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.

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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!

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This morning I ran my first standalone marathon since I started doing Ironmans.  I was really curious to see how it went, given that my perspective has changed quite a bit over the last two years.  All I really wanted going into the race was to FINALLY have a marathon time that started with a 4, instead of a 5.  For the past several years, I’ve been consistently doing my long runs at a 10:00-10:30/mi pace, but come race day, I’ve had a knee injury (My first marathon: The 2010 Adirondack Marathon), heat exhaustion (the 2011 Buffalo Marathon), and peroneal tendonitis (the 2012 DC Rock n’ Roll Marathon – my standing PR at 5:00:24).  My other two marathon attempts ended at the half due to a knee injury (the 2010 Buffalo Marathon), and illness (the 2011 Adirondack Marathon).  So suffice it to say, I really wanted to have a decent race for once.  Just once.

As per usual, I didn’t train as well as I had hoped.  This was the first year of my Ph.D. program, and things were quite busy between school, work, and trying to have some semblance of a social life since I’m living in a new city and trying to make friends.  I could get in the occasional short run or two (5-6 miles) during the week, and a long run just about every other weekend.  I’ve also gotten in a few decent bike rides (65 miles and 75 miles of the IM Boulder course) in the last couple weeks.  So I wasn’t in a horrible place.  But it certainly wasn’t ideal either.  My recent short runs are usually in the 9:00-9:15/mi range, and my longest run topped out at 18 miles at a 9:59/mi pace.  I was really happy with how that run went, so going into the race this morning, I was feeling good.

The biggest thing that has changed since my last marathon was the completion of my two Ironmans (the 2012 Beach2Battleship – race report parts 1, 2, and 3, and the 2013 Ironman Lake Placid – race report parts 1, 2, 3, and 4).  Doing Ironmans has significantly changed my view of what exactly is a “long” day.  Now, 4.5 hours doesn’t seem all that bad.

So going into the race this morning, I was stress-free and relaxed.  I was just going out for a nice fun run and whatever happened, happened.  No big deal.  I looked at it more as a nice training run for Ironman Boulder, which is coming up in August.  That said, I still wanted to have a good race and enjoy myself.  But it wasn’t my A race like marathons have been in the past.  Removing that A race stress is really great.

My mom had come out to visit this weekend, so we spent the few days before the race doing what essentially amounted to a “food tour of Boulder.”  I had so many good restaurants that I wanted to take her to, and limited time to do it in.  So we ate.  A LOT.  No chance of not having enough fuel in my system here.

Race morning dawned painfully early.  The start was at 6 am down in Denver (about 30-45 minutes away, depending on where you’re trying to get to), and we also had to account for the inevitable race day traffic.  So I was up at 3am and out the door by 4:15.  Ouch.

The drive to City Park was uneventful.  We didn’t hit any traffic until we pulled in to the park, and even then we were able to find a parking spot right near the start line – score!  At this point, it was about 5:15 am.  We had 45 minutes to kill before the start, so my mom and my friend got some coffee, while I did the ever-important pre-race port-a-potty stop.  Then we hung around the starting corrals until about 5:50, when I got in line in my corral.

Right at 6 am sharp, we were off.  They were pausing in between corrals, so one group would take off roughly every minute.  I was in corral E, and at 6:06 am, we were at the start line and on our way.

I crossed the start line and headed out with my group.  Amazingly, I ended up passing most of my corral, and was in the front of our little pack.  I was feeling really good!  I did the first mile coming out of the park at a 9:15 pace.  Sweet!  Also, the spacing out of the corrals was perfect – we weren’t bunched up at all.  Even right in the very beginning.

The first 5.5 miles were pretty uneventful.  We made our way out of City Park, and west along Colfax (one of the main drags through Denver – not the prettiest street in the world).  Around mile 4, we passed through a fire station (fun), and ended up on the Cherry Creek bike path.  It was really pretty and peaceful running along the creek, and Confluence Park was a cool spot.  There were two guys on SUP boards at the confluence, cheering and playing some game where they have to jump over a floating bar thing.  One guy fell in.  It was entertaining.

