Thursday, June 21, 2012

Gear Review: TriggerPoint Cool Point Hand Cooler

As I put together my plan for the Eagleman 70.3 to do what I can to not overheat, one of the tools I was planning to use was the TriggerPoint Hand Cooler which I think used to be made by a company called Bex. TriggerPoint may have acquired the technology from Bex and re-branded it. The premise itself is pretty simple. You wear a pad that straps around your hand. Inside the pad is a re-usable frozen gel pack. As you run, the frozen pad cools the blood that passes through your hand which in turn, cools the rest of your body. The product also claims to send thermoregulation signals to the brain which I interpret as a way to fake out your brain that it isn't as hot as it thinks it is. Conceptually, it all made sense so I decided to give it a try. For $20, it was not that expensive and would be a great value if it actually worked to keep me somewhat cooler for my long runs.

The original plan was to use this at Eagleman 70.3 but unfortunately that plan was quickly squashed as I didn't have access to a freezer where we stayed to keep the gel pad frozen. If you plan on using it for a race, this is a logistical consideration to keep in mind. I did end up using it earlier this week for an 8-mile run and unfortunately, the Hand Cooler doesn't look like a viable solution.

The pad itself fits well onto the palm with an adjustable strap. It was not real cumbersome to wear while I was running. Since there is some fabric between the cooling gel pack and your hand, you can feel the coldness but it does not get un-comfortable from being too cold. The issue comes down to how practical the Hand Cooler is. After about 20 - 25 minutes, the Hand Cooler was basically de-thawed and by 30 minutes, no longer providing any cooling sensation. For an 8-mile run, this was not going to cut it and became more of an inconvenience for the duration of the run having to have a soggy gel pack strapped around my hand. To be fair, while it was frozen, it did seem to help with feeling cooler. For folks going out for thirty-minute runs/walks, this may be a viable option but as a solution for long distance runs, especially in the summer heat, I would not recommend using the Hand Cooler as an effective tool to stay cool.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday Tunes: More Call Me Maybe and Martin Solveig Live at Electric Daisy Carnival

Well, "Call Me Maybe" made it to #1 on the Billboard Charts and to celebrate (in a half-serious manner), here's even more remixes of "Call Me Maybe" to thump on your laptop. Streams and downloads below!

As a more serious Tuesday Tunes recommendation, Electric Daisy Carnival recently took place and one of the standout sets was by Martin Solveig who mixed together a set of all bangers. This mix is a live, continuous set ideal for those 45+ minute workouts when you just want the music to keep you going.

Download Martin Solveig Live at Electric Daisy Carnival (Las Vegas)-SAT-06-09-2012


1. Martin Solveig feat. Kele – Ready 2 Go (Hardwell Remix) [Mixture]
2. Hardwell – Spaceman [Revealed]
3. Chuckie & Glowinthedark – Electro Dude [Big Beat / Cr2]
4. Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris – We Found Love [Island Def Jam]
5. Knife Party – Tourniquet [Earstorm]
6. Duck Sauce – Big Bad Wolf (Dada Life Remix) [Big Beat]
7. Martin Solveig & Dragonette feat. Idoling!!! – Big In Japan (Les Bros Remix) [Mixture] w/ Daft Punk – Technologic (Acappella)
8. Bingo Players – Rattle [Hysteria]
9. Skrillex & Wolfgang Gartner – The Devil’s Den [Owsla]
10. Kanye West & Jay Z – Niggas In Paris
11. Flux Pavilion – I Can’t Stop [Circus]
12. Franz Ferdinand – Do You Want To [Domino] w/ Gwen Stefani – What You Waiting For (Acappella)
13. Mord Fustang – Windwaker [Plasmapool]
14. Ivan Gough & Feenixpawl feat. Georgi Kay – In My Mind (Axwell Mix) [Axtone] w/ ID
15. Swedish House Mafia – Greyhound [EMI] w/ Pryda – Allein [Virgin]
16. Martin Solveig & Dragonette – Boys & Girls [Mixture]
17. Congorock – Babylon [Fool’s Gold] w/ Daft Punk – Aerodynamic [Virgin]
18. Lana Del Rey – Video Games
19. Porter Robinson – Language [Big Beat] w/ MGMT – Kids
20. Porter Robinson – Unison [Owsla]
21. Laidback Luke feat. Chuckie & Martin Solveig – 1234 [Mixmash]
22. Skrillex feat. The Doors – Breakn’ A Sweat (Zedd Remix vs. Original Mix) [Big Beat / Owsla]
23. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Can’t Stop [Warner]
24. Martin Solveig – The Night Out (A-Trak Remix) [Mixture]
25. Fun. – We Are Young
26. Martin Solveig & Dragonette – Hello [Mixture]

