Monday, June 29, 2015

Introducing My New Bike: Sable


From Wiktionary:
sable (countable and uncountable, plural sables)
  1. A small carnivorous mammal of the Old World that resembles a weasel, Martes zibellina, from cold regions in Eurasia and theNorth Pacific islands, valued for its dark brown fur (Wikipedia).
  2. The marten, especially Mustela americana.
  3. A black colour, resembling the fur of some sables.


My new bike is an Argon18 E-80.  I’m not an expert on bike technology, but this is a solid bike with a combination carbon/aluminium frame, with an aerodynamic design that has been fully validated in a wind tunnel.  One thing I noticed in some research I did, is that for example, the front brakes are behind the fork to benefit from their aerodynamic shape; some bikes put the brakes in front of the fork where they only spoil the effect of the aero fork.  And of course, it fit my budget of $2000.00.

Argon18 is a Canadian company, which doesn’t hurt, and I’ve been playing around with red and black as an aesthetic; these things shouldn’t matter, but I can’t help myself.

So, back to the introduction, the bike is not only black, but named after a swift predator that relies on guile and skill more than raw power.  That’s why I picked the name.

Sadly, as of this writing, I won’t have ridden her yet.  I put on new SPD pedals, and when I wanted to switch my shoes to the correct adapters (I had bought both the pedals and the adapters over a year ago from a different store), it appears there were parts missing, so it couldn’t be done on the spot, and they didn’t have any more in stock.  There are some other complicating factors which I can’t go into right here, right now, but I do like the store where I bought the bike, Bike Zone Mississauga.

Between getting a proper fit, and accessories (like water bottles), I'm sure I'll be spending more money...

Have you named your bike? What’s the silliest bike name you’ve heard?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

#WorkoutHack: Explosive Power For Triathletes Using A Heavy Bag

Disclaimer: I am not a certified fitness professional.  Please consult one or a medical professional before undertaking any new forms of exercise - you are at your own risk.  I present these exercises only as a way to exchange ideas and inspire others to be creative in their methods for attaining their fitness goals.

I’m now into the “Pre-Competitive 1” Phase (weeks 13-16) of my Half-Iron training (from Gale Bernhardt’s Training Plans for Multisport Athletes), and strength training is only once per week and the workouts are meant to be for “strength maintenance”.  For the preceding “Specific Preparation 3” phase (weeks 9-12), my strength workouts were coded as being “Power Endurance” (PE).

“The PE strength training phase is intended to combine strength with velocity.  Making fast movements with weights, however, is controversial.  At least one study has shown that when lifters were asked to move a weight as quickly as possible while maintaining contact with the weight bar, power actually decreased....”

So Gale Bernhardt wants me to lift the weight explosively, but is concerned I won’t get the most bang for my buck if I have to control where it goes?  I’m more concerned about whether I can handle the weight coming back down on the negative phase, and what that’s going to do to my body....

“One of the best options for a hip extension exercise with fast movements is a leg press machine that allows you to explosively jump off the platform with a load and return to the start position at a moderate speed.”

So if I understand it correctly, most of the PE movements should have an explosive lift, and ideally not carry any extra weight on the way back down.  I’m not sure my gym wants me dropping weights on the floor like that, but luckily, I’m good at finding ways to improvise...

Enter the Heavy Bag.  This thing has been hiding in my mother’s basement from the halcyon days of the late 90s when I took kickboxing and other martial arts.  It weighs 70 lbs, and that’s a lot less than the weight I dead-lift or squat, yet somehow carrying it out of her basement (and subsequently into/out of mine) is a workout unto itself.  Once I did, though, I found a way to get some great, explosive strength workout, and get a little Vitamin D in my own backyard.

Have a look.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Race Recap: Huntsville Half Marathon a.k.a. Band On The Run

I had vowed to do Band On the Run this year after missing out the year before due to a certain procedure being performed.  In fact, at last year's Angus Glen Half-Marathon, we hatched a plot for my friends John and Tina to visit us at the cottage and for John to do the race together.  Though our schedule was crazy enough that the plan was touch and go for a while, I'm happy to say that we all did the Huntsville Half Marathon last Saturday.

