Friday, February 27, 2015

Tri the Oval 4, 2015 Bite Me Winter

So last Sunday (yeah I know I am slow writing this one up) was Tri the Oval 4. Ever since we had an outdoor long track speed skating oval installed in Halifax, the wonder MC has hosted a race, and she puts on a quality show. Skate, bike run makes for a crazy fun time and a great non traditional triathlon.

Every year we get some sort of crazy weather show up on race day making this race a challenge to put on, but so far we have never had to cancel the skate. This winter looked to be a great heading into the race.  Cold temps, tons of snow....the Commons were primed. But the night before rain. Seriously, the temps went up and rain came down.

So we showed up and the ground was ice and wet. Except where the snow was, that was deep mush. As I stood chatting with some fellow racers, MC and the volunteers were hurriedly trying to alter the course and prep things. The oval was under a couple of inches of water and a huge wind was blowing.  Volunteers were using snow  shoes to try and create a new course. All was very crazy. I wore a rain suit and was getting hot.

By the time it was race time a few brave souls had decided to get on with things and give it a good race (while we watched the street flood).

At this point it was announced that the lap counting system was broken (likely due to all the water) so we had to count our own skating laps. Yikes, but them's the brakes.

We were off and I watched Greg zoom away on his speed skates. The headwind was fierce, the tail wind carzy fun. The water was so deep in areas that my feet were instantly soaked. Brrrr. I pushed hard and was hanging with the leaders in the skate. I think ultimately I was in about 4th place. The 5K skate was the only part of the race that wasn`t cut short. After I counted 13 laps I stepped off the ice, only to see that I had fallen to maybe 10th or 12th place due to my inability to count. Ha ha on me. Dang.

Still, I didn`t cry about it, switched to my sneakers and ran /shuffled to the bike, passing a few people at that point. I grabbed my bike and headed to the mount line (by the way transition for the bikes had to move as the regular spot was under water). At this point it became apparent that actually riding the bike wasn't going to be easy. The sow was deep, knee deep in spots and super soft. So we were all running our bikes. I tried a few times to get on and ride, but it always lead to failure. Still I was passing others and managed to ride in an icy spot for a bit. I yelled with joy, then I had to get off and run some more.

By the end of the first lap on the bike, we were told to head straight to the run portion, as watching us push bikes around was very sad to see I guess. I had now moved myself up into 4th position.

Hey clear ground to run on!

I hit the run course in second, and then more deep snow. This time it was more calf deep, bit oh so hard to push through. Still I ran as best as I could. The run course was shortened and was just a little over 2 km. I finished it in just a little under 12 minutes. Ouch.  I finished in 38 minutes and it was the hardest 38 minutes I had ever raced. I was about 1 minute down on the winner, which considering my extra skate lap (and the fact that he lapped me 3 times anyway on the skate) felt really good. I guess my deep snow running is quite good.

Having an event like this makes winter a little more bearable. It forced me onto speed skates for the first time (and I love them). And regardless of the crazy race day weather, it is fun. 

Chatting with race winner Greg at the end (he was soaked)

See race done still smiling

My custom medals and race bib (disregard the date) 

The ever in demand Tri the Oval Winter Hat 

 Coffee from Java Blend, uber important to warm up
 The real reason we race, cookies


Sunday, February 15, 2015

My New Gadget

Well I couldn't resist grabbing a new to me, piece of old school technology. I saw a sale recently and had to buy what the runners of 2000 would have thought of as really cool stuff, but the runners of 2015 in the age of GPS would see as mostly useless. I bought a foot pod.

So before GPS watches were taking off, many runners used foot pods to more accurately gauge distance and speed. A foot pod is essentially just a small accelerometer that you wear on your shoe. It sends signals back to your watch via a unique code. Based on calibration, the foot pod will track a variety of metrics such as speed, distance, and most importantly cadence.

So there it is. Light weight and unnoticeable once attached and running. In this case I have a Timex branded foot pod, but because it uses standard ANT+ communication tech, it speaks just fine with my Garmin watch (do check for compatibility though if you try to mix and match brands).

In the winter I do a lot of indoor running and this of course means no GPS signal. I happen to run on an indoor track, but this can also work just fine on a treadmill. While treadmills generally tell you speed and distance anyway, they are notoriously inaccurate and it doesn't allow you to up load your run data to your favorite training log, you have to do it manually.

So after getting this little beauty, I took it to the track yesterday to try it out. 15 minutes in and I realize that my attempt at calibration failed. Maybe next time I will read the instruction (online of course as it doesn't come with any). After the issues were fixed I was back to running. It was great to see my cadence showing up and right where I like it, right around 90 per foot. In the end my average cadence was 176, but that included stopping a few times for a drink and a bit of a cool down at the end.

No more guessing on pace for me for my winter runs, or on dodgy hotel treadmills. My goal of making each run count so that I can focus on a less is more training philosophy has taken a new step.

Also it turns out my indoor runs were at a much faster pace than I realized. That didn't hurt the ego.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Skating Towards Something New 2015

So anyway it is winter here in Nova Scotia. It is cold here right now, and while run training is happening regardless, sometimes it is fun to actually take part in winter and thus I have started Speed Skating lessons.

I started taking lessons a few weeks ago, and while fun, it is hard work for sure. Much like swimming, I am an adult onset skater. My technique on any skates is fairly limited. Sure I took part in the Tri the Oval winter triathlons for the past few years, but my skating there was more tenacity than technique.

After a few weeks, I have progressed quite a bit, even to the point of rather liking skating quite a bit. And as is usual, that means I had to take part in a race. So this morning I suited up for a 5km long track race.

A small field of 10 lined up on a rather chilly morning, half on speed skates, half on hockey skates. After a few warm up laps and then we were off.

I'd love to say I flew along and did great things, but I will say I survived. I started in 4th place and then took over third, to stay there for the rest of the event.

Our race took place after the 10km marathon skate, so the track was already a little torn up, especially in the corners. I tried to do my cross overs for extra speed, but after a few stumbles, I decided to hold off and glide through the corners a bit more.

I was able to hold onto my technique for about the first half of the event, but slowly my lower back started to ache, my thighs started to burn. I just need more skate time to build my endurance it seems.

Soon, I heard my name called for my final lap, pushed through as best as I could and came home in 3rd overall. About 1 minute down on first at that point for a 13:47 time. Over a minute faster than my fastest Tri the Oval 5km skate.  I did keep my heart rate monitor on as well, and had an average heart rate of 156bpm. I'll have to see how that compares to future skates, but it is 1 beat away from my marathon heart rate.

I'm happy I took part, it pushed my limits, showed my lack of skill and took me out of my comfort zone. I am looking forward to more practice and definitely more races in the future. My skill on skates has grown a lot this winter season and I urge everyone to find a great "cold" weather sport to keep on their toes all winter long.

And hey, a cool medal! I'm not a huge collector, but it is nice to have a first medal to commemorate things.