We turned southwest and continued along the South Platte River bike path, past the amusement park, and headed toward the Broncos stadium.  I was still feeling awesome, and super excited to be running WAY better than I had anticipated (first 6 splits: 9:15, 9:28, 9:03 – sweet!, 9:16, 9:27, and 9:20).  I was averaging a 9:18/mi pace.  This was fantastic!

* Note:  At this point, the splits from my watch were just a bit ahead of the mile markers (about 0.1 mi – it got more exaggerated in the second half of the race), so I was probably a second or two slower per mile than that, but I’m just going off my watch.

Around mile 6, we entered the Broncos stadium.  This was really a neat touch for the course.  We ran in through the tunnel, and came out on the field.  It was so cool to look up at all the seats and see it from a player’s perspective.  It must be so amazing when those seats are all full.

We ran around the field, and headed out the other side of the stadium, past the first relay exchange, and back onto Colfax.

Coming out of the stadium, we hit our first decent hill.  It really wasn’t too bad.  Overall, this course is mostly flat.  There are some long gradual inclines, and two or three small hills that are worse, but it’s a pretty flat and fast course.  I just slowed a teeny bit and chugged up it.

Around 7.5 miles, we hung a right onto Perry Street and headed north to run around the beautiful Sloans Lake.  I really enjoyed this part of the course.  First, it was the first time I saw my mom and my friend, so that was really nice (they did a kickass job of running all over that course – it was impressive), and it was just a super pretty spot.  When I saw my people, I ran over, showed them my watch, yelled “I’m killing it!” and then ran off smiling.  I was in a good mood.

photo(3)Totally killing it.  🙂

We ran all around the lake, and then headed back south on Perry to get back on Colfax.  We continued west for a bit until about mile 12.5, where we turned north to head to the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design.  We ran around the campus, and hit the halfway point.  According to the race clock, my half time was around 2:04:00, and I was holding a 9:28/mi average pace (estimating with my start time).  I was currently 7 minutes ahead of where I thought I would be on a good day.  That was awesome!!!

My watch splits up to this point:  (my watch was reading 0.25 miles ahead of the course at this point)

  • Mile 7 – 9:24
  • Mile 8 – 9:46
  • Mile 9 – 9:04
  • Mile 10 – 9:13
  • Mile 11 – 9:34
  • Mile 12 – 9:28
  • Mile 13 – 9:20

We headed out of the campus, and continued north on Pierce Street.  Then west on 20th.  There was a decent hill right after we turned on to 20th, but nothing too terrible.

We headed west on 20th for a while, and I saw my mom and friend again.  I was amazed they had made it all the way over to the west end of the course!  That was some dedication!

A little after 14.5 miles, we turned south and headed through a really nice little neighborhood.  There were a bunch of residents out cheering, and manning their own aid stations – including one that had bacon and donuts for the runners.  (Also, this reminds me, I thought it was really entertaining every time I passed someone wearing the “Team Beef” shirt, since I was wearing my awesome No Meat Athlete top.  Oh, the irony.).  Also in this neighborhood, I decided to begin my “walk two minutes at every mile marker” strategy to keep my energy up for the second half.  It seemed to work well.  When I started running again after my quick break at mile 15, I felt rather good.

Around 15.5 miles, we emerged back out onto Colfax, and headed east to begin our trip to the finish line.

We ran down Colfax for a LONG time.  But fortunately, most of this was a very gradual downhill.  It was a nice little reprieve for the legs.  I decided to skip the walk breaks through here and just enjoy the downhill.  My official 16.1 mile split was 2:33:00.  I was still holding a 9:30/mi average pace!

Then, at mile 18, I had my first twinges of unpleasantness.  I recognized it immediately.  It was the beginnings of the same peroneal tendonitis that had plagued me at the 2012 DC Rock n’ Roll Marathon, except in my right foot this time.   I decided to implement an “I can walk for two minutes at a time whenever I need it” strategy to keep things under control.  After the first minute of my two minute walk break, I saw my mom and my friend a few blocks down the road.  I couldn’t stand to walk past them, so I picked it back up again.  As I passed them, I waved and yelled something along the lines of “remember how happy I was to do my 18 miler at a 9:59 pace???  Look at this!!!” and showed them my watch again.  Then I took off down the road.  A few blocks later, I walked for another minute.

