Now that I got that last part of the race report out of the way, the off season is beginning!  I had originally planned to start at the beginning of September, but this month has been insane with work and school and lots of travel, so I pushed it back a few weeks.

The Starting Point

After two solid months of eating like crap and not training, I feel like total garbage.  I am WAY beyond my “oh shit” weight, and into “WTF?” territory.  The main cause of this has been the past month.  With all the travel I’ve been doing for school, I’ve barely been home, and have basically had no groceries for the last month.  Because of this, I’ve been scrounging and eating whatever I can find in my cupboard/fridge, which usually results in breakfast, lunch, and dinner consisting of eating peanut butter off a spoon.

Not healthy.

Also, the current class that I’m taking is a field class.  That means an entire semester of field trips and work is crammed into the month of September, because after that, the weather is a crap shoot.  So aside from eating like crap, I’ve had virtually no time to do anything outside of work and school.  No training.  Nothing.  Nada.

Put those two together, and I am generally feeling cruddy.  I still look perfectly fine on the surface.  But I don’t feel that way.  But that ends starting now.

The Plan

Once my field class ends after this coming week, my schedule gets much more flexible.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are still a hot mess, but the rest of the week is pretty good.  The plan is to swim, bike, and run a couple times a week, while getting in a few decent strength sessions too.  I don’t want to try to do too much, because that’s when things fall apart.  So I’m planning on doing short, quality sessions for the swim/bike/run workouts, with a couple longer sessions on the weekends.

Other important things are staying on top of my groceries, and bringing lunch to school/work every day.  Whenever I don’t, I end up so starving by the end of the day, that I come home and inhale everything in my kitchen.  But with a little bit of planning ahead, I don’t have that problem.

The Goals

I have a few goals for this off season.

  1. Lose the excess weight.  I’m sick of it.
  2. Improve strength and flexibility through weightlifting and yoga.
  3. Make some good power gains on the bike through HIIT workouts.
  4. Improve my swimming technique and pace through focused workouts.  My swims are always so unfocused.
  5. Be consistent in writing at least a weekly post on here.  I haven’t written much in the past year or so, and I miss it!

So that’s that for now.  Time to prep my lunch for tomorrow, and head to bed!

Missed the beginning?  Pre-race, The Swim, The Bike.

The Run

I came out of the changing tent in T2 and jogged my way out of the high school area.  The transition exit popped us out on the Boulder Creek Bike Path, and I immediately saw two of my friends on the side of the path, cheering their heads off.

run 1They caught me adjusting my race belt.

So far, I was feeling good!  I had no idea how my foot would hold up, but I figured I would run for a bit and find out.

The sides of the bike path were crammed with spectators, making the run very loud and fun.  Boulder definitely knows how to spectate a run!

The run is a two-loop course that’s shaped like a Y, so there are three out and back legs, and you do the whole thing twice.  This did get a little monotonous, but it was also kind of nice to just focus on the out and back at hand.  It broke things up quite a bit.  I still have mixed feelings about this setup.

I ran along for the first two miles and was feeling pretty good.  The constant ups and downs on the bike path (underpasses) were tiring, but not insurmountable.  Mostly just annoying.  Everyone was very happy and chatty, and I started to find myself settling in with certain people.

After two miles, I started to notice that familiar tightening in my right foot, and knew it was decision time.  I had absolutely NO intention of DNFing, so stopping wasn’t even an option.  It was all about managing the foot for the next 24.2 miles.

I settled in to a run/walk situation.  I knew that if I just walked, my foot wouldn’t get any worse.  I also knew that if I ran too much, it would blow up on me like it did at the Colfax Marathon in May, and I wouldn’t even be able to hobble my way into the finish.  Time goals were now out the window.  This was all about managing.

Around this time, I also settled in with a nice guy named Paul, who was also doing a run/walk system.  We ended up chugging along together for most of the rest of the night.  We pushed each other when the other didn’t want to run, and we kept each other occupied by chatting as we went.  Sometimes, one of us would be feeling pretty decent, so we would run ahead, and the other one would chase for a bit.  It definitely made the drudgery of the Ironman Shuffle more entertaining.

run 2Me and Paul (in the red).

I decided to try something new this time around, and started grabbing a cup of Coke at each aid station.  I had heard good things about it from others, but never drink soda myself.  But man oh MAN, that stuff was like the nectar of the gods on this day.  I may have said exactly that to several of the volunteers throughout the night.  I will definitely do that again.

One other thing that was nice about the Y shaped course was that you had a lot of chances to bump into friends who were also out there.  I caught most of my training buddies at least once.  Including… Molly!  She had made the bike cutoff, and when I saw her coming in the other direction, I may have screamed, and sprinted to her to give her a big hug.  She looked tired, and terrified of being pulled off the course, but she was doing fantastic!

I caught several of my friends out spectating on the course throughout the whole run.  They are the best!

run jumpBeing a doofus.  Paul looks unamused.

The out-and-backs continued into the darkness.  At mile 20, I came to the big screen that the Newton Running Lab had set up, and my friend Laura popped up with her pre-recorded cheer.  It definitely brought a smile to my face.  I can’t even imagine the waterworks that must have caused for the first-timers.  I would have been a mess!  It was definitely a nice little touch.  I hope they do that again next year.

The last 6 miles were fairly quiet.  We were bringing up the rear, but the course definitely seemed more crowded that normal.  I think a lot of people ended up getting hit hard with the altitude, sun intensity, dryness, heat, and deceptively challenging bike and run courses.  At this point, Paul and I had picked up a couple other guys, and the four of us were bringing it in in a group.

We worked our way back toward the high school, and then past it for the final out-and-back.  Up to Eben G Fine park, and then the final (gradual) downhill to Pearl St.  We had been obsessively checking the time all night, and knew we had plenty of time to spare, so there were no worries there.

At this point, my feet were on FIRE.  It was the only problem of the day (aside from managing the tendonitis).  I had stupidly forgotten to change my socks and bodyglide my feet in T2, and now I had blisters on blisters on blisters.  It was AGONY.  Every step made my heels feel like they were on fire.  But that was okay.  I only had one more mile to go.  Then I could pop those suckers and get even.

Perhaps my favorite sign of the day was the one I saw as I came to the high school.  It said “To the finish” with a big arrow.  I happily followed it.

I looped around, off the bike path, and up onto the street.  It was here that my friend Laura caught me – cowbell a-blazing.

blurry finishLaura running me in.

Laura ran up 13th St. with me for two blocks, cheering and cowbelling.  I entered the barricaded area, and into the bright lights of the finish chute.  To my left, a guy who was just about to finish stopped and was about to propose to his spectator girlfriend.  Mike Reilly was freaking out and sprinting toward them, but still managed to squeak out “You did it! You are an Ironman!” as I crossed the finish line.

IM Boulder FinishSuperstar!

I crossed the finish line with a big grin, got my medal from the female pro winner, Danielle Kehoe, and proceeded to hobble my way to Laura, and her boyfriend, Nick, who were waiting for me just a few feet away.

after the finishAfraid to take my shoes off and see these blisters.

I sat on the sidewalk and started taking my shoes off.  It was AWFUL.  I was horrified.  After several minutes of just sitting and enjoying the feeling of being shoeless, Laura, Nick, and I rolled my bike (which they had awesomely collected for me) back to my car, so I could go home, shower, and sleep.

 

Missed the beginning?

Weekday pre-race, Pre-race, The swim.

