had reached the middle of the lake and was surprised to see I was still swimming directly towards the beach. I didn't seem to feel any current pulling me at all, nor did I have to correct my direction. However, it seemed like I was swimming and swimming and never getting anywhere though. The balloon and finish line in the distance never seemed to be getting any closer. Furthermore, a lot of people had passed me early on in the swim and I suspected I was either last or close to last. I was close enough to Erik at one point to chat with him for a moment and I asked him if I was last. Definitely not - there were still lots of people behind me. Buoyed by that, I decided I was close enough to start swimming a little harder now. I tested my left leg - nope, it still wanted to cramp, so I kicked harder with my right leg. After a few minutes, the right leg started to cramp as well. Ah well, it would be an upper body workout today I guess. I put a little more muscle into and let both legs just float behind me like a true triathlete. (On the houseboat, I'd heard swimmers talking about how to tell a triathlete from a swimmer - they don't kick ~ seriously??).

About 3/4 of the way across the lake, the wind picked up and it began to get really choppy, and downright wavy. I could feel myself being carried up and down the waves. It was kind of fun actually so I just tried to enjoy it and imagine myself diving down into the surf at the ocean. Ok seriously the waves weren't anything like ocean waves, I was just having fun. ;) The trouble is, every time I looked up now, I was headed the wrong way. The current and the wind was pushing me away from the finish line, towards the bridge. Now I seemed to be coming towards it at an angle. Grrrrr. I swam and swam and swam and it seemed to take WAY longer than it should have to go that past quarter of the swim. I'm guessing I put in at least another 100-200m longer than I needed to.

As I got closer to the shore, the waves calmed a bit but I was still fighting the current. I could hear the spectators cheering each swimmer as they got out of the water. I was surprised at how many people were lined up on shore! I've never been down to see the Across the Lake Swim so I had no idea it was such a big event. Of course the fact that there were 450 swimmers should have clued me in. LOL... I could hear Susan Knight from SunFM announcing the finishers as I finally reached the shore. I was so happy to arrive, I just stood there for a minute and whooped! Then I heard my name and turned to see my Twitter friend Lana from the coast. I stopped while she took my picture. These two are pictures that Dirk Handke took for the race. He has many many more race photos on his Flickr account here. Susan Knight actually announced me as "Kelownagurl" on twitter. I was killing myself laughing when I heard that - so much for anonymity in my own town. LOL!!!

My official time was 50:45 and, if you're wondering, I came in 54/63 in my age group and 367 out of 428 who actually finished. Their times ranged from 21:41 to 1:27:29. All in all, I figure it's pretty much in keeping with my 2 km Half Iron swim time of 45 minutes given that it was a slightly longer distance.

The Across the Lake Swim was well organized, great volunteers, and had some good schwag (nice beach towel, Solo bar, discount coupons etc) and the only thing I didn't really like, was the way prizes were handed out at the end. They started out ok by randomly picking numbers and saying that if you weren't here, they'd pick a new number until they had a winner - that made it worth the long wait to win a prize - you don't get anything unless you're there. However, after a few prizes, I guess they decided this would take too long so they started handing prizes out to the "first person to bring them a ________". Well that's all fine and dandy but I was sitting on the beach in a swim suit and not much else. Everything I owned was in the boat or in the car. Not only that, there was soon a crowd of people hanging around the announcer so you had no chance to even get your 'item' up there to show them unless you elbowed your way over. However I hung around because I really wanted a shot at the Blue Seventy Wetsuit at the end. We played the Heads or Tails game for that one which is a fun game but I was out on the first try. (PS if you're going to play the Heads of Tails game, you need to actually flip a coin, not choose heads of tails in your head - not really fair either). Next year I won't hang around on the beach for over an hour to have no real shot at winning any prizes.

All in all, I had a great first swim. I was happy with my time even though I had no real time goal set in mind - my goal was to complete the swim without having a panic attack and that is what I did! Yahoo!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mountain Biking

When Erik and I first started dating, he tried to get me out mountain biking. We would go out on the trails in Crawford, now known as Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park, and he'd try to teach me to ride. I was terrified, fairly unfit, and had zero technical skills. Subsequently, I was not a very good student and I soon convinced Erik that it was more fun to ride on the road. Later, once I bought my road bike, I parked my mountain bike and I think the last time I rode it was at Long Beach in March of 2008, and I have not been on any kind of trail since 2007.