Awesome New Running Shoe Policy by Running Warehouse

Anyone who has ever asked me about where to buy running shoes or running related apparel/accessories knows that I always point them to I have no relationship with the company other than being a loyal consumer who has been extremely delighted by their competitive prices and awesome customer service. Some highlights include:

  • Free 2-day shipping on purchases
  • Free, hassle-free return shipping
  • Regular sales
  • Coupon codes for additional savings including "runblog10" for an additional 10% off purchases and "FB15" which knocks an additional 15% off liquidation items

Incredibly, Running Warehouse has stepped up their game even further when they announced today a new "90 Day No Sweat Returns" policy. Simply put, if you buy shoes and they don't work out, you have 90-days  to send them back and you can either buy another pair of shoes or get store credit. Understandably, there are discretionary limits to prevent abuse of the program.

With all the different kinds of shoe options out there, it is easy to buy a pair you *think* will be awesome but after actually putting some miles on it, find out you really don't like it. This 90-day policy helps to limit expenses on shoes that might not work out well for you. Personally, I love experimenting with different shoes/models and have come across shoes that don't simply work well for the way I like to run. Rather than having to spend more money to buy another pair, this program gives me a free pass to try something else. I think this is an incredible, customer-centric policy and really opens doors for people to buy their shoes online without having to worry about fit. Good job Running Warehouse!

Recap: Eagleman 70.3 [June 10, 2012]

Eagleman 70.3 was my first "A" race of the year meaning a full one week taper leading up to the race and racing as hard as I could no matter what. This race is probably one of the most popular Half Ironman 70.3 races on the East Coast due to the talent it attracts. The race is also one of a handful where you can earn qualifying slots to both the Half Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas and the Ironman Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

This would be my fourth Half Ironman race but only the second Half Ironman 70.3 race where the swim was not cancelled. Between not swimming 1.2 miles in over a year, the hot temperatures, and competing with some of the fastest triathletes in the country (including Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander), Eagleman was going to be a memorable experience.

Swim (36:08)

Most of the discussion for Eagleman leading up to the race was whether or not the race would be wetsuit legal due to the warm weather. The cut-off is 76.1 degrees. Any higher and no wet suit is allowed. Simple enough but from a race strategy perspective, having to wear the wetsuit in relatively warm water combined with the already high air temperature could pose overheating issues that could easily derail someone's race day. On the flipside, there is a clear advantage having the wetsuit and the buoyancy it offers, especially if everyone else is wearing a wetsuit. My compromise was to wear a wetsuit that didn't have sleeves. This is the same one I wore at my first triathlon race nearly 5 years ago and haven't worn since. Thankfully when I checked, it still fit and was still in good shape. The swim was a loop in Choptank River (it really is called that). I swam it before for the Chesapeakeman Aqua Velo two years ago and the swimming conditions definitely matched the name.