We drove up to the cottage on the Friday night, and traffic was not kind so we got to bed much later than one likes to before a race.  Fortunately, the kids slept well, and we didn't feel too rough the next morning.  Though we parked and got to the race site on time, somehow we dallied in saying goodbye to the kids (who would be watched by Tina and my mother - thanks again!) and we only put ourselves in the back of the very small corral a few seconds before the start of the race.

Before the race, I had tried to do some analysis to come up with the right pace and thus a good goal for finishing time, or at least a rough estimate.  The problem was I hadn't run a half-marathon type distance this season, and my longest run was the 5 Peaks Heart Lake Conservation Area Trail Race.  I figured that 16 km of trails was worth at least 18 km of road in terms of training, but I doubted it would give a good estimate of speed.  I also tried looking at training runs and figuring out an average speed that would keep me in Zone 2 of my heart rate.  That proved difficult visually; the graphs spike up and down in a way that's difficult to simply eye-ball.  I even tried exporting my data into a spreadsheet and doing some analysis that way, but the numbers didn't work, or at least, I couldn't make them work for the time I could afford on the effort.  There's probably another post in there - the raw data probably needs to be smoothed out by some algorithms to be usable.

My final strategy before the race began was to simply set an alert on my Garmin to go off if my heart rate went into Zone 3.  I had 3 gels on me, and I took the first before the start... it has a lot of caffeine.



The course starts climbing right away... and my heart rate alarm went off before I had gone 300m.  I tried to slow my pace, but there didn't seem to be a pace more than a crawl that was going to keep me in Zone 2, so I reset the alarm to go off if I crossed into Zone 4, and I tried to keep an eye on the absolute value of my heart rate, and simply be conservative for the first third to half of the race.  Maybe it was the hill climbing, maybe it was the caffeine, but without much recent experience at the half-marathon distance, I knew I had to be conservative.

The climbing continued.  I was a little shocked to see so many people walking within the first 2 km of a half-marathon, but there was a great sense of community, and I joked with people at the appearance of each new incline as if the hills were a novelty, and not becoming tedious.  The race had promised musicians at regular intervals, and they delivered for at least the first 7 km.  The race course at one point crossed Highway 60, which they couldn't close for the race completely, and a police officer stopped traffic so that runners could cross in batches.  I was impressed, because some people in front of me must have had to wait a little, but I don't think this contributed any significant delay.
Seen on my run: clowns on bikes, fire trucks, bagpipers. 
Like I said, there was a great sense of community in this race, even though the number of runners was small - from the back of the pack, there was only 22 seconds difference between gun and chip time for me.  I was impressed by how often spectators seemed to know runners by name,  though Huntsville is a major hub of cottage country and population swells seasonally, I guess it's really just a small town when it comes down to it.  In the first third of the race course, I also found my new favourite race sign...


Yeah, that's right... potty humour.  I'm not even sorry.

I heard someone mention that we'd be visiting Arrowhead Provincial Park, and I could tell by the route we were taking that they were right.  The park's front gate had porta-potties, an aid station and a great musician; I can't remember what he played when I was on my way in, but he played R.E.M.'s "The One I Love" on my way out, and it was awesome.



While the park's road was more peaceful for traffic, and provided shade and some of the nicest scenery on the run, it was also the biggest climb.  I saw John on the way in, he had already hit the turn-around at 10 km and was moving fast.  He told me it was only 3 more hills then corrected himself to 2.  He was actually right the first time.



The last musician I saw before the turn-around point was playing the Lumineers' "Ho Hey", and I joined in with my own "HO" and "HEY"s which probably only confused everyone else; I guess they don't know that's my jam...

As soon as I hit the turn-around I felt some relief.  I knew I'd have lots of downhill to look forward to, and I congratulated myself for playing it safe and leaving plenty in the tank to try and get a really significant negative split.  Up until that point, I'd been running at a pace that would have netted me 2:15 finish time, and that's being optimistic.  I saw my wife around the same spot that John had gone by me, and we shared a kiss for luck.  She was smiling when we saw each other, which I took to be a good sign, as I knew the hills would be rough on her.  That moment definitely gave me another little boost.