The bike

I got to the mount line and hopped on my bike.  The ride out of the Res was lined with spectators, and we zoomed along the slight downhill and out onto the open roads.

The first several miles of the bike are a long false flat that really kick your butt if you’re still trying to find your bike legs.  And there are a couple small, yet unpleasant hills right as you exit the Res as well.  But at this point, I had ridden this course so many times, it was a non-issue.  That’s one of the perks of living here.  I feel like I know this course inside and out at this point.

We worked our way up 36 and north out of Boulder.  The ride up 36 is beautiful, and a bit challenging.  However, these short climbs don’t feel too bad on fresh legs, and I powered my way through them feeling quite strong.

Then I got to the out-and-back spur on St. Vrain.  As I turned right off of 36, I was looking forward to the lovely long downhill that awaited me.  I flew down it, knowing full well that I was going to have to do a u-turn and power my way back up it in only a few moments.

Going up was MISERABLE.  YUCK.

Everyone was huffing and puffing and working as hard as they thought they could spare.  When I finally saw the turn to go back into 36 and continue north, I was ecstatic.  MORE DOWNHILL!  Hooray!  We had earned it!

Most of the first half of the bike course is uneventful.  The roads are smooth.  The hills are manageable.  And the day was still young (read:  not too hot).  We rode our way north up into Loveland (just south of Fort Collins) without much to report.

A friend of mine lives in that area, and had told me to keep a lookout for her around mile 40.

Sure enough, at mile 42, there she was!

bike 1

It took both of us a minute to notice each other, but we gave each other a shout, and she flipped her sign over to reveal a nice big “FSU” (PG version: Mess Stuff Up).  That gave me a good laugh as I continued along the next uphill.  My awesome friend also caught me again a few miles later.  Superstar spectator!  I’m so glad she was out there!

Around Loveland, the bike starts to get ugly.  Good thing we only have 60+ more miles to go!  (Please note the sarcasm.)

The whole second half of the bike course is either long, gentle uphills, or never-ending false flats.

IT. SUCKS.

Also, at this point in the day, it’s starting to get hot.  It was actually a pretty glorious day, compared to the weather we had had for the last several weeks (in the 90s, and brutally hot – over 105 out on the roads).  But there were a ton of people out on the bike course just dropping like flies.  It could be anything from the altitude, to the intensity of the sun (much more intense when you’re at elevation), the dryness, the heat – who knows?  But it was getting ugly out there.

I continued on – knowing full well what was in front of me.  I hated this part of the course in training, and I hated it now.  But for some reason, it felt SO MUCH WORSE today.  I think that was partly because I had gassed my legs on the swim with all the backstroking.  I have to kick a lot to keep them from sinking when I backstroke.  I barely kick at all when I swim normally.  I think it was also partly because on race day, you inevitably end up going JUST a tad harder than normal due to excitement and all the other people around you.  It just happens.

Whatever it was, I was feeling it today.

I rode my way south along Colorado, and then eventually on Highway 119.  Around the little rectangle of 6th and 7th, and then west on highway 52.  This is my least favorite part of the whole course.  Highway 52 just keeps going, and going.  And it’s one hill after another.  And by now, I’m SO TIRED.

As I was plugging my way up the second to last hill on 52, the girl about 30 feet in front of me looked like she was about to topple over.  I saw her pull over and get off her bike, doubled over in pain.

Uh oh.

Myself, and another girl who was right there both stopped to check on her.  Apparently she had hit a bump early in the bike, and lost all her nutrition.  She had been trying to make do with the aid stations, but was not doing well.  She was cramping up bad, and looked like she was in a lot of pain.  We started rifling through our pockets and bento bags and giving her everything we could spare to eat and drink – nuun tablets, potato chips, coconut water, gummy bunnies…

After a few minutes, a sheriff arrived and called in someone from medical.  There were people dropping left and right, so after we assured him that we could keep an eye on her until medical arrived, he went off to check on the next person.

While we waited for medical to arrive, we chatted a bit.  Turns out, this girl was a local, and was in my tri club!  So hey, I made a new friend.  Races are funny like that.

After a while, a race official showed up and told us we could take off.  They would keep an eye on our friend until medical arrived.  We all exchanged some parting words of encouragement, and went our separate ways.  All in all, it had been about 13 minutes.  But that’s race karma.  I would hope that someone would do that for me if I were in the situation.  And really, at the end of the day, 13 minutes on my time doesn’t matter.

I pushed my way up the last hill on 52.  At this point, I was at mile 99 of the bike and nearly done.  I kept telling myself, “Okay, just fly down this downhill, make the left, power up The Bitches, then it’s all over except for that little hill on 57th…  Nearly done!”

I flew down the downhill at the end of 52, and made the left onto 79th.

The first Bitch loomed in front of me.

I made her my bitch.

Then the second.

Then the third.

I was done with the worst of it!  I turned right onto Lookout and felt like I was flying down the downhill.  The left onto 75th, right onto Jay, and then left onto 57th all flew by in a blur.

The small hill on 57th wasn’t great – it’s so small, but at that point, my legs are SO TIRED.  But I got up it, yelled to a spectator “yay!  All the hills are done!” and continued on.

After the short little bridge to get back onto Jay, I felt like I was home free.  I turned onto 26th/Valmont, and the last two miles flew by.  I was blowing through town, yelling “I love you!” to every volunteer and cop I could see.

When I finally got to the turn into Arapahoe, I told the volunteer at the corner “and I love you the most!”

I flew down Arapahoe, towards the high school, SO ready to be off my bike.

And my awesome friend caught me again just as I was about to turn into the high school.

bike 2

I think I might be fist pumping in this picture… Hard to tell…

I turned into the high school, rolled up to the dismount line, told the volunteers how much I loved them, and hopped off my bike.

Bike time: 7:42:07

Not great, but if you subtract the 13 minutes helping my new friend, that puts me just under 7:30, which was what I was aiming for.  So I’m happy with that.

T2

I jogged/walked my bike through the chute and into the transition area.  This was a rather long 1/4 mile run in bike shoes, which a lot of people complained about after the race.  Quite honestly, I was just so happy to be done with my bike that I didn’t give a crap.  Although, a note for anyone racing next year – do NOT do this run barefoot.  A lot of people did, and ended up burning their feet (badly) on the black track.  At LEAST wear socks.

I handed my bike off to a volunteer, and ran down the row to get my run gear bag.

In the changing tent, yet another wonderful volunteer took care of me and all my gear.  I changed shorts and shoes, put on my hat and my race belt, grabbed my handheld water, and was on my way.  All I had left now was the run.

Transition time: 9:21

To be continued…

Missed part 1?  Read it here!

It’s 6:30 am.  I’ve been awake since 3 am, and am antsy to get in the water and get going.  The sun is finally up, and 2,400 triathletes are crammed into the starting area.  Everyone is chatting, and in their faces you can see a mixture of excitement and nervousness.  Ironman Boulder is about to begin.

The swim

At 6:35 am, and age grouper cannon went off.  I was seeded at the back of the 1:15-1:30 corral, so it took a while to shuffle my way to the water’s edge.  Along the way, I chatted with some of the women around me.  Many of which were doing their first Ironman that day.  At 6:46 am, we crossed the timing mat and stepped into the water, which was a very comfortable 74 degrees.

I took a couple steps until I was about waist deep, and then started swimming.

Right away, I could tell I had seeded myself much better than I had at Lake Placid.  There was basically no contact.  I was in heaven.  I did have to stop once or twice when someone cut me off, but those were pretty minor things.

