Category Archives: Running and Cycling

Best gifts for runners 2022

I just read a New York Times wirecutter article of gifts for runners.  Got a runner in your life?  Here’s my list.  It’s better than NYT’s in my, of course, completely unbiased opinion.  (No, I’m not fishing for gifts, I promise.)

1.) Lululemon Fast and Free 28″ – the best running tights out there.  Yes, at $140, they’re obscenely pricey.  (I linked to some that are on sale for $59 – 99.)  But if you run a lot, you’ll get your money’s worth.  I figure I run in tights about 100 times per year, and I will wear my favorite tights for probably 2/3 of those runs.  I will probably splurge on the fleece-lined version if they ever go on sale.

2.) Flyout Wool Half Zip by Oiselle – the best running shirt out there.  In terms of running shirts, if your giftee runs in temps from the high 30s to the low 40s, you should look for a long-sleeve true half zip shirt.  Not a quarter zip!  Never a quarter zip – it must go AT LEAST halfway to the wearers waist.  Thumbholes and watch window are nice perks.  The Brooks Dash Half Zip is also a good option.

3.) 26 Marathons by Meb Keflizighi and Scott Douglas.  I read A LOT of running books.  I pretty much read any one my library purchases, and then a few more on top of that.  26 Marathons is a cut above.  It’s a great book for a runner about someone who is easy to admire.  We can all learn a lot by channeling Meb in our careers and passions.  The audiobook is also excellent.  Note that non-runners may not enjoy this book.

4.) OK, NYT got this one right.  I do love my spiky massage ball.  Runner or no, if you have sore feet, you may want to try one of these.  I keep one at my desk and use it at work and another in the bathroom to use while brushing my teeth.

5.) GU Roctane Energy Gel variety pack.  You may want to ask your runner what type of gels they prefer, or if you use gels, but these are high end and tasty and variety is the spice of life.  Your runner may also enjoy a Honey Stinger “training kit” variety pack.

6.) I think Balega makes the best running socks in the business.  My personal favorites are Balega Ultralight Performance Noshow Socks.

7.) If your runner doesn’t already have a copy, any of Shalane’s three running cook books are a good option.  Her most recent book is Rise and Run – breakfast recipes for runners.  (I own all three.)

8.) For safety, it’s most important to be visible.  Far more runners are killed by getting hit by cars than by getting attacked by psychos.  I wear this reflective vest if I run in low light.   If I ran in the dark often, I would upgrade to this light-up vest.

9.) Really want to spoil your runner?  Independently wealthy?  I love my running watch, the Garmin 255S.   (You can buy it with or without the music feature.)

Triathlon race report

I did my second triathlon ever, and first in five years over the weekend.  I was so nervous about the open-water swim the night before, I couldn’t sleep.  I was also mentally exhausted from worrying about H’s trip back from NYC.  (He had some minor issues but was really worried just because he was traveling alone with two young children.  I worried along with him.)  Everyone ended up getting home super late, and I had to be checked in at transition by 7:00 am.  All this to say, I was feeling pretty unenthused about the triathlon on Friday night.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t about to back out at such a late stage.  Friday night, I got everything ready for both me and B.  Getting stuff ready for one triathlon is a huge pain, since you need to not only prepare for THREE sports but also to transition between the three sports rapidly. Doing this for TWO people was just a huge pain.

After waking up more or less hourly throughout the night, I was up at 5:45 to get ready for the race.  I headed to the local park the tri was in, and things were naturally chaotic, but after 15 minutes or so I was parked.  Transition was pretty information for the super sprint, without any assigned places, and I got my stuff set up and made friends with the first time triathlete set up next to me.  I then located another mom friend of mine who was also doing the race.  Chatting with her made me feel much better.  This is always the way for me at races.  I’m freaking out until I get there and find some people to talk to, and then I feel better.  The awful pre-race anxiety really deters me from big and difficult race, though.  It’s just so unpleasant.

After waiting and waiting and waiting – my wave was nearly last and was delayed by 30 minutes – we were finally off.  I was actually amazed how good I felt during the swim.  I passed most of the people in my wave and didn’t feel like I was trying particularly hard.  I *wasn’t* trying particularly hard.  I swam strong but paused every few strokes to have a good look at where I was going.  My wave consisted of women 40 and up, and it was much more low-key than the last tri I did, where my wave was a deep water start and included young and middle aged men.  During that start, I got clocked in the head quite hard, and it really set a negative tone for the whole swim.  This time, we all sort of strolled into the water, and gradually got going.  It was nice.

