My Top 10 Triathlon Accessories for 2018

It’s December and that means that it’s time to look back at 2018 and think about the high and low points of the season. Without any major races on my schedule until June, it’s time to start a new training plan and to focus on what worked last year, as well as what did not. I realize that I found a few pieces of equipment and clothing that I was really glad to have on hand this past year with all the time that I put in training for Ironman Lake Placid.

Here are my top ten triathlon accessories from my 2018 season:

10. Cycling Glasses

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Now we have matching glasses.

These glasses were a gift from my husband as we started doing more evening outdoor rides. I had regular cycling glasses from XX2i Optics that had served me well, but were pretty dark. My new pair of Oakley glasses has photochromic lenses that change from a darker tint to less tint as the daylight fades. I don’t know exactly which style I have since this was a gift.

9. Coeur Trishorts

I was looking to buy another pair of trishorts for the Rev 3 Quassy Half triathlon. While I’m not a fan of many of the color combinations in the Coeur lines, I did like these blue ones.

The chamois is seamless and soft and fleecy. The fit was as I expected and I didn’t experience any unexpected discomfort during the race. I’d definitely buy another pair if I can find a style that I like.

8. Cycling Vest

I decided before the same Quassy Half event that I also needed to find a vest for cycling in cooler weather because I am always cold.

This one from Garneau was on sale and fit my needs. It has two large pockets in back which turned out to be a perfect size to stow my jacket (see #6). The vest is very lightweight but does help to cut the wind. The fit is a bit slim.

7. Mizuno Running Shoes

I may have bought these Mizuno Wave Inspire 12 shoes at the end of 2017, but most of my use of them has occurred in 2018. The replaced my previous pair of Mizunos and have held up well. I didn’t have any major foot pain or problems while increasing my distance in preparation for Ironman Lake Placid. I’m a bit sad that they have so many miles on them now because I’ll have to replace them soon.

6. Pearl Izumi Running Jacket

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Pearl Izumi jacket.

This was another item that I think I picked up at the end of 2017, but I got more compliments on it than anything else! It saved my race in the rain and wind of Lake Placid, and I wore it for the entire bike course. I’m not overly fond of pink in my clothing, but the combination of fluorescent pink and yellow was certainly eye-catching. It is officially a running jacket, but it works on the bike just fine. It doesn’t have the standard pockets on the back, but one large one instead.

5. Swim Goggles

A few weeks before Ironman Lake Placid, I decided that I needed new swim goggles. The ones that I had been using in my training were starting to fog up more quickly, despite using Cat Crap defogger. I looked at polarized versus standard goggles and ended up buying three different styles and brands.

After all that, the pair that I used for Lake Placid (and still use in the pool) is the Speedo Vanquisher 2.0 series, which is what I had before all my shopping. The new pair that I used in my race was untinted because the day was overcast. They fit me better than the other goggles and as long as they’re not that old, they don’t fog up much.

4. Cycling gloves

My right hand goes numb while cycling on regular bars. I finally found a pair of gloves (Giro Strada Massa Gel) that seems to alleviate this to some extent. The numbness still occurs, but it takes longer to start up and it isn’t as bad.

I’ve gone back and bought several pairs of these gloves since discovering them. They’re available in several colors and have small pockets on the backs of two fingers to allow you to remove them easily when they’re sweaty. One problem that I did have with them – if they get wet on a ride, they smell really bad when they dry. I’ve had to wash them a few times.

3. Gu Campfire S’mores Flavor

I found this flavor of Gu while trying to figure out a nutrition strategy for Ironman Lake Placid. These really taste like s’mores. I usually eat Gu on long runs – I find them too messy for cycling. I learned that after 45 minutes of running, my energy levels would start to dip. Around 5 minutes after I ate one of these, I’d feel better. This flavor does not contain caffeine.

2. Stroopwaffle

These are very similar to the Honey Stinger waffles that I had been eating, but with less crumby edges. I discovered this tasty snack on a flight when it was served during the food/snack service. Later, my husband found that we could order these by the case. I’ll typically eat one about an hour before cycling, running, or fencing, after fencing practice, or if I need a quick sugar boost.

1. Walk-On Alarm Clock

So this isn’t specifically a triathlon accessory, but it is one of my favorite items that I’ve found this year. I don’t like mornings and I have trouble getting out of bed and getting my day started. This alarm clock sits in the next room and looks like a small rug or scale. When it goes off, I have to get out of bed, stumble into another room, and then stand on the alarm clock for about 10 seconds before it stops.