I really picked up the pace for the last half; I took my gels, didn't have any more bathroom breaks, and generally paid more attention to the pace than my heart rate.  The route seemed a little deserted by that point, and I crossed the Main Street Bridge and ducked into the alleyway that led to the finish line.  Shark Boy and the Lightning Kid (along with my mother, John and Tina) were all there to give me my finish line hugs.


The Lightning Kid with makeshift sun-protection as it had gotten quite sunny.
My finishing time was 2:06:05 which gives me an average pace of 6:00 per km.  I'm pretty happy with that, even if the total time was well over 2 hours or even 2:05.  What I'm proudest of is the negative split.  I did the first 10 km with a 6:24/km pace, and the final 11 with a 5:29/km pace.  Or, put another way, the first 10 km took me 1:04 and the next 11 km took me 0:54:45... now that's a negative split!



We did have to wait a while for my wife.  Apparently the last 3 km were the worst for her; like I said, it was a tough course.  It was nice, however, being able to spot her crossing the bridge to alert the boys to her arrival - I cheered her on from under the bridge and she pulled out some last effort to break back into a run.  Once she came down the alley, Shark Boy accompanied her on the last stretch, and the Lightning Kid let me know he did not want to be left out.  The race announcer took note of the whole family coming into the finish line and it was a nice moment.



We slowly (painfully), made our way back to the car and headed home, with a stop at Kawartha Dairy for ice cream.  We had beer and ribs for lunch and took a dip in the lake to cool off our inflamed joints and muscles.

We did want to attend the music festival... all the runners were entitled to it, and the Lightning Kid got a kick out of dancing and making a spectacle of himself last year.  We arrived a bit into the head-liner's show.  It was the Joel Plaskett Emergency, and they were a lot of fun.  Joel Plaskett managed to put some fun word-play into his lyrics and even mash-up covers into his own songs.  His son Shannon (less than 5 years old by my rough estimate) danced and took videos from up on stage which only added to the fun, family-oriented vibe.  People were dancing and having fun with their kids in front of the stage, and the Lightning Kid was not to be left out; Joel Plaskett even called out to him as "the kid in the Spider-Man hat".


Having live music to enhance the whole musical theme of the Band On The Run race really makes for a whole day of fun and fitness, and I already can't wait till next year.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Indoor Sky-Diving at iFly (with Shark Boy)

I'm linking up with Lakeshore Runner for Tri-ed It Tuesday.  Wait till you get a load of what Shark Boy and I tried the weekend before last!



OK, this post is going to be off-topic, since it's got nothing to do with triathlon, or fitness or any of the usual subjects.  I suppose it is related to active family living, as one of the ways we manage to get the whole family involved in physical activities and travel is to treat our life as an ongoing adventure.  Plus, the experience was simply too cool not to use this space to shout about it.




During the winter, we were taking the Lightning Kid to a hearing test at ErinOak Kids.  I spotted a building called iFly and deduced it was dedicated to indoor skydiving; something I had read about when I was a kid, and seen on TV, but never experienced.  The idea is that you're put in a wind tunnel that simulates the air rushing by you when you're in free fall.  By assuming a spread-eagle position, you float on the air currents.   All the fun of sky diving without jumping out of a perfectly good airplane - far less risk, somewhat less adrenaline.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, my wife was taking mental notes, and gave me a pass to be used in the future as a Valentine's Day present.  I waited for my chance (i.e. a break in our weekend schedule) and took Shark Boy, as they take kids as young as 4.

We had booked a 6:00PM slot, so after a rushed dinner at Boston Pizza, where I think Shark Boy was too excited to eat even his favourite foods, we walked into the facility and reported to the front desk.  I was sent to a screen to fill in waivers for the two of us.  They asked the usual health questions you'd expect, as well as asking about a history of shoulder dislocation.  Doing it digitally was nice since it auto-filled a lot of Shark Boy's information with mine (e.g. address, email, and phone number).

After that, we were weighed for the record and sent upstairs to the viewing area where we could see flights in session.  We were told we'd have about 2 and a half hours of time to spend there which would include some training time.  I worried about Shark Boy's attention span for any classroom orientation, but watching others tackle their flights was exciting enough to keep him engaged.