Getting to the first buoy was uneventful, which is wonderful in a swim.  But somewhere around the first buoy, I noticed that my breathing was getting out of control, which was starting to make me panicky.  My solution to this is always to simply flip over and backstroke for a few seconds until I can get my heart rate back down and get the breathing under control.  Sometimes this happens with race day adrenaline.  It’s not that big of a deal, and is usually pretty easy to fix.

So I flipped over and started backstroking.

After a minute, I tried to flip back over and swim normally again, but I still couldn’t breathe properly.

Uh oh.

Backstroke, backstroke, backstroke.

Flip.

Nope.

Fuck.

While I was still backstroking, I started to wonder if I was going to be able to even complete the swim, let alone the rest of the day.  This was not looking good.  For a brief moment, I considered flagging down a kayak just to have something to hang on to and catch my breath for a second, but I didn’t want to go there.

Keep on backstroking…

Every time I flipped over to swim normally, I would find myself out of breath after just a couple strokes.  I ended up backstroking for about six buoys – which is a LONG TIME.  After the sixth buoy, I was FINALLY able to get into a rhythm and start swimming normally.  Thank goodness.

At this point, I was way behind where I had wanted to be, but hey, at least I could breathe.  Now it was just time to put my head down, plug away, and sing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” like I do for all open water swims.

99 bottles of beer on the wall.  99 bottles of beer…

Take one down

Pass it around

98 bottles of beer on the wall…

Oddly enough, this works really well for keeping my strokes smooth.  It’s the perfect beat.

56 bottles of beer on the wall…

Make the first turn.  Are we done yet?  Sheesh, this swim feels long.

30 bottles of beer on the wall…

Hey!  Is that my friend Molly just to my left there?  I should try to catch her!

2 bottles of beer on the wall…

Dammit, she’s not getting any closer!

99 bottles of beer on the wall…

Good lord, where is that second turn buoy???

25 bottles of beer on the wall…

There it is!!!

1 bottle of beer on the wall…

Seriously, why the hell am I not catching her?  This is annoying.

99 bottles of beer on the wall…

Well, hey, at least I can see the swim finish now.

64 bottles of beer on the wall…

I feel pretty good!  Nice!

45 bottles of beer on the wall…

This is great!  My goggles didn’t leak at all…

44 bottles of beer on the wall…

:: Goggles start leaking a little ::

3 bottles of beer on the wall…

Allllllllllmost there!

99 bottles of beer on the wall…

Allllllllllmost there!

72 bottles of beer on the wall…

Allllllllllmost there!

29 bottles of beer on the wall…

Hells yes!  There’s the bottom!  Let’s blow this joint!

Swim time: 1:48:08

Not at all what I was hoping, but everyone’s watches measured it as 2.6 miles, not 2.4, plus the breathing issues.  I’ll take it.

T1

I pulled off my cap and goggles and ran to the wetsuit strippers.  They had my wetsuit off in a few seconds, and then it was off to grab my gear bag and into the changing tent.

My amazing changing tent volunteer had all my stuff out of the bag in a matter of seconds.  I had already worn my tri top and shorts under the wetsuit, so all I needed to do was put on my shoes, helmet, and sunglasses.  Then it was time to load up the jersey pockets with food and some extra CO2 cartridges, and I was off to grab my bike.

No bike grabbers here like there were at Lake Placid.  We had to run and get our own.  Not a big deal, since you had to run past it to get to the mount line anyway.

Grab the bike, and run out of the transition area, up the small hill (not fun in bike shoes), and to the mount line.

T1 time: 7:14

 

To be continued…

This weekend was Ironman Boulder!  Before getting into race details, I have to say, I think they did a spectacular job organizing and implementing this race.  It was an inaugural event, which can be a bit messy sometimes, but this seemed to run like a well-oiled machine.  Dave (the race director) and crew did a fabulous job.  Can’t wait until next year.

On to the race…

See the weekday pre-race events here.

Gear bag packing list here.

Pre-race

Saturday morning, I loaded up the car and headed over to the Res to drop off my bike and bike gear.  There was a decent line of cars at the gate, but it didn’t take too long to get through.  I rolled my bike down to T1 and found my spot on the rack.

bike check in

After letting some air out of the tires, making sure Roo was in an easy gear, and giving everything one last check, I headed over to the gear bag drop.

bike gear drop

It was a gorgeous day at the Res.  The swim buoys were all set up and ready to go.  It always looks so far!

the res

After getting my bike stuff situated at the Res, I got back in the car and headed downtown to drop off my run gear at the high school.  Parking actually wasn’t a problem, which was a pleasant surprise.  I actually didn’t have a problem with parking at all the entire weekend – I was shocked!

run gear drop 2

After getting all the gear situated, it was time to head home and relax for the rest of the day.  Before heading to bed, I put on my race numbers (I got tritats for once – love those!), and in doing so, discovered that I suck at temporary tattoos.  I set four different alarms for the morning, and headed to bed early(ish).

Race morning arrived at 3am.  Uugh.

I popped out of bed (no lingering on race day!), sunscreened and bodyglided, got dressed, made some breakfast, and was out the door with my cooler full of bike and run nutrition, bike pump, and special needs bags by 3:45 am.

I picked up a fellow tri clubber who lives around the corner from me, and we were downtown and parked by 4am.  Not bad!

People were already swarming around the high school.  We dropped off our special needs bags, put our run nutrition in our T2 bags, and then got on the shuttle (there was a long line, but it moved super fast), and were on our way to the Res.  I think it was only about 4:30 or 4:45 am at this point.  We were efficient.

It was still dark when we got to the Res.  There were a couple food trucks parked both here and back at the high school – brilliant idea on their part.  If I had been spectating, I would have been all over that.

I made my way through the crowd and into T1, popped on my headphones (I had to leave my friends at the gate to the transition area, so it was music time now), and wandered over to my bike.  Tires were pumped up, nutrition and garmin went on the bike, and everything got one last check.

After setting up the bike, I found my support crew and we headed down to the water to stake out a spot for them.  It was about 5:30 am at this point, and juuuuuuuust starting to get light out.  Still too early to put on the wetsuit, but everything else was done – nothing to do now but wait.

While waiting, I hit up a port-a-potty (No line!  Score!), and then found my awesome friend Molly, who was doing her first IM that day and was super nervous.  At about 6 am, I put on my shortie wetsuit (shorts and short sleeves) since the water was 74 degrees.  That’s a smidge too warm for me to wear my full suit, but not so hot that I don’t want to wear anything.  The shortie suit is a good intermediate step.

It was time to head over to the corrals.

We (me and Molly) seeded ourselves at the very back of the 1:16-1:30 corral.  This was my biggest problem at Lake Placid last year.  I hadn’t done a rolling swim start before, and had seeded myself with the 1:20 swimmers (I was expecting to swim 1:24).  Mistake.  This time, I tried to be as accurate as possible.  Better to have to swim around a few people here and there, rather than being beat up the whole way.

swim corralsReady to go!

The gun sounded, and the pros were off.  We were up next.

To be continued…

The Boulder Peak olympic triathlon:

So I just realized that I never wrote a race report for the Boulder Peak tri.  Whoops!  Overall, it was a really good day.  My swim was about two minutes slower than I would have liked, but I can’t complain, considering how little swimming I’ve done this season.  The big success of the day was the bike.  I realized before the race that I always ride at the same pace – Ironman pace – no matter what the distance is.  I always average 15-16 mph.  So before The Peak, I told myself that I had to actually ride it like the 26 mile bike that it was.  I figured I could hold 17 mph without a problem, and could possibly push myself to 18 mph on a good day.