Since I started trail running last fall, I have begun to think a lot more about mountain biking and even more so whenever I hear a few of my work colleagues talk about mountain biking with other women. Then, when Erik and I were at Crawford for the ultra last weekend, we both really had the urge to get back on the trails again. So today, we got pulled our bikes out of the garage, cleaned them up a bit and checked them over, and then packed them into the car and drove back to the Crawford trail system where we used to ride a few years ago.

Erik spent many years riding, and even racing, on the Crawford trails back in the 90's and was part of the group of men who originally created many of the trails that are still there today. There are main dual track trails that climb steadily up to the KVR, and plenty of single track trails of varying difficulty available to choose from. Since it was my first time on the bike in awhile, and knowing I was never very good on the mtn bike in the first place, I insisted we start slow, and head up the Lost Lake trail to start with. Although it is a climb all the way, it is mainly easy dual track and a nice trail to warm up on. My heart rate was up in the 170's for much of the climb and I found it a good workout although I must admit it was nice to have mountain bike gearing again (more choices than on a road bike), with several very spinny "granny" gears.

Riding down the wider section of single track.

Once at Lost Lake, I still didn't feel I was ready for downhill single track yet so we turned around and started heading down the way we'd just come so I could practice my skills on an easy trail. A first I was afraid of picking up any speed at all, and my hands got sore holding the brakes so tight all the way down. I think at first I rode uphill faster than I rode downhill. I don't have clipless pedals on my bike, thank goodness, and I kept having to put my foot down to keep from getting out of control or falling. After a little downhill, I was starting to feel more confident and ready to try some single track so when we got down to Teddy Bear Junction, we started to head down a trail called the Pink Highway. This was mostly single track but a bit wider and more open so I didn't have to fear losing control and going off the track. The Crawford trails run through an area that was burned in a major forest fire that ran through the south slopes of Kelowna back in 2003. It not only destroyed thousands of acres of beautiful pine forest, but burned 250 homes in two major subdivisions, including my mom's house. Now, seven years later, open area are peppered with 3-4' pine trees, and in a few more years, they will once again begin to block the views of Okanagan lake. We climbed again all the way up to Flamingo Flats where we turned off the trail to go down some closer single track called Race Classic, Klassen, and Horse. The picture on the right is of me coming down a steeper section of the trail. If you look closely, you can see I am scared. :)

After that, we slowly made our way downhill and I tried a little more single track. We came to a section that had some roots across the trail with a small drop off to more downhill and I stopped to walk my bike over the section. Erik stopped me and said it was easy to go over and he showed me how, telling me to just stand up on the pedals and put my weight to the back of the bike. I was scared and started to give it a try but hit the brakes and stopped right at the root. Sigh. I turned the bike around and went back up a little higher to try again. It was all mental - I just had to get over my fear and go for it. OK, I was ready, start rolling, up out of the saddle, weight back, over the root, front wheel drops, and then - I don't what happened but I think my right pedal hit something, or maybe, I just instinctively hit the brakes, but over I went, crashing down onto a log. Erik was there ready to catch me but wasn't able to. I landed with a thud but wasn't really hurt, just shaken and a little angry. I stomped off down the trail for a minute, my knees just shaking. All I could think about was my friend who crashed hard a few weeks ago and who still doesn't have any feeling in her arm. Then I went back and got back on my bike to continue on down the trail. I wasn't ready for that kind of challenge yet, but I will come back and tackle it another day.

And the longer I rode, the more confident I became. I began to realize I was MUCH better on the bike that I had been three years ago. All those miles on the road bike had given me a great deal of bike "sense" as well as climbing power and speed. I felt that all I'd have to do would be to ride the trails once every week or two and I'd develop the technical skills quickly. The main thing I worked on today was to try to keep my focus on the trail ahead and not on what I was riding over at that particular moment. I tend to look down, see two rocks and try to steer between them and then lose control. Instead, today I glanced down, saw the rocks, and then refocussed on the trail ahead to see what was coming up next, and just trusted that I'd ride between and/or over the small obstacles. It worked really well and by the end of the ride, I was much more confident.

I am positive Erik and I will be out riding the trails in Crawford again. And with any luck, I will be able to ride over that damn root by the end of the summer. Mountain biking, trail running, hmmm, maybe an off road triathlon in the future?

Erik was awesome as usual, being patient with me, waiting for me, encouraging me, and carrying the camera in the back of his jersey and taking pictures several times on the trail. At one point, he turned the camera around and took a self-portrait. Kind of a cool shot I think. :)

2006 Rocky Mountain Fusion (hard tail, disc brakes)
Sugoi RS Flex bike shorts
Sugoi Zap vest
Specialized BG Sport Gloves
Newton Motus stability trainers (no clipless for me ;)