We were assigned a group number, and our instructor, Mike G, came to the viewing/waiting area to gather us into a classroom.  He was very laid-back and casual, and told us the classroom training would be an hour and a half.  That was apparently a joke, as it turned out to be about 15 minutes.  He was great and engaging kids and adults alike, and walked us through the basic rundown of what our flights would be.  We had two flights each, although you could book 4 beforehand and one lady in our group had.  The suggested method for her was to make her flights twice as long, and still have two sessions which would give her more time to hone her skills.

Mike explained the basics of the correct body position; the hips should be the lowest point of the body, the hands should be level with the plane of vision and most importantly the chin should be up.  There are hand signals used in the tunnel because between the ear plugs and helmet for protection and the noise of the turbine, you can't communicate verbally. Some of the signals are for safety, some for guidance (straighten your legs=two straight fingers, bend your legs=two bent fingers), but my favourite was 'relax'... it's the old 'hang loose' sign from surfer culture (thumb and pinky extended from the fist).

He showed a video to get us oriented with the basics of entry and exiting the tunnel, and it ended with an expert rising to the top of the chamber and diving back down in an array of flips and turns.  One concerned parent asked if it was possible for someone (especially a child) to rise up that high accidentally.  The answer was no, it actually took a high degree of skill to get up that high - you need to build up momentum somehow.  Of course, getting us excited about getting to that skill level is how they get people to come back!

I made sure Shark Boy was paying attention and repeated as much as I could to him to make sure it was sinking in, I also volunteered him to lie on a special chair to simulate the position.  I probably came off as a little intense, but I just wanted to make sure we got the most out of the experience (it's not cheap!)



We headed out of the classroom, and got suited up.  The jumpsuits have little handles on the back to make sure the instructor (who is in the chamber with you) can control your motion if necessary.  You can't bring valuables (including cameras or phones) into the wind chamber with you, but they have lockers which are easy to use.  I snapped a few pics before putting everything away.




There's a control booth with a window into the chamber where an operator can control the wind speed (or shut it down completely) and also a camera recording video (so they can sell you a DVD of the experience, of course).  While we were waiting for our group to get its turn, I checked out a few facts that were printed on a wall.  Apparently the wind tunnel is built with the motors at the top, meaning the air is actually being sucked from the top as opposed to blown from the bottom - though it does feel like the wind is coming from below, and your cheeks and face show it.  There was also a list of other such facilities all over the world - I only counted 26, so figure we're lucky here in the Greater Toronto Area (this place was built in 2014).

I have to tell you, each individual flight is only a minute long, which seems dreadfully short when you're spending 2 hours there, but I swear the time flies  (my puns are always intended).  The inner chamber's floor is simply a net that air can flow through, but enough to cushion your landing should your flight skills not be up to scratch.  You enter the inner chamber through a doorway, and just outside that is a bench where you wait for your turn.  The kids went first, and when they get in, they all flop around like fish out of water.  The instructor is very attentive to every possible movement and keeps the whole situation under control though - that's for adults as well as children.  I sat on the bench next to Shark Boy, because I wanted to make sure his exit was as smooth as possible.  I needn't have worried, since it went perfectly.

For my first flight, I was glad to be able to go independently, without Mike holding on to me, though I had a bit of a laugh at how I crashed into the sides.  I even mugged for the camera.

We went through the entire line-up, and when it was the second round, the girl at the front of the line had lost an earplug.  The effort of getting it put back in meant shutting down the turbine for a minute or two, and by the time we had everything going again, she had lost her nerve.  She declined a second flight.  Then the kid behind her (her brother, same age as Shark Boy, I believe) declined too.  I was worried that it would be contagious and Shark Boy would follow suit, but no, he was game.  On the second flight, you're a little more comfortable and you do a little better.  Shark Boy flew in what we called a 'helicopter' with both he and Mike in the air unanchored, spinning around the tunnel, and I got right up to the top of the viewing window, which apparently is as high as a beginner can get.

The session ended with our instructor Mike demonstrating flips and spins with  big rises to the top of the chamber (a good 30 feet up from the floor) and dives to within inches of the floor.

Once the group's session was over, we got out of our flight suits, and there was an option to save on future flights if we purchased them that day.  It was enticing, but I wasn't willing to commit.  If we do go back, we'll spend less time in orientation and the flights will cost less. As part of our package, we got the DVD and I managed to not only rip the video from it, but edit it to show only the exciting parts (i.e. Shark Boy's flights and mine).