Well, by the end of the bike, I was averaging 17.8 mph!  I felt great, and passed quite a few people on the second half of the course.

I got off the bike and my legs were still feeling good for the run.  I didn’t push the pace here like I had originally wanted to, but I held up just fine.  No foot pain, and a pretty consistent pace.  I ran roughly 10:00/mi all the way through, but added on a few extra (15-30) seconds each mile while I stopped to ice up and drink up at each aid station.  It was crazy hot out, so this was totally worth it.

Overall, it was a great day.  I was really happy with how it went, and I had a lot of fun.  Final time: 3:16:40.

On to Ironman stuff…

It’s time for Ironman Boulder!  The big race weekend is here, and the festivities are in full swing.

Thursday, I headed over to the high school to check in.

check in

Aside from the muddiness (we got a ton of rain on Wednesday and the field was a mess), check in was uneventful and very quick.

Later that afternoon, I headed over to the Boulder Running Company for the Underpants Run!  I was super excited about this.  It turned out to be a blast.  Can’t wait for next year!  Also…  ahem…

Apollo

Yup.  That’s me and Apollo Ohno.  :: Swoon ::

our butts

Me and some of my amazing friends.  (Saucony Runderpants)

We were led in the Underpants Run Oath by Michael Lovato, who was serving as the Underpants Captain.  He was hilarious.

michael lovato

After the oath, we headed out for our short, but incredibly entertaining run.  We ran less than a mile to the pedestrian mall, where we did some lunges and whatnot, and then ran back to the store.  There was also a beer aid station along the way.

beer

Love it.

After we were done, I put my pants back on, and headed out to the Q&A session at the TrainingPeaks headquarters with Apollo Ohno, Rinny, and Crowie.

q and a panel

me and rinny

crowie

My god, he’s gorgeous.

Friday (today) was less eventful, but still a fun day.  I headed back over to the high school to register for 2015 and meet up with some friends.

me and molly at the village

Me and my awesome friend Molly, who is doing her first Ironman this weekend.  Go Molly!

Then it was time for lunch, laziness, and prepping gear bags!

gear bags

all packed

All packed and ready to go!  (See my packing list here)

Tomorrow (Saturday) is bike and gear bag check, and lots of being lazy.  Then it’s early to bed.  Race day will be here before I know it!

Overall, I’m feeling good going into this race.  As usual, I didn’t train exactly as I had hoped, but I feel like my bike is solid, and the swim and the run are fine.  The biggest question mark for me going into this race is my foot on the run.  I haven’t run much at all since the Colfax Marathon in May.  I’ve been trying to give my foot as much time to heal as possible.  My longest run since that race has been 7 miles.  My foot hasn’t bothered me for the last month or so, so I’m hoping all will be well come Sunday.  But you never know.  All I can do is keep moving.  So we’ll see what happens there.  I do have some time goals, but ultimately, I just want to have fun and enjoy the day.  That’s the most important part.

Ironman Boulder is 24 days away!  Where did the year go???

This past Sunday, I got out for a great century ride.  It was brutally hot.  Someone’s bike computer read 107 degrees at one point.  Mine read 102.  It was nuts.

I was really proud of myself on this ride because I don’t like to ride alone, and will often use that as an excuse.  But this time, the girls in the group that I normally ride with were on a recovery week, so I was on my own.  And this time, there was no time left to put it off until another day.

So Sunday morning, I loaded up the car, and drove to Tom Watson Park.  I was on my bike by 9am, course map and turn-by-turn directions in hand.  I know the whole first part of the course, but with the course changes, I was unfamiliar with all the roads up in Loveland.  This always made me stressed out riding with a group.  The girls I usually ride with are awesome, and we have a very laid-back no-drop group.  But even knowing that, I’m always stressed out that I’m going to be dropped, miss a turn, and then be all on my own to get back.  Not that this is really a problem – thank goodness for smartphones.  But I’ve noticed that it makes me stressed out, which makes the ride less fun.

I rolled out of Tom Watson at 9am, and headed out on the course.  Down Diagonal to Jay, up 36, and onto 66.  For the first hour, I was spinning out my legs, and getting things warmed up.  I felt good!  Today was also a test run for my new nutrition, so I was really curious to see how that worked.  My old standby of the Clif shot drink mix and strawberry Gu chomps didn’t seem to be working for me anymore.  I was bonking hard around 50-70 miles in every time.  So I switched it up, and decided to try out some Skratch drink mix, with some applesauce pouches, and peanut butter and strawberry jam Uncrustables instead.

The other new thing I was testing out today was the new tri shorts from Coeur Sports.

Worked like a charm!

It was stupidly hot, so I went through a lot of water and had to make two refill stops at gas stations before I even got to mile 65.  But aside from the heat, I felt really good!  I wasn’t bonking, AND – hallelujah of hallelujahs – my lady parts felt fantastic!!!

By mid-afternoon, I was riding south on Colorado, wishing the sun would go away and that fantastic storm that I had been eyeballing for the last hour would come my way.  I was in the middle of trying to decide if I should make the left onto 66 and follow the actual course, or just continue straight on Colorado all the way down to 52.  At that moment, I saw a group of cyclists taking the course on 66, so I decided to make the turn and follow the course.

This ended up being a very good decision.

I rode east on 66 for a couple miles, and noticed that I was slowly catching up to these people.  Eventually, once we got onto highway 119, I caught the back of their group.  It was a bunch of women out riding the course.  We said some brief hellos, and commented on how damn hot it was (this was the WORST part of the day), and I continued on past them.

A few minutes later, I caught another two in their group and said hello.  This was the point when my garmin said 102 degrees, and I was pretty much hating the world and wishing I could go jump in a frozen lake somewhere.

At the intersection of 119 and 52, I stopped for a minute and got off my bike to stretch out my lower back.  At this point, a guy in a car stopped to ask if I was alright.  I gave him the usual smile and “I’m good!  Thanks!”  He then asked if I needed anything, and said that he was working as a mobile aid station to about 50 triathletes out on the bike course that day.

Helloooooooo, angel with the cold water!

I wanted to kiss him.

I dumped out the (now very hot) water in my bottles and refilled.  The girls I had passed a few minutes ago had now caught up, and we chatted for a minute.  Turns out they had someone acting as a mobile aid station as well, and she was just on the other side of the intersection, about 200 feet away.  They invited me to ride the rest of the way with them, which seemed like a much better option than pushing through the heat alone.

I rode the last 30 miles with these 5 ladies, and had a fantastic time.  Aside from the brutal heat, and the 40mph wind gusts that we faced at one point, it was a great ride.  They were all super nice and friendly, AND they had cold water.  (Swoon!)

Eventually, I rolled back into the Tom Watson parking lot just as my bia and garmin ticked over to 100 miles.  Perfect!

Overall, it was a great day.  My nutrition seemed spot on, and the seamless chamois tri shorts are the work of angels.  I averaged 15 mph on a super hot and occasionally super windy day, so I’m really happy with that.  Race day goal is to be above 15 mph, but I’ll be perfectly happy to do 15 as well.