If you have trouble getting up for your early morning triathlon workouts, it might help! It certainly helped me to get my day started so that I could make better use of my time to fit in those long training sessions.

That’s it for this year’s finds! Have you used any of these? Do you have any favorites pieces of clothing, fuel, or other accessories that have benefited your triathlon training this year? Let me know in the comments.

Triathlon Training Ahead

I’m in a bit of a training slump for triathlon for the past few months. I had thought that signing up for Eagleman would help to get me back on track, but so far it has still been tough to find consistent motivation. I thought this would be a good time to step back and look at how I plan out my triathlon training.

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Swim exit at Eagleman

This Is Not Normal

So first of all, I don’t work a standard Monday through Friday job during normal hours. I work an average of three 13-hour overnight shifts each week. Right now they are grouped so that I work four shifts on one week and then two shifts the next. This might sound like I have a lot of free days to train, but it takes another day to recover from those night shifts, as well as some napping before heading in for the first night shift.

All of the triathlon training plans that I have seen so far assume that you have something close to a traditional schedule. The long workouts fall on Saturdays and Sundays, with a rest day on Monday in most cases. The workouts in the plan are structured in such a way that you’re rotating through sessions of varying intensity in the different disciplines in a way that makes sense. If you stick to the plan, it scatters the swims, bike sessions, and runs in an order that (probably) won’t overwhelm your legs all at once.

Add Some Swords

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Summer Nationals Veteran Women’s Sabre Team event – 3rd place.

On top of swimming, biking, and running, I have been fencing for over twenty years and practice for 1 to 2 hours twice a week. This adds another leg-heavy workout to my training, but I’m actually much better at fencing than at triathlon. Old injuries and just practical scheduling keep me from training more than that in a high-impact sport with a lot of repetitive hand and arm motions.

So how do I work around all of my scheduling weirdness? I pretty much make it up as I go. For some people, a triathlon coach may be helpful, but I don’t envision myself hiring one anytime soon. I also squeeze in at least an hour of weight training once a week with a personal trainer and that helps to keep me free from new injuries. I’d love to make it into the gym for that twice a week, but that rarely happens.

What Have I Used?

I started out my triathlon training by keeping it very simple. I already had some cycling experience but I had to learn to run and swim. I bought some real running shoes and started running only a mile at a time until I could tell if my ankles would tolerate it at all. Once that was going well, I signed up for swimming lessons at the local YMCA.

When it was time to do my first race, I had bought a Garmin 920 and used one of the sprint triathlon training plans on the Garmin connect training log. This was pretty simple and the workouts were all short, so I just squeezed them into my schedule where I could.

Garmin Connect

Garmin Connect features sprint and Olympic distance triathlon training plans. Access this by buying a Garmin device.

By the time I was ready for Eagleman training for my first 70.3 distance race in 2017, I needed something more. My husband pointed me toward Trainer Road, which is primarily a cycling platform that integrates with an indoor trainer. We had just purchased an indoor trainer because I was going to need to start my plan over the winter. Trainer Road has triathlon plans also, and while they don’t integrate into any specific device, I could read the workout listed there and then just go do it (for swims and runs). For the swim workouts, I’d jot down the sets on a small Post-It note and then tape it to my water bottle.

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Example of a triathlon training plan on Trainer Road. The bike workouts are used on a power-based indoor trainer. The swim and run workouts are text descriptions.

The plans on Trainer Road got me through Eagleman in 2017, and the Rev3 Quassy Half and Ironman Lake Placid in 2018. The site has options for sprint, Olympic, half, and full distance triathlons. Pick from three options of level and time commitment for each distance. The plans are built in blocks, starting with base fitness, then a build phase, and if you have time for it, a specialty phase. Look around at the plans and then count backward from your race date to see when to start each section. I had built in several extra weeks because I knew I’d have to take a break for certain travel weeks, fencing competitions, and a snowboarding vacation.

Going Forward

Now that I’ve signed up for Eagleman for 2019, I needed to think about how I planned to train again. I looked over plans on Trainer Road and found that it now offers a calendar option. This lets you pick a plan, decide which day of the week you prefer to start on, and then import it into those dates. From there, you can click and drag workouts to different days if you need to. The swim and run workouts also show up!

Trainingplan

This is an example of how a training plan looks after you import it into Trainer Road’s new calendar feature.

If you click on a swim or run workout in the calendar view, you can see more details. I think I’m sticking with Trainer Road for my training for Eagleman again. As the weather turns in the spring, I will do more of the rides outdoors, but the application even lets you import your outdoor rides into the calendar so it’s all visible in one place.