My splits through 18 miles: (watch was running about 0.6 miles ahead of the mile markers at this point)

  • Mile 14 – 9:22
  • Mile 15 – 10:17 (First walk break)
  • Mile 16 – 10:18
  • Mile 17 – 9:10 (Yay!  Downhill!)
  • Mile 18 – 9:15

We continued down Colfax, all the way to the Broncos stadium.  At this point, my foot was pretty rough, so I was doing a bit of hobbling, but I could still run most of the time.

We ran back through the stadium, and out onto the bike path along the South Platte River.  My official 20.1 mile split was 3:14:22, and a 9:40/mi pace.  I was happy with that!

This was when the foot really started to become unpleasant.

A little way down the bike path, the 4:15 pacer passed me.  I wouldn’t have it.  I started running again, passed him, and stayed a head for a minute.  Then he passed me again.  Then I caught and passed him.  We went back and forth like this a few times.  I really didn’t want to lose him.  Even though 4:15 was way ahead of what I had planned on doing today, I had fallen in love with the idea of it, and I didn’t want to let it go.  Eventually, I had to.  But that’s okay.  I was still far exceeding my expectations, so I really couldn’t complain.

Along the bike path, there was much limping and stopping to wince, but I slowly made my way back toward City Park and the finish line.

We came off the bike path at Lawrence Street, and made our way down 17th Street and closed in on the park.  At mile 23, I managed to find another friend who was spectating, and at that point, I was feeling good (the pain in my foot would come and go, depending on the particulars of how I would move it), so I happily ran past, waved, and said hello.

Somewhere around mile 24 was the last somewhat unpleasant uphill.  My foot wouldn’t have it, so I walked (well, limped).  I did much limping in those last few miles, but I was feeling alright.  I was SO happy with how the first 18 miles had gone, and I knew I would finish under 5 hours at this point, so really, that was JUST FINE.  I just needed to keep moving, that’s all.

At mile 25, I tried to run it in the rest of the way, but had to stop to hobble here and there.  I eventually entered into the park, and ran it the rest of the way in.

Final splits from my watch: (my watch was reading 0.8 miles ahead of the course by the end)

  • Mile 19 – 9:50
  • Mile 20 – 11:20
  • Mile 21 – 9:27
  • Mile 22 – 12:00
  • Mile 23 – 10:06
  • Mile 24 – 10:00
  • Mile 25 – 12:51
  • Mile 26 – 12:43
  • Mile 27 – 11:37

I came into the finish area, and ran my way down the chute.  I saw my mom and my friends right at the finish line, cheering, and carrying the wonderful box of Voodoo Donuts that I knew would be waiting for me at the finish line.

I crossed the finish line with a final time of 4:34:10, and an average pace of 10:27/mi.  I’ll take that!  New PR!  By 26 minutes!

  • Final time: 4:34:10 (PR!)
  • Average pace: 10:27/mi
  • Overall place: 771/1329
  • Women: 239/554
  • Age group: 87/200

I’m so proud that for ONCE, I was actually in the top half of my age group AND women!  I’m always bringing up the rear!

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Yum.

The end of the semester is upon us, and I’m finishing up the first year of my Ph.D. program.  Things have been really great, but also really busy!  However, in a couple more days, I should have a schedule that’s more conducive to training and writing – kind of.  I’ll still be insanely busy, but at least the times of everything will be more flexible.  Thank goodness!

Just a quick post to say I’m still here, and more to come soon.

In the past two weeks, I was fortunate enough to come across a power meter for my tri bike – thanks to a good friend who is not racing for a while.  Once I got everything set up and working (PowerTap G3 with an Edge 510), I was psyched to start training with power.

Problem is, it’s pretty overwhelming at first!

So what does a noob to power do to get started?

The other fortunate occurrence was this year’s BeginnerTriathlete.com mentor groups.  There happened to be a group on there that is meant for people new to training with power, and they didn’t mind taking on another clueless soul like myself.

Voila!