Since this ride, I’ve gotten a few good trainer sessions in at home, and have some runs and OWS sessions planned for the next couple days.  This Sunday is also the Boulder Peak olympic tri.  I’m hoping to push myself a bit on the bike for this race, since it’s so short.  I always seem to settle into the same sort of pace, no matter what the distance is.  It would be nice to race it like it’s an olympic, and not a full for once.  Then again, I could just completely blow up if I do that.  Either way, it will be interesting.

After this weekend’s race, I have one more peak training week, and then it’s taper time!

This past weekend was the Boulder 70.3, which I was really looking forward to – even with mixed feelings (nervous about contact and choppy waters on the swim, and not sure if my foot would hold up).

On Friday afternoon, I biked up to the Boulder Reservoir (“The Res” for us lazy locals) for athlete check in.  The whole process was super fast and smooth, and within just a few minutes, I was all tagged and ready to go.

As I was wandering out of the Ironman Village area, I glanced to my left and saw some familiar faces hanging out and doing autographs and pictures.

rinnyReigning Ironman World Champion, Mirinda Carfrae (Rinny), and Tim O’Donnell – two AMAZING triathletes

Well, that was cool!

On Saturday, I headed over to the Res and checked in my bike (they now have a mandatory bike check on the day before to the race).  Everything was quick and easy, and I was even surprised that the traffic and parking at the Res wasn’t that bad.

Sunday dawned bright and early at 4am.  Fortunately, I live right by the race venue, so I didn’t have any crazy travel time.  It was actually a rather relaxed morning!

I headed out to the Res at 4:45am, and by 5:15, I was through the traffic, parked, and getting my things organized in the transition area.  The first thing to do was pump up my tires, since you always make sure to let the air out when you have to rack it the day before (sitting out in the sun all day can overheat your tires and cause a blowout – not good).  As soon as my tires were pumped up, I stashed the pump back in my car and headed back into the transition area.

On my way back into transition, I found a tri club friend who was doing body marking.  She wrote all over me (and only now, several days later, is it almost gone – that was some magic sharpie!), and then I headed back to the rack to finish sorting out my space.

In transition, I found a few friends from my tri club (including one who was racked right next to me), and chatted with some of the women in my age group.  This race had our bib numbers organized by age group, so all the 30-35 women were racked together.  Some people didn’t like that (theoretically, this could cause crowding in the transition area since we were starting the swim with our age groups), but I didn’t notice a problem.  Plus, these ladies were super nice, and great company during a chilly pre-race morning.

I laid down my small towel (NOT a full size towel – don’t be that guy), on top of which go:

  • Bike gear (in the front half of the towel)
    • A small throwaway squeeze-type water bottle (to wash the sand and gunk off my feet before putting on my shoes)
    • Bike shoes and socks
    • Sunglasses
    • Jersey/tri top
    • Spray sunscreen
  • Run gear (in the back half of the towel)
    • Running shoes
    • Hat
    • Belt with bib number already attached
    • Handheld water bottle with run nutrition in the pocket
  • On my bike went:
    • Bike garmin
    • Helmet
    • All nutrition

For the swim, I was wearing my tri shorts, heart rate monitor, sports bra, and bia watch (my review here).  Plus the obvious wetsuit, goggles, and swim cap.

After laying out my transition area, I stalled as long as possible before having to ditch the jacket and flip flops at the tri club tent – it was chilly out!  But once the sun really started to come out, things got much better.  And by the end of the day, we would all be wishing for those cool temperatures again.

I wandered down to the beach with my tri club friend who was racked next to me.  We had quite a long wait until it was our turn to start.  The pros were starting just after 7am, and our wave wasn’t until 8:05.

We ended up hanging out on the beach and watching the waves go before us, and before we knew it, it was almost our turn.  The few of us who had been chatting headed over and joined in with the other silver-capped swimmers just a few feet from the start line.

Oh shit, now I was really nervous.

I should mention that I haven’t done much swimming during this round of training.  It’s always the first thing to go when things get busy and you’re trying to squeeze things in.  Plus, the last race-setting open water swim I had done was Ironman Lake Placid, where I was miserable and getting beat up the entire time.  PLUS, on top of that, the day before this race, I had gone for a “nice little open water practice” at a local reservoir, and it had been HORRIBLE.  It was super choppy, and everyone was having a terrible time fighting the chop.

So now I was panicking a bit.

I could see that the water was calm, so that was fine, thank goodness.  But I still was really nervous about contact on the swim.  When you’re just watching from the shore, you can’t see the free-for-all that can be an open water swim.  People get punched, kicked, and smacked all over.  I have been kicked and punched in the face and chest while swimming on more than one occasion, and let me tell you, it’s not fun.

While we were all standing around waiting for our turn, we were chatting a bit.  Turns out, the women in my age group are AWESOME.  Everyone was so nice and sweet.  And all everybody wanted to do was get in the water, do their thing, and not get beat to crap.  There were plenty of us saying “if you don’t hit me, I won’t hit you, buddy!”  So it was good to know that I would hopefully be surrounded by like-minded individuals.

The 30-35 men went off.

Oh shit.  Now it’s our turn.  Shit shit shit.  I don’t want to get punched in the face.  Ahhhhhhh!

We shuffled into the water, about waist/chest deep, and waited.  There was a five minute gap between each wave.  People (myself included) were bouncing around, talking, laughing, and “dancing” to the music.  (I was mostly doing this to distract myself, and not let others know how much I was freaking out.)

I positioned myself in the back of the group, to give myself even more of a chance to not get caught up with anyone who was going to beat me up in the water.

The gun went off.

Oh crap.  Here we go.  Just stop thinking and start swimming.  It will be fine.

The Swim

For all my worrying, this swim was fantastic.  I have never had a better, or more contact-free swim in a race.  And I think that had everything to do with the age group wave start.  So, thank you, 30-35 women.  You are a pleasure to swim with.

One of the annoying things about swimming at the Res is how murky the water is.  I had heard about this ahead of time, so it wasn’t a surprise, but I was still amazed at how little I could really see.  I could barely see my own fingertips when they were stretched out in front of me.  Where this could become a problem is that you can’t see the feet of a person who is swimming ahead of you.  So to prevent face kicks, you have to keep an eye out for people as you are sighting for the buoys.  It took me a couple minutes to get used to this, but as soon as I did, things opened right up, and I had pretty much clear water the whole way.  There were a handful of accidental body bumps along the way, but nothing that was problematic.

We swam out from the shore for quite a way, then made a right to do the top end of the upside-down triangle that was the swim course.  On this second leg of the swim, I noticed a couple hot pink swim caps creeping up on me.  These were the fast people from the wave behind me (women, 25-29 – those young whippersnappers – before the start, our wave had been joking about forming a human wall to block them on the swim).  But no major problems here.  At this point, we were spread out enough that they could navigate through us slower folk.

After what felt like an eternity, we made another right turn and started heading back to the shore.

Oh my god, this leg of the swim took forever.  I think I was just getting tired, but WOW did it feel long.

I kept wondering when that stupid arch would look any bigger.  Plus, I was starting to get a bit toasty in my full wetsuit.  The water was warm enough (high 60′s) that I could have managed just fine with a sleeveless.

Just keep swimming… just keep swimming…

FINALLY, I put my feet down and felt the bottom.  Hooray!

I’m always a little dizzy and lightheaded after a long swim, so I took my time standing up and walking out of the water.  I felt like it took a bit longer than normal for me to get my bearings back, which I’m guessing has to do something with the altitude (even when you live here, you can still get a bit oxygen-deprived on the swim).  Or it could just be a lack of swim conditioning.  Also highly likely.