This time around, the waters were relatively calm so it wasn't that rough of a swim. I was able to get a warm up swim in before my wave kicked off at 7:50am or so and since it was an in-water start, I practiced getting my breathing rhythm going by putting my face in the water to breath out and turning to my side to take a breath at the same rate as what I would be doing during the swim. The swim itself was nothing crazy. After the initial craziness of the start, I settled into a good, comfortable rhythm. I could probably use some work on my sighting but there wasn't any points during the swim where I thought I was really swimming away from the course. As you can see from the GPS (from my Garmin) above, I didn't have the straightest swim but it wasn't horrible either. A few observations:
  • I wish the marker buoys were closer together
  • The color of the lifeguard kayaks and the buoys were both yellow which did make it a little harder to sight from far away
  • The color of our swim caps (Day Glow Orange) and the turning buoys were the same color, also making it harder to sight from far away
  • I made the right decision going with a sleeveless wetsuit. My exposed arms pulling the water kept me from overheating and it was also a lot less constricting than wearing a normal wetsuit. I did get a rub burn under my right arm pit but that may have been due to improper fit

I got out of the water and clocked 36:08. Seemed about right to me (slightly better than average) and actually a PR from my only other 70.3 swim.

Garmin File:

T1 (5:06)
I really need to improve my transition times as this is easy time to make up. I probably took a few extra minutes putting on socks/arm sleeves but over 5-minutes is way slow. I also ate a banana in transition which I should have just done at the start of the bike.

Bike (2:28:24)

My bike leg at the New Orleans 70.3 was nearly a disaster with losing water bottles and getting into a crash within the first 5 miles. I made every attempt to avoid all of that and have a "clean" bike ride. For Eagleman, I almost did. I re-did my rear hydration set-up to better hold the water bottle and also decided to put my extra nutrition flask in my back pocket rather than having it velcro'd to my base bar. I'm happy to say I didn't lose any nutrition this time or have to make extra stops to use the course nutrition which saved me time. I was also more aware of the road for Eagleman to avoid hitting seams/cracks/bumps in the road that could cause a crash. Luckily, the Eagleman course was on roads that were in pretty good condition so that wasn't as much of an issue. Alongside the high heat and choppy swim, Eagleman is also well known for a very windy bike course. I don't know whether or not it was windy, but I didn't really have any issues with it during the bike. The goal was to average around 230 watts for the entire bike to pace myself for the run. Early part of the bike went well as I passed a number of people. Around Mile 18 or so, I started to feel like having to take a piss. This turned into "I really have to take a piss" around Mile 20. I hated that I had to take a piss while riding in a good rhythm/fast speed and thought about just pissing while biking but I mentally could not do it. I saw a Porto-Potty around Mile 22 or so and did my business there. The rest of the bike went to plan until about 12 or so miles left. I had been baking in the sun for about two hours and the hot/heavy aero helmet was starting to wear me down a bit (frying my head). I started to have trouble focusing and at one point, realized I had drifted over the middle yellow line which is a No-No. Unfortunately when it happened, a Ref on a motorcycle was right behind me. The Ref pulled up next to me and gave me a Yellow Card (penalty) for crossing over the line which meant I had to check-in to the Penalty Tent to give my name/bib number. There are three penalty tents on the bike course and I had already passed the first two so I had to do the check-in at the bike finish. The bike course overlapped a piece of the run course and as I biked in, I noticed how miserable the runners looked with the heat and how the run course was on an open road with no shade. Preview of things to come! Despite the pee break/penalty, I PR'd the bike split and finished under 2:30 which was a goal of mine.

Garmin File:

T2 (8:25)
Simply put, T2 was a disaster. Going from bike to run should be relatively quick since you are just racking your bike and changing shoes. My T2 wasn't so straightforward. The heat must have really affected me more than I thought because when I entered transition, I thought my number was 1598 for some reason. I got to the rack area for 1598 and couldn't find my name which confused the hell out of me. I then remembered that my number was actually 1498 and ran back to the correct rack. I threw on my running shoes, hat and glasses and ran over to a volunteer to ask where the Penalty Tent was so I could check-in and not be DQ'd. The volunteer had no clue what I was talking about. Actually, none of the volunteers knew anything about the  Penalty Tent or where it was. After about 3-4 minutes of running around the transition area, I started running out onto the run course. Right before the timing mat for the start of the run, I asked a spectator if they knew where the Penalty Tent was and the person actually did know. The Penalty Tent was all the way back at the Bike Finish. I high tailed it back through transition and back onto the Bike Course where the Penalty Tent was and checked-in. All said and done, I probably lost 7-minutes on the transition due to all of this.