The group is run by two awesome guys – Shane and Marc.  Shane is a great tri coach, and is putting together workouts for us weekly.  It’s pretty awesome.  Check out his coaching website if you want more information:

Shane MacLeod – ScotiaMultisport
http://www.scotiamultisport.com
https://twitter.com/scotiamultisprt

So this past week, I did my first two FTP tests – one 5 minute, and one killer 20 minute.  I actually had to do the 20 minute test twice, because the first time I tried it, I only got 11 minutes into the balls-to-the-wall interval before I blew up and ended up laying on my floor for ten minutes, covered in sweat and not wanting to move ever again.  The first time I did the 20 minute test, I tried following the Sufferfest “Rubber Glove” video, which was fantastic.  But I clearly needed more of a recovery time before the actual test interval, so the second time around, I did the test as written by Coach Shane:

Long (20 minute) FTP Test – 1:00:00 total time

  • 10:00 spin; get loose, build up a light seat, have slightly elevated breathing by the end
  • 5x30s at short test wattage, 30s easy spin recovery in between
  • 10:00 spin
  • 20:00 all out – you want to be steady through this or build power as you go; you don’t want to start off too hard and then fade as the test progresses. Better to start a little too easy and build throughout than blow up part way through. Early in the test, if you feel you can hold the power for another 5:00, you are probably right where you want to be; if 5:00 would be easy, go a bit harder, if 5:00 seems like way too long, back off a little. With five minutes to go, time to just hang on through to the end.
  • 15:00 spin

Courtesy Shane MacLeod (http://www.scotiamultisport.com)

I ended up with a pretty darn low 20 minute power.  But the way I see it, that means I have nowhere to go but up!

After a good recovery day, I did the 5 minute test.  Again, as written by Coach Shane:

Short (5 minute) FTP Test – 45:00  total time

  • 10:00 spin; get loose, build up a light sweat, have slightly elevated breathing by the end
  • 5:00 at a moderately hard effort (just a bit easier than oly distance race effort)
  • 5:00 spin
  • 5x15s at about 5:00 test effort, 45s easy spin recovery in between
  • 5:00 spin
  • 5:00 all out – you want to be steady through this or build power as you go; you don’t want to start off too hard and then fade as the test progresses. Better to start a little too easy and build throughout than blow up part way through. Through the first half of the test, ask if you can keep this power up for another minute; if so you are probably right where you want to be; if not adjust slightly. With two minutes or less to go, time to just grit your teeth and hang on.
  • 10:00 spin

Courtesy Shane MacLeod (http://www.scotiamultisport.com)

Yeah, there was a lot of that gritting of the teeth and hanging on this week.  Also, a lot of swearing and grunting.  But I got through!

I ended up with the following for my results:

  • 20 minute test: 125 Watts
  • 5 minute test: 159 Watts
  • FTP (Functional Threshold Power): 119 Watts
    • This is what I should be able to maintain for an hour
  • CP (Critical Power): 114 Watts
    • This is what I should be able to maintain for a “very long time”
  • W/kg: 2.1
    • Pretty typical for a crappy cyclist like myself.  🙂
  • AWC (Anaerobic Work Capacity): 13.6 kJ
    • Essentially the size of my “battery.”  This should go up as I train more.  It doesn’t matter much with endurance races – it’s more of a sprinting thing, but it’s still interesting.

So now that I’ve got a baseline, I’m all ready to go for this week’s workouts.  Can’t wait to get my butt kicked!

I also got to get out Saturday and enjoy this amazing Colorado weather.  It was January 18th, and I went out for a three hour ride, in short sleeves.  It was amazing.  It was like May in New York!  Also, the view while riding is just spectacular.  I still can’t believe I live here.

I love this place!

Also, go Broncos!

I’m a big fan of the IM Talk podcast, and the other day I was listening to a recent episode.  Since it was a holiday, Bevan played some interviews from his other podcast, Fitness Behavior, and I thought it was fascinating.  So I pulled up some of those podcasts as well.