I’d decided to take it easy in transitions, and you can see me strolling out of the water here.  I look none too thrilled but I was mainly trying to avoid the rocks.

I got pipped at the finish line by one second, so maybe I should have strolled a little faster.

According to Strava, I swam 494 yds at 1:59 / 100 yard pace.  That includes a slow water entry and exit.  I think the wetsuit helped a ton, but trying to get it off during transition was a huge hassle.  Garmin clocked 4:23 for the first transition and I was sweating bullets trying to get the wetsuit over my watch and the chip.  (Yes, probably should have removed those first.)

I got my shoes and socks on and strolled some more with my bike and then finally heaved myself on and got going.  The first mile or so of the bike was narrow and twisty as we wove out of the park and it wasn’t really possible to pass.  Then we got going.  I had looked at my notes from my last tri and noted that I was destroyed after 17.5 mph on the bike, so I was trying to keep my effort more moderate this time.  I ended up average 15.8 mph, so I think I did a good job balancing working hard but not killing myself.  The course had a few hills which was unexpected since it had, I thought, been advertised as “flat.”  Things weren’t too congested and once I found my pace I mostly tracked behind this man.  Who was 78!  So awesome.

It was definitely a bit hot on the bike.  And it seemed to go on forever.  I was racing, after all, and an hour is a long race, especially compared to a 10 minute swim.

Finally the bike was over.  Again, I took my time racking my bike, taking some water and Gatorade, and getting my shoes on for the run.  When you bike and then run, it’s called (in triathlon parlance) a brick and for good reason.  My run splits ended up being 8:48, 8:25, 8:05.  I didn’t go to the well.  I could have gone faster, but it was hot and the ground was rough and I just didn’t want to make myself sick.  However, a women in my age group ran by me right at the line, so yeah.  I wish I’d gone just a little faster.  Oh well.  I was actually fourth in my age group, but #1 set a world record in the swim.  Eg – she either didn’t swim at all or only swam part way.  And #2 had no splits for the swim or bike and a very slow run split, making me think she skipped the swim.

I kind of love my trisuit!  I was afraid it would feel hot, but it didn’t really bother me.

After all this, I was more than a little bit tired, but it was time for triathlon number 2.  Well, almost.  After an hour or so of hurry up and wait, it was time for B’s tri.  She was VERY nervous, but like me, once she got to the startline and saw all the other kids, she was good to go.  She lined up right at the front.  That’s her in the wetsuit looking thing, which she actually wears for swim practice as well since she has no thermal mass and gets cold too easily.

Once they got going it turned out the “swim” was really a water dash.  OMG.  It would have been easier for them to swim than run 100 yards on the rocky beach.

I don’t have any photos of B on her bike, but she said it was her favorite part of the race.  She does love biking.  She wasn’t such a fan of the run.

The “run” was half a mile, which is actually kind of a long way for a 7 year old who’s already done the rocky water run plus a cycle and running around in and out of transition.  Nevertheless, B sprinted it in and was all smiles afterwards.

By the time B was done, we were well and truly exhausted and staggered home to rest and recover.  I highly recommend a tri for kids and for adults, but not at the same time.  If B ever wants to do a tri again, I think we’ll pick one I’m not participating in.  Personally, I think I’m good for another year or two.


triing and swimming

For a running race, I consider temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees ideal.  45 to 50 is nice because you can dress in shorts and short sleeves; for an easy run I’ll wear long sleeves or capris tights until it’s 50 or close to it, but for races that drops to 45 or so.   But for a triathlon, I prefer it to be warmer for obvious reasons.  For cycling, I’d say 65 to 70 and overcast is perfect, and for swimming, the hotter the better.

On a side note, we had a birthday party for B over the weekend at the pool, on 7/16, and it was mid 60s and overcast with a few rain drops here and there.  I had to laugh.  Where is global warming when you need it?  Fortunately, the kids had a great time, and we all enjoyed huddling in the hot tub.