Run (1:53:59)

By the time I got onto the run course, it was like watching a death march across a desert. I think at this point the temperatures were creeping toward mid-90's and there was almost no shade during the run. I heard after the race that over 100 people dropped out of the race. It was also reported that the day was the hottest it has been since the previous August. The first mile was a blur and probably fueled by the adrenaline of starting the run since I did it in 8:18 which wasn't too bad. Things immediately tanked pretty quickly as I realized how overheated I was in addition to exertion from the swim and bike. I started to walk and had thoughts of just walking the entire run, reasoning that it was really hot and it was good enough to get this far. The more I walked, the more I felt like my body was starting to quit on me. While I was making up my mind about the race, I was doing a pseudo-run/walk from aid station to aid station. Around Mile 4, I got the idea to start stuffing ice into my hat and my arm sleeves which seemed to help cool me down. I kept this up at each Aid Station (approx every mile or so). As my body started to cool down, I started to get back into a rhythm and my strength started to return. Other than some prolonged stops at the aid station to get ice, my run progressively got faster all the way to the finish where I was able to kick it in, finishing the last mile at a 7:40min/mile pace.

Although I PR'd in both the swim/bike legs, I'm easily most proud of the run. Although it wasn't my fastest 70.3 half marathon leg, it was one where I fought from start to finish under less than ideal conditions. In all my other 70.3's, I ended up walking a good bit on the last 5 miles or so. I'm really happy I didn't throw the towl in on the run and kept on going. As opposed to other races where the I faded at the end, in this race, I got stronger as the run went on. The main difference was I was able to understand my body, make adjustments, and keep on racing. My average for the first 6.6 miles was 9:16 min/mile pace whereby the last 6.6 miles was 8:07 min/mile pace. In hindsight, it makes me wonder how I would have done for the whole run had the heat not been an issue.

Garmin File:

Final Thoughts

The goal coming in was to break 5:00 hours and make progress toward someday getting fast enough to qualify for the 70.3 World Championships. Based upon this year's qualifiers, I need to get my time down to 4:20 for the 30-34 Age Group to qualify. Good news is I have three more years in this age group to build speed/experience and make a run at it when I'm 34. Although I didn't hit my goal time, I can't be entirely upset since this was close to a 45-minute PR from my best legit 70.3 time (the two Half Ironman races where the swim was cancelled don't count in my book). All things considered, I had a fantastic race and who knows what could have been if the heat wasn't such a factor.

Eagleman was the last big race before settling into an 8-week Peak Training Phase to get ready for Ironman Mont Tremblant (full Ironman) in August. I think I am where I should be at this point in the season and as long as I get through the Peak Phase and nailing the weekend long distance workouts, Ironman Mt. Tremblant should be a positive finale to this year's triathlon racing season.

I have to give a shout out to my wife Carly for allowing me to combine our first anniversary wedding weekend with this race. I couldn't ask for better fan support. Also, special thanks to the Pappas' who came down to cheer and took some great race pics. I loved seeing the sign on the course!