Within about two minutes of starting the most recent episode (the Wrap Up and Workbook episode), I found myself nodding along and saying “Yep! That’s exactly it!  That is EXACTLY what I do.”  Since this was a year end wrap up episode, Bevan was just highlighting some of the other podcasts from throughout the year.  There was one that resonated in particular with me, and that was the “Process Challenge” episode (listen here).  (The others were also really good.)

Rather than give a detailed recap, I’ll just say, LISTEN TO IT! The general idea is that instead of focusing on finding the right goal to motivate you to train and/or eat well – like a specific race – focus on the habits that you would have if you were functioning at your best.  By making it a goal to do those things every day, you will set yourself up for success.  For me, aiming to complete those little goals/habits each day makes me feel better, both mentally (a sense of accomplishment, and organization in my life), and physically (because I’m eating well, getting enough sleep, and being active).  This is something I’m focusing on this month.  Yes, I have training going on, but rather than just looking months down the road at these looming races, I’m going to go one day at a time, and make the effort to fill in all my little check boxes each week.  Two days in and so far, so good!  Granted, it’s only been two days, but I’m enjoying it so far.

Here’s my list that I came up with.  I tried to be as specific as possible, and make them small and manageable things that I can do on a daily basis:

Daily:

  • Get up by 7am (I am a grad student and have a pretty flexible schedule, so 7am is plenty early.)
  • Follow my training plan for the day.  Preferably completing it in the morning because it gives me a good sense of accomplishment and energy throughout the day.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast
  • Pack a healthy lunch
  • Make a healthy dinner
  • Do a quick clean of my apartment
  • Walk my dogs
  • Call and/or text my best friend every day (she lives 1800 miles away and I miss her!)
  • Track my food intake
  • Floss – I know it’s funny, but I got a very convincing talk about the importance of daily flossing from a dentist on the chairlift a few weeks ago (how’s that for random?).  And you know what?  It’s quick, easy, and good for your long term health.
  • Have one hour of quiet time before bed.  No screens – instead, take a bath, meditate, read a book, cuddle with the dogs, etc.
  • Get to sleep by 10pm

Weekly

  • Write a blog post
  • Practice my viola for 1 hour
  • Attend a social event and meet a new person
  • Hike with the dogs
  • Meal plan and prep for the upcoming week
  • Sit down and reflect on my week – the good, the bad, and what I can learn from it.

Listen to it!  It’s great and could dramatically change the way you approach things.

Things have been quiet on the blog front for the last couple months, since I’ve been in my traditional post-Ironman hiatus.  But it’s New Year’s Eve!  Yikes!  When did that happen?

So it’s time to look back on 2013.  It was a big year…

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

  • Got divorced
  • Sold a house
  • Bought and sold cars privately (not through a dealership)
  • Said goodbye to one of my lifelong best friends
  • Turned 30!
  • Ironman Lake Placid
  • Moved to Colorado
  • Went back to school for my Ph.D.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don’t make “resolutions,” but I do like to set goals and make plans for the upcoming year.  I have no idea what I was thinking about at this time last year.  There was a lot of change going on at that point, so I think I was just trying to stay positive and keep things in perspective.

3. What places did you visit?

  • Colorado (and then moved here!)
  • San Francisco
  • The redwoods
  • Portland
  • Mt. St. Helens!
  • Seattle
  • Costa Rica
  • And of course, Florida and Washington DC to visit family

Busy year!

4. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

  • A submitted Ph.D. research proposal?
  • A good network of friends here in Colorado

5. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

  • January – The day I was officially divorced
  • June – The death of one of my best friends.  I miss her a lot.
  • July – My 30th birthday and Ironman Lake Placid
  • August – Moved to Colorado
  • September – Boulder floods!
  • October – My nephew was born!

6. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I think it’s a tie:

  • Selling my old house
  • Ironman Lake Placid
  • Moving 1800 miles, to a city where I know no one, and going back to school

7. What was your biggest failure?

Honestly, I can’t think of any big thing.

8. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing major that I can remember.

9. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My best friend, Meredith – I miss her!!!

10. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Living in Boulder.  What’s there not to be excited about???

11. What song will always remind you of 2013?

Sara Bareilles – That was the soundtrack to 80% of my 36 hour drive from NY to CO

12. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?