My triathlon is Sunday, and I have a start time of around 8 am.  I estimate it’ll take me less than 2 hours to complete the race – a 400 m swim, 15 mile bike, and 3 mile run.  At 8 am, it’s supposed to be mostly sunny and 63 degrees.  At 10 am, it’s supposed to be 68 and sunny.  While 68 is definitely warmer than I’d prefer for a running race, overall I definitely can’t complain.  The water temperature at the lake is 72 to 74.  That’s warm enough that I could skip a wetsuit, especially given how short the swim is, but I’m planning to wear one at this point.  It’ll probably cost me a few minutes trying to get it off, but oh well.

Normally for biking hard in the mid 60s, I wouldn’t want or need any extra layers beyond a short sleeve jersey, but given that I’ll be wet from the swim, I’m not sure if it’s makes sense to add a layer.  Thinking about all this makes me nervous – triathlons are no joke.  So much more hassle and logistical challenge than just running a race!

The girls finished up their swim season last weekend.  L dropped her 50 free PR from 46 s to 41 s I think mostly by getting her flip turns.  She also improved her 50 back by 4s and 50 breast by 8 seconds.   She didn’t have much improvement on 25 butterfly, but she did very well in that last year.  Her best event was probably the 100 IM which she swam in 1:41 in her last meet.  L swims in the “B” division; there are two divisions, A and B.  To swim A you must achieve a time qualifier, and L is about 2 s off in 100 IM and 4 or more seconds off in everything else, which is quite a bit.  It’s interesting.  I think she’s quite fast, but obviously there are an awful lot of kids who are quite a bit faster, even in the casual, fun summer swim session.  L is eager to qualify for A, but I think it’ll be an uphill battle for her.  Already, she is way faster than I was at her age.

Briony improved most of her times by several seconds.  Her biggest improvement was in the 25 butterfly, which she improved from 54 seconds to 34 seconds.  She also no longer looks in danger of imminently drowning when she swims butterfly, which is always a plus.  More importantly, she got a lot of joy out of swimming this year.  She enjoyed swim last year, but she loved it this year.  She adores her coaches, and I adore them too for being so great with the kids.  I find it interesting how great teenage boys and young men can be with little girls.  I feel like there’s a stereotype that women and girls are better caregivers, but her coaches certainly are a great counterexample.

Tour d’Eastside

Another weekend, another bike ride.  This weekend, I finished my longest ride ever (by about a mile) – 44.5 miles with 2220 feet of elevation gain.  It was a great ride!  It makes so much difference when the weather is decent.  I had loaded up all this cold weather gear on a bag on my bike, and I didn’t need any of it.  I even took off the tights I’d put on over my shorts, and just had a woolen long sleeve jersey and shorts for most of the ride.  To start, temps were in the low to mid 50s and overcast, but I think it must have been at least 60 by the time I finished, with sunshine peaking through here and there.

I love that I’m getting to the point that I can cover a significant distance on my bike.  It’s a way to explore this place that I live that is different than being in the car.  Unlike running, I can cover a lot of ground, but unlike driving, I’m going slow enough to appreciate it.

Speaking of going slow, I just never seem to get any faster.  I averaged 11.5 mph.  That pace felt comfortable.  The hills were tiring, the downhills were lovely, and the flat felt like my easy running pace – comfortable.  I do feel like I could probably go faster but traffic and route-finding really slow me down, as well as worries that I’ll get so tired I won’t be able to finish.  The main issue with being slow is just that it takes so long, and I just don’t have that much free time.  Every hour I’m away, H is at home with the kids.  He’s awesome to let me ride, but I usually spend half my rides feeling super guilty.

I have time for two, maybe three (if I hire our nanny for an extra day), more rides this summer.  It’s been a brutal spring weather-wise, just ridiculously cold and rainy, but I think the worst is over.  However, we’ll be in Virginia for August, and we have some other weekend commitments, so I’m nearly out of time for the year.  I’m planning a 50 mi ride next weekend, and then hoping to do a 60 and then 70 mile ride.  We’ll see.  I’ve only been able to get about 50% of my planned rides off due to weather and other commitments.

a wet rainy cycle

Two weeks ago, I went for a 37 mile ride with 1700 ft of elevation gain.  It was very pleasant and went well.  Yes, I was very tired, but nothing crazy.

I should note that other than the morning I went for my cycle, it rained for most of that weekend.