I crossed the timing mat, stopped my watch, and made my way to the transition area.

Swim time: 45:17 (Just a couple minutes slower than I had hoped, but I’ll take it, given my nerves and lack of swim training.)

T1

After walking off the dizziness, I jogged down the bike racks, found my spot, stripped off the wetsuit, and got to work cleaning off my feet.

Shoes and socks go on, jersey on, helmet on, sunglasses on.  (Always put your helmet on before unracking your bike – you can get DQ’d if you don’t.)

Good to go!

I took my bike off the rack and jogged to the mount line.

Transition time: 5:51 (Not bad.  Could be faster.)

The Bike

I made my way out of the Res and onto the bike course.  The first several miles of the course are a long, gradual, nearly imperceptible uphill.  This, combined with the fact that it’s the start of the bike and I don’t yet have my bike legs going, is so frustrating.  I felt like I was working so hard, and going nowhere.

In addition to that, due to the age group wave start, I was constantly being passed by the fast people from the waves behind me, which is incredibly demoralizing.  The wave starts were wonderful for the swim.  Less so for the bike.  But after 20-25 miles, people were mostly settled in with riders of similar speeds, and that stopped.

We made our way up Route 36 and north out of Boulder.  This part of the course is really beautiful as you ride right along the edge of the foothills.  There are some decent-sized hills that aren’t quite rollers, and aren’t quite climbs.  They’re just enough to make you work hard.  But they’re over in a minute or two.  I’ve ridden this part of the course many times with my tri club, so I felt very comfortable on it, and just kept chugging along.

Eventually, we made a right onto Route 66.  Once you get to this part of the course, things flatten out and you can really start to get some speed.  I actually averaged 16.3 mph for the first hour (which included all of that long gradual climb, and just a little bit on 66), which I was happy to see.  16.3 is still slow for many people, but it’s improvement for me!  In previous years, I always seemed stuck at 15 mph, so I’m very happy to see those numbers creeping up (albeit slowly) now.

The next hour of the course was the fastest section.  It’s mostly flat, with some rollers, and just a couple steep (but very short) climbs.  I was feeling good, and picked up the pace a bit.  For the second hour, I averaged 17.2 mph.  I was starting to get excited now.

The third hour of the bike, I was unfamiliar with the course, and didn’t know what to expect.  All the times I’ve been out to ride, I’ve ridden the course for the full.  The courses are the same for the first 30 miles or so, but then the split.  I was anticipating that this last part of the course would be mostly flat with some rollers, and a fast ride back to the Res.

I was wrong.

There were a LOT of long, gradual (but somewhat steep) climbs in this section!  I was getting frustrated, because I had been excited and getting my hopes up to keep my average speed around 17mph, and now I knew that wasn’t going to happen.  But then, I realized that I was still averaging more than 16mph, which is what I was originally estimating, so I couldn’t really complain.  For the third hour, I averaged 16.3 mph

Eventually, we turned right back onto Diagonal Highway, and we were nearly done.  We rode our way back into the Res and to the dismount line.  I got off my bike feeling good, and very happy with how the ride went.

Bike time: 3:23:01 (16.55 mph average)

T2

T2 was a quick change.  Rack the bike, helmet off, shoes off, jersey off.

Running shoes on, tri top on (it was getting hot and I was desperate for a sleeveless), hat and sunglasses on, race belt on, grab water bottle, and GO.

Transition time: 4:52

The Run

Heading out of the transition area for the run, I had absolutely NO idea what to expect.  My foot had been painful on only a two mile run just a few days earlier, so I wasn’t expecting anything good.  I was fully prepared to stop running and accept the DNF the minute my foot started hurting.  This race was not my A race for the season, and it just wasn’t worth risking the Ironman – which was only 7 weeks away.

I started running out of the Res and made the right onto the dirt road that goes around the lake.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it very far before I started to notice some tightening in my foot.  This was not a good sign.  I was only two miles in, and had 11 to go.  I wasn’t in pain, but I knew that I would be long before I finished the entire run.

The question was, was it worth it?

I stopped on the side of the road for a minute and thought about my options.

  1. Keep running and finish the whole thing, regardless.
  2. Keep running, finish this loop (it’s a two loop run course, so each loop is 6.55 miles), and see what happens.
  3. Stop running, and walk the rest.
  4. Stop running now, accept the DNF, and don’t do any more damage.

I ended up picking door #4.

I know I could have run further that day, but I really had no idea how much further.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to do the whole 13.1 miles, so finishing the run wasn’t going to happen anyway.  I figured it was smarter of me to stop at 2 miles before my foot started to get painful (at this point it was just getting a little tight, but that’s how it starts), and avoid any further damage.  I may have been able to make it through the whole first loop, but even that was questionable.

As I was standing there on the side of the road, the roving medic came by and asked if I needed anything.  I told him I just had an ongoing foot injury and wasn’t going to be finishing the run today.  So he took my timing chip, and I slowly walked back along the course, cheering as I went.

It was a bummer to DNF, but I know it was the right choice.  I really didn’t want to make my foot worse and not be able to race Ironman Boulder in a few weeks.  So even though having a DNF sucks, in this case, it’s better than the alternative.

Somehow, the year is flying by, and we’re already only one week out from Ironman 70.3 Boulder.  When did that happen???

It’s been a tough couple months trying to get training in, but I’ve been doing alright.  As usual, not as well as I had originally hoped, but my conditioning is pretty decent, and somehow I seem to be getting faster (thank you, living at altitude!), so that’s good.

Going into the 70.3 this coming weekend, my goals are pretty much the same as usual:

  1. Have fun and enjoy the day.
  2. Give it my best effort.
  3. PR if possible – given my recent biking and running paces, I should be able to do this if nothing unexpected happens.

Ideally, I’m expecting something like:

  • Swim: 42-43 minutes (I might be a bit slower on this one since I haven’t swam much.)
  • T1: 5 minutes
  • Bike: 3:30 (16 mph average)
  • T2: 5 minutes
  • Run: 2:04 (9:30/mi average)
  • Total time: 6:27:00

So we’ll see what happens.  The foot has been doing much better, but it’s still a question mark on anything longer than a few miles.  I’ve been trying to take it easy and give it a chance to rest and let the irritation go away.  So far, so good.  I’ve been able to run 3 miles with no pain during or after, so that’s progress.  I’m hoping to get in a couple 6 mile runs this week to get a better sense of how things are going with the recovery.

This weekend I got to do my first open water swim of the season, and it went surprisingly well.  The first OWS is usually a bit bumpy and there are usually a bit of early season jitters.  But this time I felt great.  I never got jittery, and actually had a really nice time in the water.  My swim conditioning could use a bit of work between now and the full in August, but I should be fine for this coming weekend.  And I have a few more OWS practices coming up this week to make sure I’m comfortable and ready to go.

One thing that’s been really great is riding with people from my tri club.  There’s a fantastic group that goes out for a weekly no-drop ride, and I’ve been loving riding with them.  We had a great 59 mile ride after our OWS on Saturday.  It’s fun to ride with them because it’s a low stress group that still pushes me a bit, so I’m improving quite a lot every time I ride with them.  Plus, it’s a great way to meet new people, since I’m still pretty new to the area.

Another awesome thing about Boulder – so many group workouts and races to choose from!  I now have SIX different OWS chances throughout the week, plus the weekly Stroke and Stride series, and multiple weekly tri club rides and runs.  It’s fantastic!