I think about the same.  Overall, life is really good.  But I’m still trying to make friends out here, so there are lonely times.  But I absolutely adore Boulder and am so thrilled to be here.

b) thinner or fatter?

Also about the same.  I seem to stay within 2-3 pounds of the same weight all the time.  Which is nice in some ways, and frustrating in others.

c) richer or poorer?

Poorer.  Much, much poorer.  Silly grad student income.  Uugh.  Better than paying for the Ph.D., I guess!

13. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Running, lifting, swimming, cooking, spending quality time with my family, friends, and dogs.

14. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stressing – about anything.  Particularly beating myself up on days when I didn’t run, or ate junk.

Making excuses

15. Did you fall in love in 2013?

Yes, but then I moved and long distance isn’t fun.  I’m very thankful for the time we had though.

16. What was your favorite TV program?

SHERLOCK!!!  (The BBC one, not the one with Lucy Lu)

17. What did you do for your birthday in 2013?

Dinner with my (then) boyfriend and my best friend at our favorite burrito bar, and then went to our bar trivia league night.

18. What was the best book you read?

  • Night Circus
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  • The Fault in Our Stars
  • Finding Alaska
  • Unwind

19. What was your favorite movie of the year?

Probably the Hunger Games, part 2

20. Did you make some new friends this year?

I did!  Some of the other grad students out here.  I still need to make more though.

21. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

If the relationship I was in before I moved hadn’t ended.  But I can’t live my life looking backwards.

22. What kept you sane?

My dogs, as always.  I love those guys.

23. What is a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013?

Take the time to focus on me – my mental and physical health.

24. THE BEST OF 2013:

a) Recipes (the yummiest cooking from the past year):

I know there are some, but I’m drawing a blank at the moment.  Recipe fail.

b) Project (something you started this past year that you’re proud of or really enjoyed):

Figuring out my Ph.D. research project!  That was HUGE.

c) Best Trip:

It’s a tie:

  • NY to Boulder to San Francisco, and then road tripped up the coast to Portland and Seattle
  • Costa Rica (fieldwork)

d) Night Out:

I think the weekly trivia nights with my best friend.  I miss that.

e) Moment of Peace:

I still love relaxing on the couch with my dogs passed out and sprawled across my lap.

f) The Best Place:

BOULDER.  No contest.

25. My goals for 2014:

I have quite a few, so I’ll just put the relevant stuff on here:

  • Learn how to rock climb outside
  • Climb at least 5 14ers (14er = a Colorado mountain that is 14,000 ft or higher)
  • Do a sub-6:15 half Ironman
  • Do a sub-14 Ironman (Eek!  I put it out there!  This one was supposed to be a secret!  Oh well, guess that means now I have to make sure I do it!)
  • Get back into trail running
  • Be an active member of the local tri club (which is a pretty amazing club)
  • Be an active member of a local running club
  • Take the dogs hiking at least once a month
  • Blog at least once a week

Monday

I started out my week feeling stressed and overwhelmed.  School, money (or lack thereof, thanks to returning to a grad student income), a general lack of time to do the things I need to do (nevermind that I’m sitting here writing a blog post when I should be reading more journal articles), and lots of self-doubt in terms of my ability to come up with a research project idea that I could really get behind and not feel like I was just spinning my wheels on something that didn’t really get me excited.  It wasn’t pretty.

But I decided that rather than let it get to me, I was just going to slowly chip away at the things that were looming over me and causing me stress.  I got an exam back in class (my first exam since 2005), and ended up doing better than I anticipated – thank goodness.  It still wasn’t wonderful, but I’ll take it.  In the afternoon, I taught my class, and then had my office hours.  No one ever comes to office hours, so I spent that time playing around with my budget and really making it bare bones.  It’s still super tight, but at least it’s not as bad as it was before.  It’s been a big adjustment to go from a salary with extra summer income on top of that, to a sad, sad little grad student stipend.  But I can’t complain.  In a lot of fields, you get nothing.  So I’m extremely thankful that I get funding to cover my tuition and most of my living expenses.