RunWorkoutTR

Close up view of a run workout as seen through the calendar view in Trainer Road.

So that’s my plan for this upcoming triathlon season. What other platforms have you used and found helpful for your training? Do you have an abnormal schedule that makes it more challenging to train? Let me know in the comments below!

Coming Soon – Eagleman 2019

Funny story…

I raced in Eagleman in 2017 for my first Ironman-branded event, as well as my first 70.3-mile (half distance) triathlon. Prior to that, I had only completed sprint distance triathlons and two half marathons. I had never swam that far in open water, and had only ridden that distance once before on my bike. I had spent a good amount of my time training up to the running distance, since that is a weak point for me.

The day of Eagleman came, and I raced. I felt great during the swim, despite getting a little lost on one turn and being swum over by another age group. I started out strong on my bike and felt fast until I was about two-thirds of the way through the course.

Swag

From there on, my stomach complained and I became dizzy with more exertion. In hindsight, I believe I was dehydrated, but at the time I didn’t know that that was how my body would react. I started the run barely being able to walk, but finally found a jog-walk strategy that helped me keep moving. By the last 3 miles of the race, I really couldn’t run at all, but I kept moving and made my way to the finish.

I had been hoping for a better time, but with the heat and dehydration, I just couldn’t move any faster. This past season, my races were all hilly, so it has been tough for me to compare times between any races so far.

Since I now have a couple more races under my belt, I have been thinking ahead about goals for next triathlon season. I don’t do too badly in the shorter events, but I’d like to get faster overall. I signed up to race in the New Jersey State Triathlon in July, for both the sprint and the Olympic distances.

I had been thinking that I would do another 70.3, but it was a toss up between Ironman Connecticut 70.3 (formerly Rev3 Quassy Half), Eagleman, Ironman Atlantic City 70.3, or something a little further afield. My thoughts kept going back to Eagleman and that flat, hot course.

Last week I received an email announcing that all of the Tier 3 entries for Eagleman had sold out. That means that the race was down to the last tier of entries and would likely sell out completely. If I wanted to race Eagleman next season, I needed to decide soon. This race has also been designated as the tri club championship for 2019, which has probably added to the entries.

When I raced Eagleman in 2017, my brother also did the race, and my cousin, sister-in-law, and a friend completed a relay. My husband had considered doing the bike portion of the relay with them, but ultimately decided against it. I know that he’s said a few times that he wished he had ridden in it.

I brought it up to him and mentioned that the race was likely to sell out soon. By the end of the night, we had both signed up. He’s in for a relay and I’m racing the whole thing. Now I just have to figure out how to hydrate and go faster. I guess I’m starting a training plan again in December!

Upcoming Events and Races

So the triathlon season has come to an end for 2017, fencing has started up again for 2017-2018, and I’ve been planning the upcoming year for both.

Here’s what’s on my plate for anyone who’s interested:

December NAC: I will be fencing the Veteran Open and Vet-40 events in womens’ sabre in Portland, OR.

April NAC: I will be fencing in Richmond, VA. I’m sure I’ll enter the Veteran Open and Vet-40 women’s sabre events, but could also do the Division II event. I haven’t decided yet.

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May: I’m riding in the New York Gran Fondo. This is a 100-mile ride/race that starts on the George Washington Bridge. The route has a ton of climbing and I expect will be my first century ride.

July: This month is a doozy. I should be fencing in Summer Nationals in St. Louis, MO for whatever events I qualify for. Then later in the month, I have Ironman Lake Placid. This will be my first full distance triathlon, and I hope that the NY Gran Fondo will help to prepare me for the climbing on the Lake Placid course.

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St. Louis arch.

That’s it for now, although I expect to add some other local and regional fencing events when my schedule allows it (not easy right now). I’m debating whether I want to sign up for a 70.3 distance triathlon or a half marathon as training for Lake Placid, but I haven’t made a decision yet on these.

Race Report – Big Forest Half Marathon 2017

 

I’ve neglected my poor blog for a while now, so I’m going to post some non-writing, non-fencing stuff here sometimes. This is a race report from my second ever half-marathon!

This past weekend, I participated in the Big Forest Half Marathon in Tuckerton, NJ. I had thought that this was the second time that this race had been held, but it seems like may actually have been the inaugural one.

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T-shirt design (front). The back has sponsors in white.

I wanted to run at least one half marathon before my first 70.3 triathlon (Eagleman), and I chose this race because it was being held on a Saturday so I wouldn’t need to take off work. It was easy to register for the event, and I received an email a few days before the race with updated course information.