Anyway, it’s late, and I need to get some sleep.  Lots to do tomorrow!

About a year ago, I heard about this awesome-sounding kickstarter that was making a new GPS watch – the Bia Sport Watch.

When I first checked out their site, I was really excited and intrigued. There were five things that made me interested in this watch:

  1. The quick-connect GPS
  2. The SOS alert
  3. The 17 hour battery life
  4. Live race day tracking
  5. WATERPROOF, baby

The quick-connect GPS sounded fantastic.  I can’t even count how many times I had stood at my front door, just waiting and waiting for my Garmin (Forerunner 305) to find satellites.  Or how many races I had started with no satellite connection, and then missing data for the first part of my race.  Grrrrr…

As for the SOS alert – safety is always on my mind whenever I run alone.  I loved the idea of just being able to push a button, and having my exact location sent to my loved ones for help.  That’s some great peace of mind right there.

The 17 hour battery life is AMAZING when you’re doing Ironmans.  I don’t have full data for either of my Ironmans because I couldn’t wear my Garmin in the swim, and the battery would die about 2/3 of the way through the run.  It drove me nuts!  Since one of the Bia creators does Ironmans, this was something they kept in mind in developing the watch.  Hooray!

Another awesome thing about this watch is the plan to have live updates and tracking right on their website.  This is FANTASTIC for race day!  For now, we’ve been making do with my family tracking me using the “find my iphone” app, which works well, but drains batteries, doesn’t update as quickly as would be useful, and is only good if the other person has an iphone themselves.  This live updating on the website would be the perfect solution for race day!

Also, this baby is designed to be worn while biking, running, AND swimming.  So I can strap it on my wrist in the morning and be good to go through the whole race!

So after lusting over the Bia for a while, I decided to go for it and pre-order one.

Throughout the production process, the Bia team kept everyone well up to date with everything.  It wasn’t without its hiccups and setbacks.

The wait was long, but it was totally worth it.

A little over two weeks ago, my Bia arrived!  The production and shipments for pre-orders were broken up into four batches.  I had been jealously watching all the people in the first two batches happily posting about their awesome Bias, and I was so excited to get mine.  I tore into the box like a kid at Christmas.

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The setup

Setting up my Bia was super easy and quick.  All I had to do was plug the charger into the USB and charge up the Go Stick – the brains of the operation.  The Go Stick houses everything for over-the-air software updates and the GPS.

Once my Go Stick was charged (which only took a few minutes), I logged on to the http://my.bia-sport.com/setup site and created my account.  Directions were clear and easy to follow.  Everything was done and ready to go in about five minutes.

Size and comfort

One of the unusual things about the Bia is its shape and size.  Most GPS watches are huge and bulky.  The creators of Bia put all the necessary pieces into a separate piece – the Go Stick – so they could design the watch however they thought would be best.  This resulted in a smaller, thinner watch, that sits at an angle to make it more comfortable and easier to read while mid-workout.  While I’ve never had an issue with my Garmin sitting uncomfortably on my wrist bone, I definitely love how small and light the Bia is in comparison.

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Don’t mind the beach pictures.  I already gave my Garmin to my friend and forgot to take my comparison pictures before I did that.  So we reunited the Garmin and Bia during a day at the beach.

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Size and comfort:  Bia wins, hands down.

Go Stick

The Go Stick is the brains of the operation.  It’s a small piece that is separate from the watch, that you clip somewhere (I put mine on my waistband).  For best results, you should clip the Go Stick on the same side of your body as the watch.

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The Go Stick is charged through a USB cable that attaches using the clip.  (The watch itself never needs to be charged.)

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Make sure to connect the metal circles on the charger with the two metal pins on the Go Stick (see below).

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When the light on the left is orange, the Go Stick is charging.  It turns red once it’s fully charged.

You turn the Go Stick on by shaking it for a second or two.  Once it’s on, a green light flashes on the front for a few minutes.  The light shuts off after a bit to conserve battery, but it remains awake for about four minutes if it doesn’t connect to the watch before then.  Once it’s connected to the watch, it will stay on until the workout is over.

At first, I was paranoid that the Go Stick was going to fall off while I was running, so I was constantly checking for it for the first few runs.  But it seems very secure, and I haven’t had any problems at all.

Go Stick: Since the Garmin doesn’t have one, it’s hard to compare, but I’ll compare charging time, since this is the unit that needs to be charged.  The Bia Go Stick can be fully charged in 60-90 minutes, which is about the same as if I were to charge my Garmin.  Some people might be annoyed by the two-part design of the Bia, but I actually like it because it makes the watch smaller.  Once the Go Stick is clipped on, I barely notice it at all.  So I’ll say it’s a tie, with a slight edge to the Bia here since it ultimately makes the watch smaller and more comfortable.

Wristband

The wristband that comes with the Bia isn’t the greatest.  This is something that the Bia team has openly acknowledged throughout the whole process.  They’re working on new, and more secure band designs, but those are still to be determined.

HOWEVER, the current band can easily be modified (using o rings, rubber bands, Road ID badges, etc.) to make it more secure.  I actually swapped mine out completely.  The Bia design works perfectly with an ankle Road ID!  (If you keep the stock Bia band, it’s the perfect size to pop your Road ID badge directly onto it as well.)

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The original stock band

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Using my Road ID ankle band – I trimmed off the extra neoprene (the stuff that overlapped a lot).

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I love it with the Road ID band.  It’s super comfortable and feels really secure.  Plus, now I have two of my essential running things in one!

Wristband: With stock bands, the Garmin is better and more secure.  However, with customization (like putting on my Road ID band), the Bia is more comfortable, and equally secure.  So… a tie?  As stock products, the edge goes to the Garmin (less comfortable, but more secure).  With modifications, the edge goes to the Bia (more comfortable and just as secure).

Quick-connect GPS

One of the absolute best things about this watch is the quick-connect GPS.  How many times have we all stood around waiting and watching that “Locating Satellites” screen, only to see the bar get to almost 100% and then jump back down to 50%?  It takes forever sometimes!  I’ve had several races where my Garmin had so much trouble locating satellites that I’m missing data for the first couple miles of the race.  It makes me nuts!

Not with the Bia!

The Bia Go Stick contains the GPS portion of the watch.  Once you shake your Go Stick and wake it up, a green light will appear on the front of it.

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Awake!

Then, you press the button on your watch (there’s only one button – simplicity at its best) to turn the watch on.

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The start screen has three options:  Run, Bike, and Swim.  You can also access other options (like Tri Mode – not yet functional, but it should be very soon!) and the settings menu by pressing the down arrow in the bottom left corner.

To begin a run (or bike, or swim – I’ll just use run for now), you select “Run” on the touchscreen.

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A new menu comes up with the options: Just Run, Run/Walk, and Indoor.  For now, only the “Just Run” setting is functional.  The interval and indoor functions are still in development and should be rolled out over the auto-update in the near future (Disclaimer:  As I am not a part of the Bia team, I have no idea what the “near future” actually is.  But the Bia team is constantly working on developing these, so I imagine it won’t be super long.)

Once you press “Just Run” on the touchscreen, the watch connects to the Go Stick and gets the GPS location.  This happens so quickly that I wasn’t able to get a picture in time before, so I had to go back and do it again with my camera ready to shoot as soon as I pressed “Just Run.”

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Total elapsed time:  About three seconds.

GPS connection speed:  Bia wins!