The following weekend, I hoped to go for another 40 mile cycle, but it was supposed to rain the whole time, so I went for a shorter 25 mile cycle during the best weather-predicted time.  I managed to get through it without getting rained on.  I canceled on a friend of mine I’d been supposed to cycle with.

Then, this weekend, my friend and I made plans again, for Sunday.  The weather forecast was about a 15% chance of rain throughout.  It was supposed to be overcast but dry.  However, as I drove down to the trailhead, it started to rain lightly – not a good sign.  I got down to our meeting spot.  My friend had cycled 15 miles to meet me, so I wasn’t going to bail on him.  So, we headed out into the rain.

Now cycling versus running in the rain is a totally different ball game.  Typically, I run at about 6 mph – 10 minutes a mile.  On flats, I cycle at around 15 mph.  On downhills, I easily hit 25 mph.  On yesterday’s ride, for example, my max speed was 32 mph, even though I tried to keep my speed down due to concerns about my brakes not working well in the rain, and visibility being poor.  Even at 15 mph, you’re getting A LOT wetter than at 6 mph, and when you build up speed to 20 or 25 mph or so on the downhills, you just get so wet from light rain that wouldn’t be a huge problem at slower speeds.

15% chance of rain.  But it just kept raining and raining and raining.  And I kept getting wetter and wetter and colder and colder.  The temperatures were in the low 50s, but again, when you’re hitting 15 to 20 mph half the time, the wind makes it feel much colder.  Furthermore, because I got even colder whenever we stopped, I really wasn’t taking in enough calories.  One thing I’ve learned in the last few years about endurance sports is the value of taking in calories during longer exercise, especially anything longer than 2 hours.  Even between 60 and 120 minutes, there’s a lot of value in taking in calories, but you’re not going to crash without it; your performance will probably be reduced.  But beyond 2 hours, you can really get hit by exhaustion if you’re not taking in enough calories.  I usually drink gatorade or Nuun (the type with calories, not just electrolytes) and eat Kind bars during my cycles.  I drink as I cycle, and I’ll drink a lot and have some bites to eat every time I stop at an intersection or for a photo or whatever.  But we just weren’t stopping, mostly due to my preference.

My friend wasn’t having nearly as many problems as me.  He cycles in the rain regularly and I guess he’s got his attire dialed in.  He actually cycled 70 miles in total.  I think that would have put me in the hospital with hypothermia.  He probably has 30 pounds on me, maybe 40 – so that helps. But part of it is just the way I am made.  I have trouble retaining heat in general.  And wearing the right clothes would help.

In any case, we did finish the ride.

Afterwards, I got back in my car fairly quickly, and cranked the heat to the maximum for the entire drive home.  I was still freezing after the 25 minute drive.  I went straight upstairs and started a hot shower and still just couldn’t warm up, even standing in the hot shower.  So I filled a bath with hot water, and after sitting in the bath for some time, I was finally able to stop shivering.  A cup of hot tea left me feeling fairly normal temperature-wise. I reflected on the fact that it must have been awful trying to warm up in the old days when you didn’t have hot water on tap.  I think heating yourself from the inside out – like with tea – is probably the way to go.  I should have started with a hot drink.

After all that, I still felt exhausted and depleted.  I think that my body probably expended a lot of energy not only on the 40 mile cycle, but trying to keep me warm.  Plus the whole not enough calories thing I think didn’t help.  I was pretty much ravenous for the rest of the day.  Also, I had been planning to take B to a playdate that afternoon, and H had to do it, which wasn’t ideal given that he’d already watched the kids all morning while I cycled.

In summary, I really wish it would warm up and stop raining out here.

summer riding

I cannot believe this baby formula shortage situation.  I looked on Amazon, and you basically cannot buy Similac powdered baby formula.  You can buy the premade stuff.  But, for example, with Saoirse, we had to make formula with extra calories, which was a different mix than the standard premade.  I remember being stressed during the early Covid days when Saoirse was still taking some formula, so I stocked up with a 3 month supply, which I later gave away.  Not having formula is an absolute crisis.  It should be the number one priority for Biden and co.  What can matter more than having adequate food available for newborns and infants?

I’ve had brutal allergies over the last year, maybe two.  Honestly, I can’t remember when it started.  It’s just a continuous cycle of sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, etc.  It’s interesting because I’ve had very few colds during the same period, thanks to all the Covid precautions.  I’m not sure which is worse, honestly.