I talked at length with Shark Boy about how glad I was that he didn't chicken out because this was a really rare experience that not everyone will ever get to enjoy.  I really meant that.

What do you think? Would you give it a try?  What about the real thing (i.e. jumping out of a perfectly good airplane)?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Review: Everlast VP Vegan Protein Mix

Disclaimer: I’m officially an Everlast Nutrition Ambassador.  I earn commission on orders made through my discount code.
Vegan Protein

Everlast is a known brand in fight sports; I’ve got a heavy bag (from a previous life where martial arts played a bigger role in my fitness) and a jump rope from them, and they’re still part of my workout regimen today (stay tuned to this site in the future to find out how).  What about the nutritional side of things?

I see two dueling trends when I look around the fitness/wellness blogosphere:
  1. Athletes with incredible bodies who take pre-workout, post-workout supplements to optimize everything from performance to recovery.
  2. A trend toward “real food”, and staying away from artificial ingredients and compounds with unpronounceable names.

My experience with supplements is limited. I do take a multivitamin more or less as insurance against nutritional deficiencies that I might be accruing through an imperfect diet.  I also try and get extra protein for two purposes: a) re-building muscles that are getting torn up from daily workouts and b) feeling full so that I stay clear of less healthy snacks that I run into throughout my day.  Sometimes I throw hemp seeds onto cereal or other foods, but my most frequent protein supplementation is to make a smoothie, usually for breakfast.  Typical ingredients include some combination of
  • Milk
  • Strawberries
  • Peanut/Almond butter
  • Banana
  • Coconut Water
  • Hemp Protein
  • Ground Flax Seed
  • Blueberries
  • Kefir

I had tried the pre-ready protein powders in the past, but because I liked my shakes to be creamy, I always used milk which never dissolved the powder well, and I found eating the powder after drinking a near-flavourless shake to be a little unappealing.

Everlast nutrition sent me this sample pack of their new Vegan Protein mix to try.  Looking at the ingredients I saw:
  • Pea protein
  • Carrageenan
  • Sea Salt
  • Natural Flavor
  • Rice Protein
  • Hemp Protein
  • Stevia Glycoside

The carrageenan would be a source of concern, but the truth is, I haven't found a chocolate milk product (even organic ones) that don't have it, so I guess it's necessary for the whole 'shake' experience.  A lot of people swear by stevia (I'm not a convert), but I guess I'm grateful for sweetness without sugar (or the attendant calories).  The rest sounds like really good stuff.  The sample pack was only good for one serving, so I opted to try it simply with milk to get the best idea of its taste without going the watery route.


After a really intense session at the gym, I bought a large milk and went to my desk to try mixing it in a smoothie bottle.  I'll bet I shook that bottle for at least 5 minutes before I tried it. Bad news first: like all other protein shakes I've tried to make in the past, the end result had only a portion of the powder dissolved and the rest sat at the bottom.  That makes the flavour weaker than it needs to be, and the idea of eating the remnant powder alone is disgusting.

Yuck

Now the good news: the taste is fantastic.  I think it's the sea salt; you know how the only thing better than caramel is salted caramel? It's like that, only with vanilla plus a little bit of nuttiness.  I refilled the container with water and enjoyed the rest of the drink.  And in case you hadn't figured it out (and it's important to you) the product is vegan (though the warning label admits it's produced in a facility where dairy products, eggs, wheat and soy are also handled).

If you want to try Everlast VP Vegan Protein, you can use the code IRONROGUE at checkout when you visit EverlastNutrition.com.  In addition to this Vegan Protein, they have a performance drink mix called Everlast Fuel that has both electrolytes (for optimal re-hydration) and protein (for muscle recovery).

Monday, June 8, 2015

Motivation Monday: Crashing the Sport Chek #SweatForThis Party

Sport Chek invited some of my favourite local bloggers, like Wildly Fit, Robyn Baldwin and Darwinian Fail (as I composed this sentence, I envisioned them as Charlie’s Angels, and I’m like Bosley or something) to participate in their #SweatForThis campaign.  


Krysten (a.k.a. Darwinian Fail) is even on a TV commercial which you can see here.