Ease of use

Another nice feature of the Bia is how easy it is to use.  It was designed with only one button and the touchscreen.  You use the large button to turn it on and off, start and stop a workout, and send an SOS alert (I’ll get to that in a minute).  For everything else, you use the touchscreen (this includes when you finish a workout and it says to touch and hold to finish – touch the screen, NOT the button).  By the end of my first run with my Bia, I felt like I could use all the features without a problem – and I didn’t have to read a manual to figure it out.  There is no excess of menus to scroll through, and no wondering what button does what.  The trade off here is a decrease in features (compared to a Garmin).  However, the Bia team is constantly rolling out new functions and is open to suggestions.  So I have no doubt that with a bit more time, the Bia will have everything you ever used on your Garmin.  And really, it pretty much already does for most people.

Ease of use:  Bia wins again

Visibility

The screen on the Bia is simple and uncluttered.  During a workout, it has three main displays: elapsed time, distance, and pace (the default pace is average, but you can switch that to current pace as well).  Along the bottom of the screen, it displays time of day, heart rate (if you connected it to your HRM – which you do using the small “+” symbol in the bottom left corner just before pressing the button and starting your workout), and Go Stick battery.

The only downside with the Bia here is that it doesn’t have a backlight for when you’re running in the dark.  It was in the original design, but had to be taken out due to design limitations.  However, the next generation of Bias should have the illumination, and anyone who has a Bia 1.0 will be given the option to trade it in for a new one, for only the manufacturing cost (as per one of the backer update emails we got over the past several months).  I plan on doing this once that version is out, since having a screen that lights up is really nice for those darker runs.

Visibility:  Slight edge to Garmin for now.  Once Bia 2.0 is out with illumination, tie.

Accuracy

For my first run, I was curious how the accuracy of my Bia would compare to my Garmin, so I wore them both.  They ended up being exactly the same.  Occasionally, there’s a little GPS hiccup, where it looks like you’re suddenly running in the middle of the road, but the Bia team is currently working on making the GPS accuracy even better by smoothing out some things with the software, so that accuracy should become even better with time.

Accuracy:  Tie – some people have noticed the Bia is even better than the Garmin for swimming.  I have yet to try that.

SOS Alert

One of my absolute favorite Bia features is the SOS alert.  I am always very aware of safety when I run alone, and have had many times in the past when I have actually skipped a run because it was dark out and I didn’t feel safe running by myself.  I live in a very safe area, however, (I hate to use this excuse, but it’s true) as a female, you’re always abundantly aware of your physical safety.

The SOS alert is, in a word, brilliant.

If I was out for a run and something were to happen, I can send an SOS alert to my loved ones by pressing the large button and holding it down for three seconds.  This sends an automated text alert to my contacts (which are easy to set up right through the http://my.bia-sport.com/setup website).  I set up three contacts, so that way it increased the chances that one of them would see the text right away and could call for help.  (NOTE:  When you are setting these up, it would be a good idea to text or call the person beforehand to give them a heads up.  As soon as you enter them in as an emergency contact, they will get an automated text saying they are an emergency alert and this might concern them if they don’t know it’s coming.)

When the SOS alert is triggered, your emergency contact(s) will get a text saying you need help, and your exact location.  It will update your location every 60 seconds until the alert is canceled.  You cancel the alert by pressing and holding the large button for another three seconds.

SOS Alert: Bia wins!  Garmin says “what alert?”

Auto-uploading to website

Another sweet Bia feature is how it automatically uploads your workout to your Bia activity log as soon as you’re done.  No need to plug it in to your computer to download your data.  Instead, the Go Stick uploads your workout data over the cell network.  If you finish your workout and you are out of cell range, the Go Stick saves it and will upload it to your activity log as soon as you get back in range.

bia upload

My runs are sad this week since I’m still recovering from my foot injury.

You can easily export your data from the activity log in .tcx format so you can upload it into any other tracking program you like.  The Bia team has also set up options to auto-upload your data to Strava and MapMyFitness.  Other options (TrainingPeaks, etc.) are also possible in the future.

Auto-upload:  Bia wins again!  No more need to plug in my Garmin and download stuff.

Auto-updating of software

Since the Bia is still very new, there are frequent updates being rolled out by the Bia team.  Fortunately, they had the foresight to build in the ability for these software updates to be done automatically over the air.  So any time a new function is ready to be rolled out, or a bug is fixed, the software is automatically updated on your Bia – no need to plug it in, or download anything.  Everything is taken care of for you.  The most recent update (the only one I have experienced so far) took about a minute to do when I turned on my watch before a run.  So it’s nothing that takes hours and hours and throws off your planned run.

Or if you really want to make sure it doesn’t interfere with a planned workout, you can manually check for updates at any time in the settings menu (use the down arrow in the bottom left hand corner when you turn on your watch).

Auto-updating:  Bia wins!  I don’t think Garmin does this at all.

Battery life

Currently, the Go Stick has a battery life of about 6 hours.  (I believe.  I haven’t let it run long enough to die yet.)  However, one of the upcoming features is 17+ hour battery life.  This was another of the big selling points for me.  As an Ironman athlete, it drove me NUTS that my Garmin couldn’t make it all the way through the day.  The Bia is designed to do exactly that.  The extended battery life isn’t out yet, but it’s in progress and should be coming out soon (I hope).  We’ve gotten hints of it in our backer emails over the last couple months, so I imagine it’s not too far off.

Battery life:  Currently, Garmin wins this one.  But as soon as that 17+ hour battery life is out, Bia wins.  No contest.

UPDATE:  According to the Bia Facebook page, the 17 hour battery life is now rolled out to all watches.  Hooray!

Triathlon mode

I can’t write much about tri mode quite yet, because it’s not yet functional.  However, it’s in the works and looks like it should be out in the near future.  The Bia team has been testing it at some early season races, so hopefully we’ll see that roll out soon!

Tri mode:  For now, Garmin wins.  Once it’s out, I imagine it will be a tie.

Swim mode

For now, the only swim mode that you can use is “open water.”  There are also indoor modes (lap swimming) that will be coming down the line.  I have yet to test my Bia on a swim (tonight, hopefully), so I can’t say much about it yet.  However, many people have already been swimming with their Bias and things seem to be working well.  A recent poster on the Bia Facebook page found her Bia to be even more accurate than her Garmin for open water swimming.

One key with the Bia for swimming is to clip your Go Stick somewhere where it is mostly out of the water (like on the back of your goggle strap, and/or secured under your swim cap).  This allows it to find and hold the GPS signal easily, as well as easily communicate with your watch.

Swim mode:  Based off of others’ experiences, I’ll give the edge to the Bia since it appears to be more accurate than the Garmin.

The Bia team and community

Lastly, I had to mention the Bia team (and the Bia community), because I think they are one of the things that makes this watch so fantastic.

Creating something from scratch is daunting.  And this small group of butt-kickingly awesome people has managed to create an incredible product.  In addition to that, they are incredibly customer-friendly and responsive.  They genuinely want to hear from Bia users for feedback, suggestions, and questions.  Any question or suggestion is quickly responded to via email or through their Facebook page (on which, you will find an awesome community of proud Bia owners).  I can’t say enough good things about this group.  I am super happy and proud to be an original Bia owner, and am looking forward to many, many training sessions and races with my new Bia.

The team:  Bia wins.  No contest.  Try getting Garmin to ask you for suggestions for future features!

Need to contact me?

geonerdette at gmail dot com

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