In any case, the my kids’ colds finally caught up with me.  So now, I have allergies and a cold.  They both get tested for The Virus three times a week for school, so probably just a cold, but ug.  I was really hoping to get a good bike ride in this weekend.  It’s supposed to rain both days, and I just can’t see riding 25 miles in the rain with a cold.  I got Zwift set up last weekend, and I’m moderately happy with it.  I got a direct drive trainer, and I’m not sure I have it adjusted quite right, and I feel like my gears are kind of noisy.  It’s hard to explain.  In any case, I got a good workout in Thursday with a ten mile ride.  Perhaps I’ll do an indoor ride this weekend if I’m not feeling well and call it good.

I have some cycling goals for the summer, but since we’re heading to Smith Mountain Lake for August where I won’t have a bike and I want to focus on spending time with family, my goals have a deadline of the end of July.  We’re having really lousy weather this year, which is making it harder to get out and ride.

I did get a ride in last weekend – 18.5 miles, 820 feet of elevation gain.  It’s a good start.

Skiing and cycling

I booked our accommodation for skiing next year!  We are going to Park City.  In the end, I decided the ease of travel made Park City a win over other potential destinations.  We seriously considered Steamboat, as it would have saved us some money on passes due to sharing agreement with our local mountain, but everything I read talked about Steamboat being great for tree skiing, and I am just not excited about this.  Also, there is only one direct flight from Seattle to Steamboat a day (and vice versa) to transportation there isn’t ideal.  I was seriously tempted by Beaver Creek, but accommodation prices meant we would have been able to stay *in* Beaver Creek but would have had to stay in the nearby town of Avon.  That’s a short manageable drive away, but with a three-year-old, I thought this was a good year to put a priority on convenience.  We also looked at Big Sky Montana but nixed that due to accommodation prices.

Most ski resorts were non-starters due to lack of options for three-year-olds.  Really only the very large resorts and lessons for younger kids and childcare.  If we continue to enjoy skiing, we’ll have many more options the following year.

The one outlier in terms of cost in Park City is rental cars.  A standard SUV will run us $1400 for seven days, much higher than at other locations (like Steamboat or Beaver Creek).  So I’m hoping they’ll run a sale or something, or maybe we can just forego a rental car completely.

The VRBO I booked in Park City is very close to Park City Mountain ski lifts.  It’s a short drive from Park City Canyons, which one can ski on the same lift ticket.  It’s also a short drive from Deer Valley.  Deer Valley lift tickets are completely exorbitant, but perhaps we could spend one day there.  Or Jonathan and I could put the kids in lessons at Park City and ski there on our own, ha ha.  We’ll see.

Meanwhile, my interest is shifting from skiing to cycling.  I have my last goal race of the “season” this weekend – a 10K.  The following weekend, L and B are getting their First Communion, and an old friend who is L’s godmother is coming in for the weekend.  I won’t be cycling this weekend, and may or may not be able to squeeze in a short cycle the First Communion weekend.  But I’m hoping that the following weekend I’ll be able to start cycling regularly.

I took the girls for a flat 10 mile cycle on a local paved trail.  It was the first cycle I’d taken them on in ages, and L has spent so little time cycling, she was a little uncomfortable on her bike at first.  However, once we got going, a good time was had by all.  The girls went about 7 mph, which is pretty slow, but they didn’t seem tired afterwards.  I think we could all go farther together.

I feel like I’ve never been able to make any real progress in cycling due to not doing enough of it.  I just don’t feel all that comfortable cycling on the roads during the week due to traffic.  Since I’m going back to work, if I wanted to cycle on a weekday morning, I’d be out during rush hour.  I think you’re asking for an accident if you do that too frequently, and I don’t really enjoy it anyway.  But only cycling one day of the weekend means I never get that much cycling fitness.  (Cycling both weekend days is obviously not practical due to family obligations.)  Therefore, I’m thinking about getting a trainer.  Decent bike trainers are expensive, so it would be an investment.  But I’ve been looking for a way to exercise at home, either running or biking, for a while.  I think maybe it’s an investment worth making.  Or maybe I should just join a gym!  But then I have to drive to said gym, and until recently, WA required masks even when working out, which is a nonstarter for cardio for me.  And it just feels like such a waste if / when I don’t use it.  Like most people, I never seem to get my money’s worth from gym memberships.