I decided to drive down to south Jersey on the morning of the event because it didn’t start until 9 a.m., with packet pickup being held from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. The race was held in Bass River State Forest, which was only a short distance from the Garden State Parkway. It turns out that the same race organizer puts on the Bassman Triathlon, which was being held on Sunday.

When I arrived at the park, it was pretty easy to tell where to go, and there was plenty of parking. I think there were about 120-130 people in the race, so this was a much smaller event than the other half marathon I’ve done. Check in was simple, but did take a little longer than I thought it should because everyone had to sign a waiver and show ID. I’m not sure what else would have slowed down the line, but after a bit, they started passing the waivers out in line so we would have them ready by the time we got to the front. It was a bit chilly standing in line because the wind came right across the lake to hit us there and I wish I had pulled my fleece on beforehand.

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The cold beach next to check-in.

There were a few free samples to grab and a t-shirt. I like the design – see my photo. After checking in, I focused on getting myself ready to run by donning my number, drinking a little more water, and stashing my blocks in my sleeves. The temperature was in the low 60’s with a little breeze. There were a few port-a-potties, but these were adequate. The race announcer even let everyone in line know that they wouldn’t start the race until everyone had made it through the line. The other half-marathon that I ran gave out clear bags for your personal effects to label with your name and leave in bins. This one did not do that, but the parking was so close that it was unnecessary. I’m used to carrying my phone and car keys in a running belt anyways.

Before the start, there were brief announcements, with particular attention given to the course. The original course had changed due to an obstruction, and I had only briefly looked at the new one online before arriving. The race was three loops – one 3.1 mile loop, and then two laps of a 5 mile loop. The announcer made some confusing comments about following the red arrows, but then also sometimes following the yellow ones. I hoped there would be volunteers to direct us (unlike a 5K I did last month where everyone got lost and I was waving runners back onto the course).

And then we were off! I started off slowly and found that it wasn’t hard at all to follow the course. If the volunteers hadn’t been there though, I definitely would have been lost. But they happily pointed out the way, and mile markers also reassured me that I was head the right direction. The 3.1 mile loop overlapped parts of the 5 mile one also, and it might have seemed repetitive for some people. I didn’t mind traversing the same bits of road though, as the forest was pretty. The road surface was pretty smooth to run on with only one particularly bad section of pavement where I had to watch my step more carefully. One stretch on the 5 mile loop also went off the road and through the forest, but despite my bad ankles and reluctance to even consider trail running, this was my favorite part of the course. The trail was very hard packed dirt covered with a tiny bit of pine needles and sand. The only parts of the course that had any more annoying amounts of sand were where I had to turn from the road onto the trail, and then at the finish line (on the beach). There was also a short stretch back at the beach house (where we checked in) between the loops with a little sand. The course was also mostly flat – just a small rolling hill here and there.

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Finish line – from pavement to a short stretch of sand.

I carried my own blocks for nutrition, but the race offered a selection of gels and banana pieces. The aid stations were plentiful, and I even had to skip then a few times to avoid feeling sloshy. They had water and Gatorade.

A few spectators watched at the beach house, but for the most part, it was a lonely race (fine by me). The state forest featured campgrounds, and a good number of them were occupied. Some of the campers cheered at first, but then I think they grew tired of seeing us. The roads were also open to traffic, but with only local campers out and about, there weren’t a lot of cars to worry about.

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Awards presentation finishing up.

I finished in 2:22:36.0, so a PR for me! However, my Garmin only registered it as 12.82 miles. I don’t know who was right. I received an email with my result, but the link to the full race results took me to a different event. The full results can be found here. Awards (plaques) were handed out to the top 3 overall male and female finishers, as well as top 3 in all age groups. All finishers received a medal with glittery trees.

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Glittery trees!

Post-race food included fruit – apples and bananas, I believe – as well as bagels and cream cheese. I grabbed a half a bagel, devoured it, and then headed home.

See all my race reports here.

A Quick Update

I’ve been rather inactive on updating this page, but I’ve had a lot going on lately. I should have a little more time now to catch up and to get back to posting here. In no particular order, here is what I’m going to be working on:

I should be back to posting some reviews for books, comics, and television shows.

I’m getting back to writing some fiction, so I may have an occasional update on that.

I’ll be back at fencing practice next week, preparing for competitions as the spring nears. I’m also training for my first triathlon, which will be easier when the weather warms up.

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Mars – Photo courtesy of NASA

Lastly, my main focus for the next few weeks is to work on submitting my application to NASA for the upcoming astronaut selection. The requirements to apply are straightforward, but the odds are very long. I may post an update on that process here if I hear anything more than the standard “thank you for applying, but no” postcard.