After getting to the point where looking at my budget at least didn’t make my heart start to pound, I found a couple part time faculty jobs that were posted and applied for those.  So hopefully I hear something back soon.  That would be ideal – extra income, and I get to continue teaching.  Fingers crossed.

In the afternoon, I came home and walked the dogs for an hour.  The day started out quite freezing (I biked to work in my winter jacket with another one underneath it, plus two layers of gloves, a hat, and a scarf), but by the afternoon, it was pretty glorious.  So the dogs and I walked and enjoyed the amazing views of the mountains (they never get old).

I was supposed to meet a friend for a ride in the afternoon, but things were just too crazy, so we pushed it back to later in the week.  Instead, later that night, I set up my new pain cave, turned out the lights, put on my headphones (so I didn’t drive my sweet roommate too crazy), and powered away to a Sufferfest video (There Is No Try).  I made sure that I could be proud of myself and my effort when I was done.  It was hard, but it also felt great at the same time.  I’m pretty sure my roommate heard me grunting and swearing all through it though.  There was many a “sonofabitch!” thrown around for that hour.

The other good thing about adjusting the budget is that my food budget has significantly decreased.  Now, normally, this wouldn’t be a good thing.  But I think it’s going to help keep me from all my mindless snacking.  I do it ALL. THE. TIME.  And I don’t need to.  My challenge is to eat very healthily, and do it for very cheaply.

Tuesday

Tuesday was a great day!  I was planning on getting out for a run in between my classes, but that didn’t happen.  However, it was for a really good reason.  While I was in my first class, someone said something and it was like a light bulb going off.  I came up with my Ph.D. research project!  So I spent the time in between classes digging into that.  It was a HUGE relief.  I had been so incredibly stressed about that for months now.  I had had this nagging feeling of I had a job that I loved, with coworkers that I loved, that paid well.  I lived in a place I loved.  I had the best friends.  I had a wonderful relationship.  And I gave it all up.  FOR WHAT???  At least now I feel like I’m getting somewhere.

Relief!

Wednesday

Wednesday was also a really great day.  I had a meeting with a couple faculty members, in which I ended up walking out of there with a side project/job that is really incredible and I’m super excited about.

Then, after my meeting, I went out for a run.  I decided to keep with the HIIT theme, so I did some ass-busting intervals.  I had to be back for another class soon after that, so it had to be short.  But I did 3 miles, with an overall average pace of 10:00/mile.  HOWEVER, that was including my walk intervals.  My run intervals were around 8:30/mile.  I was huffing and puffing, but it felt good!

Thursday

Thursday was pretty uneventful.  Went to class and had a rest day.  Not much to report here.  But sometimes that’s a good thing.

Friday

Friday, my awesome week of progress continued!  In the morning, I received an email from someone at one of the local community colleges asking if I was interested in teaching one of their spring courses.  This wasn’t even one of the positions I applied for earlier in the week.  This was just out of the blue!  AND the class is the one that is my absolute favorite to teach.  Sign me up!

Most of the day was productive, and then in the afternoon, I got out for a great (but slow) ride with a friend.  We climbed up Red Rocks, which was awesome and gorgeous, and rode all around that area.  I absolutely love riding out here.  Everywhere you turn, it’s just one beautiful place after another.

After a great post-ride beer and dinner, it was time to head home and get ready for Saturday’s field trip.

Saturday

Saturday started out promising.  The field trip was supposed to be down to southern Colorado to look at the KT boundary layer (material from the impact that killed the dinosaurs).  We stopped at a couple places on the way down – including lunch at Garden of the Gods, which was beautiful.

After lunch and walking around Garden of the Gods, we attempted to drive about two hours south to check out the impact layer.  But there was a football game at the Air Force Academy that afternoon, and they were playing Notre Dame, so the traffic was horrendous.  So much so, that we barely moved at all.  Eventually, we gave up, and turned around.  Bummer.

Later that night, I got home to a sick dog.  After cleaning up the disgusting mess, I had to rush her to the emergency vet.  Thankfully, everything was completely fine, but I didn’t want to risk it.  My dogs are my kids, and I don’t mess around when things could be serious.  I’m so glad she was fine.

Overall, it was a long day.