I love this campaign, because everyone has their reasons to run, swim, bike, lift and generally break a sweat, so I decided to crash the party with my own reasons.  I’ve compiled them into this video, I hope you like it.  


I #SweatForThis


For some of the stories behind those images, our active family adventures can be found under the tag 'family'. I'll call out some particular highlights like the 5 Peaks Heart Lake Race, our Ski Vacation to Smuggler's Notch, the 2014 Toronto Yonge Street 10k, and our First Kids of Steel Duatlhon.

What do you think of the video?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Friday Five: Top Five Father's Day Gifts for the Many Faces of Iron Rogue

Disclosure: The links in this post are referral and/or affiliate links.  I get a credit/commission for items purchased through them.


1.) For the office drone who needs to get more active and/or stronger on the bike:

In a triathlon, you're likely to spend more time on the bike than swimming or running, yet it seems to be the hardest to get out and do; the extra equipment and getting to a safe route can be time consuming.  Enter the Stamina 15-0120 InStride Cycle XL. This thing sits under a desk and lets you quietly pedal during your workday.  



2.) For a guy who, kind of, sort of, cares how he dresses.  Frank And Oak make some of the clothes I most like to wear (except my flannel sweatpants and old hooded sweatshirts though they do make hoodies too).  A Frank and Oak shirt is my go-to when I have an important meeting or it's date night.  I've also got khakis, slacks, jeans, shoes and blazers from them.  All their stuff is affordable, and special mention goes to the shirts which are tailored well to an athletic physique; the more generic shirt you get from department stores tend to billow out if you're slimmer than a husky man.  The styles lean toward hipster, which helps this 40-something feel younger, but not to the point of embarassment.


3.) For the dad who likes turning play time with the kids (or any other semi-reasonable time) into a workout.  Gripsling is an innovative, tough training device that basically can give you a handle on anything you can loop it around for lifting, or pulling yourself up.  Their base model has a loop on one end and you grip the other end of the strap, but I like their next model up which has loops on both ends.  If you don't need the second loop, you don't have to use it, but I always prefer have-it-but-don't-need-it to need-it-but-don't-have-it.  They're light and portable so it would be easy to take them along on a run to make a burbathlon more interesting.  I can't wait to integrate them into trips to the playgrounds and parks with the kids or even impromptu backyard workouts.


Save 20% on your order when you use the discount code "IronRogue" at checkout.


4.) For the multisport smart phone addict: I had a waterproof dustproof camera that I used for taking pics at races for the blog and for when the family was out and about the way we often are, but the quality was never very good, and in the meantime, my phone's camera has eclipsed it in megapixels and capabilities.  While the Samsung Galaxy S5 has some baseline waterproof capabilities, I needed to not only feel safer in the water, but account for my own clumsiness which was going to result in a dropped phone (it's happened in the past).  Enter Lifeproof.  I use the FRE case on my S5, and it's saved it from multiple drops, and if you've ever seen one of my swim videos on Instagram, that's how I capture them.  Customer service is very good too, as they replaced the first one I got after a scratch showed up, and they did it quickly and efficiently.
Galaxy S5 Case - frē $79.99




Once you have the case like I do though, the bulkiness of it can make it less convenient to have around at any given time, so I'm thinking about adding the quick mount accessories like this bike mount,
Bike + Bar Mount with QuickMount $39.99




























or a simple belt clip.
Belt Clip with QuickMount $29.99






























5.) For the father who's not getting any younger... I only know two things about aging skin... a) sun makes it worse and b) you should moisturize.  I've gotten a lot of skin care products as birthday, Christmas and Father's Day gifts over the years and some are expensive, but I'm simply not fussed enough to go about multiple steps in any kind of regimen, at least not on a regular basis.  Most days, I've been using the Every Man Jack Daily Protection after my shave; my skin gets moisturized against the irritation, and I get SPF 15 protection for the walk to and from my car and dropping the kids off (I use a higher SPF product if I'm training outside).  You can get Every Man Jack products, and other grooming items (as well as socks, underwear and neat things like deodorant wipes for when you can't shower) at ManPacks.com.

Linking up with Friday Five from You Signed Up For WHAT? and Fit and Fashionable Friday from Fitful Focus

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