Overall Results

395 out of 1973 Overall
54 out of 161 in AG

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fitness, Even At Work: Optimizing My Workstation For a Healthier Body

Back in March, Tim Ferriss (the 4-Hour Work Week/4-Hour Body guy) posted about Reinventing the Office: How to Lose Fat and Increase Productivity at Work Tim usually writes about body hacks and a lot of self-experimentation topics that I usually end up trying (I have a VERY understanding wife). The article made a great case on the negative affects of sitting down all day:

Unfortunately, most people aren’t so lucky, and ass-in-chair time has costs:
- As the New York Times recently wrote, sitting kills.
- In a study that tracked over 17,000 Canadians for 12 years, researchers found that people who sat more had a higher risk of death, independent of whether or not they exercised.
- According to a 2003-2004 U.S. survey, Americans spend over half of their time awake sitting.
- In an article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researcher Elin Ekblom-Bak found that “after four hours of sitting, the body starts to send harmful signals” that cause the genes regulating glucose and lipose levels in the body to shut down.

From a fitness perspective, sitting all day can have a negative effect as well. Sitting all day can make your hip flexors short and tight and cause your butt muscles to become weak and less tone. These two components are essential for a good, mechanically sound running gait. I would also say most people don't sit properly and develop a slouch over time which isn't great for the back either.

Changing my cubicle to be "healthier/more fitness-oritented" seemed like an easy thing to try out so I used the article as a guideline to hacking my workplace. My friend Laura over at posted a pic of her office set-up and an infographic on the negative effects of sitting which reminded me to report back in with my set-up. Here is what I have going on (picture of the set-up at the top)

  • Dual Monitor Set-up. This has nothing to do with fitness other than productivity gains having a two monitors at work.
  • The laptop/monitor are propped on copy paper boxes. (center top) I think I need a little more height so that the monitors are a little more eye-level. Ultimately, I'll probably get something from Ikea as I have long term concerns about an accident happening with a laptop/monitor sitting on a card board box but for now, it works.
  • To help ease the strain of standing long periods, I purchased an anti-fatigue mat. (center bottom) Right now, I pretty much stand all morning, sit-down for lunch/mid-afternoon, and stand the rest of the day. Standing at work has its benefits but like anything, standing too much isn't really great either because the increased pressure from standing too much could affect the veins in your legs. Like anything else, moderation and balance
  • Speaking of balance, I have a balance board (lower right hand corner) that I'll stand on periodically through the day. I'll usually stand on it during conference calls or stand on it whenever I need a break away from the computer. This provides a nice  passive core/stability exercise. Right now I'm working on doing air squats while balancing. I can only do one right now...
  • When I do sit, I sit on an exercise ball. My core gets a little bit of an extra workout and I will randomly bust out a few crunches when I'm on a conference call and don't feel like going on the balance board. I have not run into an issue like this:
  • Not related to my cubicle, but helpful to standing all day, I changed the shoes I wear to work. I have both brown and black pairs of the Vivobarefoot Ra which is a zero drop, low to the ground shoe which actually looks like "professional" shoes. These things are ultra comfortable (esp with the wider forefoot) and not having a heel makes it easier on my back standing over a prolonged amount of time. If I wanted to, I could probably run a few miles in these shoes no problem.
  • For the astute eye, yes, that is a Zeo Mobile Sleep Monitor (center right) but I was just updating the firmware, not tracking my sleep at work :)
  • For the even more astute eye, yes, that is a Blackjack Strategy table on my white board. Really, I'm not a gambling addict...
So that's my set-up. I'm two months in and no issues have really come up. I do get questioned here and there when someone new comes to the office and wondering what it is all about but I usually downplay it as just wanting to "change things up." The biggest upgrade will be getting that mini-table from Ikea to replace the boxes. I'll post another pic so you can see how it looks.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday Tunes: Bambooyah! by The White Panda

I've been meaning to post about the latest album from The White Panda since the Spring when it came out but never got around to it. If you are fan of mash-ups, here is an essential mix for the summer. Sample and download link below. They have a ton more tunes at their website. Enjoy!

Friday, June 8, 2012

2012 Mid-Season Overview and Time Prediction Contest #2!

I love how pissed off this guy looks as I'm passing him at NO 70.3

Heading into my first "A" race of the year at Eagleman 70.3, I've had a tremendous experience with the races so far this year in terms of learning about where I'm at with training and learning how to race better. The year so far has been a success early on so I hope the momentum will carry on as I head into the three big "A" races for this year (Eagleman 70.3/Ironman Mont Tremblant/Philly Marathon). Here is a recap so far of the season and at the end, details for Time Prediction Contest #2!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tips On Getting Ready to Race in the HEAT

Expected temps for race day. Yep, it will be a hot one!