Sunday

Sunday dawned puke-free, so that was good.  I ended up spending the whole day in Denver for a conference.  It was really great to see several of my former coworkers, former students, and my old masters adviser.  The conference continues into this coming week, so I have plenty of things coming up too!

So on Sunday, I got out for a run.  It was my first one in quite a while – except for two short ones with the dogs, which don’t really count.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel.

I felt awesome!

Well, not totally awesome.  I was definitely huffing and puffing, but that was because I was pushing myself.  My comfortable pace is around 10:00/mile.  I was all fired up from watching Kona (still am), and I really want to get faster for IM Boulder (August 3, 2014!).  So I need to start pushing my pace on the bike and run.  I have some lofty time goals that I won’t say yet.  Let’s just say, it would be a big improvement from my 15:33 and 16:0X.

So I got out for a run, and tried not to look at my garmin.  Instead, I just ran a pace that felt fast but sustainable.  My first two miles were at a 9:15/mile pace.  Then I ended up over at the Valmont Bike Park, where a big cyclocross race was going on.  I actually had a friend from school who was racing, so I hung out there for a while and watched.  It was awesome!!!  I already wanted to try cross before Sunday.  Now I REALLY want to!  I need a cross bike first though…  Stinking N+1…

Then I turned around and headed home.  At that point, I decided to bust my butt, and did some HIIT sprints.  I ended up doing 3.5 miles total, at a 8:50/mile pace.  Woot!

Granted, there was a decent break in there where I was at Valmont, but it’s still a massive improvement from my 10 minute miles.  I just need to keep at it and not let myself get back into that comfortable zone.  I’ve run there long enough.

So today was IM Kona.  I spent the majority of the day with the live feed on in the background.  What a great race!  It was also an excellent time to put the bike on the trainer and pedal away to Rinny’s amazing run!

Image

I did somewhere around an hour – forgot to start my watch, so I don’t know exactly.  But my legs felt good and my new saddle seems comfortable.  I got a Cobb V Flow Max right before IMLP, but contained my desire to switch to that for race day.  Seems good so far!  After the bike, it was time for some decent stretching.  Holy crap!  I have lost a LOT of flexibility.  Must be better about stretching…

Tomorrow, I’m hoping to get out for a decent run and see how my legs feel on the road.  For now, it’s time to watch the last bit of Kona.

I haven’t written much in the last month and a half or so because I’ve been busy settling in to life in Boulder.  I really love this place.  It’s just absolutely fantastic.  The scenery is amazing, the town is great, the people are great.  I have no complaints.  Of course, moving 1800 miles from everyone you know and love is not without its sadness.  But it’s hard to stay sad when you look at those mountains.  There are some people I really miss though.  I wish I could have taken them with me.

I’ve been enjoying getting to know Boulder and getting adjusted to my new life.  I haven’t gotten out hiking much (at all, really) yet, but I’m looking forward to that.  I also got an epic ski pass, so that’s a season pass to Vail, Breckenridge, and about eight other amazing mountains.  Time to bust out the skiis!  I can actually see the snow-capped continental divide from my apartment patio, which is pretty incredible in itself.

Now that I’m starting to settle in to a routine, it’s time to get back on the bike and out running!  I’ve had my usual post-ironman hiatus, and now it’s time to get my butt back in gear!  I have so many things on the race schedule for next year!

March 1st – Woodlands Marathon with my roommate.  She’s from Woodlands, TX, and wants to run her first marathon next year.  So we’re running her home course together.  Can’t wait!  Also, I’m really excited to see how I do at this one for two reasons:  1) It will be my first straight marathon since I started doing ironmans, so 4ish hours is going to feel like nothing, and 2) training at altitude, racing at (essentially) sea level, baby!

June – Ironman 70.3 Boulder

July – Boulder Peak Tri (Olympic)

annnnnnnnnd…

August 3rd – the Inaugural Ironman Boulder!  I can’t wait!!!

Possibly my first ultramarathon in September or October?  This will probably have to wait until 2015 though.  2014 is already pretty full.

And with that, I need to get back to reading journal articles.  What a fun Friday night.  🙂

Need to contact me?

geonerdette at gmail dot com

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