Want to avoid fencing injuries? Don’t be lax about the safety rules. Here are some true stories of what can happen.

Link

Hitting the Reset Button and Moving Forward After Summer Nationals

Check out this article by Damien Lehfeldt over on fencing.net.

Link

Fictional Fencers – Conditioning and Athletics and Zombies

Oh hey, it’s time to return to a post about fencing! Today, I’m going to talk about what types of athletic activities a fencer might participate in outside of regular practice. Or another way to look at it would be – what athletic feats might your character be good at if he has done some fencing? What would he struggle with? And most importantly, would he be able to effectively run from zombies?

First off, any character has motivations and goals. How often is she fencing and why? If your character is obsessed with swords and uses every opportunity to train at fencing or other martial arts, this person will have a different physique and abilities than one who runs daily, trains for marathons, or perhaps picks up a fencing weapon only once a month. Maybe your character used to fence ten years ago, but hasn’t picked up a blade or made a lunge since then? What skills would this character retain?

What other types of exercise would a fencer do?

I think it’s easiest to group our fencers into three types. First off, you would have the novices. This group would include those beginners that may have aspirations for competition, but are still trying to figure out the footwork, rules, and proper blade positions. You could also put those who fence more as a hobby than a sport in this group. These fencers would have some degree of fencing skill, but since they either have not been working at it for long, or perhaps pick up a blade once a week or less, their physical condition can vary greatly. Fencing alone at this novice level is unlikely to give this character much additional strength or endurance for other sports, running from zombies, or trying to fight off a serious threat.

The second group of fencers will be those who have the basics down and attend practice regularly (or at least seasonally). This type of character will have more muscle development in the legs and the weapon arm. She will also have some degree of cardiovascular conditioning from footwork drills or bouting practice. However, since fencing uses a lot of fast-twitch muscle fibers, this character may have limited endurance for a long day of competition or running further than a few miles from those zombies.

The last type of fencer is the elite athlete. This fencer will be attending regular practices, but will also work out in other arenas. Weight-training and conditioning are critical to a fencer who wishes to compete and win in anything other than a local tournament. This article gives a great overview of the types of exercises that are helpful. Some competitive fencers may work with a trainer to maximize the benefits of training and to minimize the risk of injury. This type of fencer may be able to lift heavy objects, run several miles, or sprint short distances faster than an average person. Any athlete that has done cross-training in multiple types of activities will be more coordinated and could tackle unexpected obstacles with more success than the average person. One caveat to this would be that the elite athlete would be more likely to have sustained injuries due to the intensity of the training. So while your athlete may have the cardiovascular fitness, coordination, or mental toughness to survive that run from zombies, at the end of the day, she may also have caused an old knee injury to flare up to limit her activity the next day.

The elite athlete cannot be good at everything, and fencing is still more similar to a boxing match than a marathon. If you need your character to be able to run a marathon for your story, then the training associated with fencing will contribute less to this and he had better be doing a lot more running than fencing.

An additional category of fencer that could be involved in a story would be the character that used to fence, but has not done so much as a lunge or a parry in several years. I have seen many high school and collegiate fencers that stop training and competing once they have graduated. What if one of these fencers picked up a sword after a long absence from the sport? What would he remember and what would be tough?

Unless this former fencer was physically active in other sports, his footwork would be awkward and clumsy after such a break. He might remember how to do a lunge, but his legs and core would not cooperate in the same way that they used to. The bladework would be more easily remembered. The muscle groups there are more localized to the fingers, wrist, and elbow, and there is less overall balance and muscular strength needed for these motions. Of course, if he fences for very long at all, he will certainly have muscle soreness afterward. This would be most pronounced in the legs, but could also involve the forearm or back.

Lastly, for a specific example. What do I do for my training and conditioning? I practice specifically fencing three times a week, for an average of two hours each practice. I lift weights at the gym at least twice a week, although on occasion I manage it three times. Cardiovascular conditioning is split between short runs (1 – 3 miles) and cycling (5-11 miles). I throw in interval training and sprints, yoga classes, other cardio (elliptical machine, rowing machine, etc), jumping rope, and footwork drills, depending on my energy level, schedule, and any soreness or injuries.

Could I outrun the zombies? I don’t want to find out, but I think I’d have a better chance than others.

So, what type of feats have your characters performed when forced to it? Have you written a zombie chase scene? You don’t have to outrun the zombies, right? You just have to outrun everyone else.

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