I have three "A" races this year: Eagleman 70.3 Half Ironman, Ironman Mont Tremblant, and the Philadelphia Marathon. The first of these, Eagleman 70.3, is coming up this weekend and as it has been in the past, the weather is expected to be Hot! Hot! Hot! Heat is the one element that can trash any well trained athlete and derail any race/workout if a person is not prepared for it. Personally, high temperatures have been the primary cause for any race I don't do well in. The most notable example was the Philadelphia Olympic Triathlon where I collapsed at the Finish Line and had to have EMT's carry me off to the emergency tent. For Eagleman this year, I've put together a plan to make sure I finish as strong as I can for this race without letting the heat impact me too much.

The Bungee Shoe Laces Jump-Off: A Review of Lock Laces, Yankz, and Xtenex

Some of the running shoes in my rotation: Saucony Kinvara 2, Brooks Pure Flow, Adidas Haggio

The first upgrade I'll tell anyone to get when buying running shoes (or workout shoes in general) is to invest in a pair of bungee laces. Traditionally, they are any pair of stretchy/rubberband like shoeslaces that you tie on once and the elasticity allows you to just slip into the shoe and have a snug fit without having to tie anything. The primary advantage of this is that the laces will never come un-done during a fast paced workout or while racing, you don't have to worry about the laces and having to stop to fix it. It is a simple concept but there are a few options that I have come across and used in the past so here's an overview of three of the more popular types.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Philadelphia Bicycling Open Recap - June 3, 2012

The first Sunday in June aka Manayunk Bike Race Day has always been reserved in my calendar the past several years. My wife and I even decided to schedule our wedding for the second weekend in June to not conflict with Bike Race Weekend (true story). The Bike Race (formally known as the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship) is one of those quirky events specific to Philadelphia where essentially a part of the city turns into one giant house party and the police are very very lenient on drinking alcoholic beverages out in public. I have fully taken advantage of this in prior years, lugging around a cooler up and down The Wall, starting to drink at 8am, and wildly ringing my cow bell as the pro cyclist zip by. When an amateur race was added this year prior to the pro race, I jumped at the opportunity to be on the other side of the gates and ride the same course that the pros ride against other cycling enthusiast.

Tuesday Tunes: Even More 'Call Me Maybe' For The Summer!

"Your stare was holdin, ripped jeans, skin was showin' night, wind was blowin"

Tuesday Tunes has been on a hiatus due to my racing/training schedule but summer, the essential time to blast music while driving/working out, is HERE so those iPod playlists probably need a little refreshing. By a huge margin, Carly Rae Jepsen's 'Call Me Maybe' is easily the run away song of the summer that you will hear every girl sing at the bars. Some would say it would be a crime for such pop music perfection to become overplayed and stale. Hell, even the President covered the song...

With that in mind, here's some remixes/mash-ups I personally hand picked to change things up just enough so that when you play it at your next house party/bbq, your guests will go "Oh Sh*T! Is that Call Me Maybe?!?!?! 

Individual tracks below to stream, you can download all the songs in one tidy .zip file here:

Call Me Maybe (Coyote Kisses Remix)  

Call Me Maybe (Milkman Remix)

Call Me Maybe (DJ Reidiculous Remix)

Call Me Skrillex J. Robinson

Call Me Maybe vs 99 Problems (Carly Rae Jepsen x Jay-Z)

Maybe You Belong With Me (Carly Rae Jepsen x Taylor Swift x Jessie J)

Maybe We Found Love (So Call Me) (Carly Rae Jepsen x Calvin Harris)

Call Me Heartbeats Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen x Childish Gambino)