Author Archives: Bri-Tri

About Bri-Tri

Age Group Triathlete, Traveler, Photographer, and IT Professional.

Sedona 2016

It is hard to believe we actually had two vacations in two consecutive months, but here we are heading off to Sedona, Arizona for a week at the end of January. This trip was actually supposed to happen last February, but we found out our dog Yuki had lymphoma two days before we were supposed to leave so we ended up having to cancel at the last minute. Fortunately, our AirBnB host EllenE, was gracious enough allow us to reschedule our accommodation for this year despite our last minute change. Every host we have met on AirBnB so far has been so great and Ellen exceeded that with her hospitality.

Get Me Outta Here

As we came down to departure date on Friday, January 22nd, a big “Noreaster” snowstorm, named Jonas, was bearing down on the East Coast. It wasn’t predicted to hit until early Saturday after we left, so we figured we were in the clear. We left home around Noon on Friday and stopped in Easton for some lunch before going to the airport. As we were being seated my phone beeped and I recieved notification that our flight was CANCELLED???!! What??!! It was another 12 hours before any snow was supposed to fall and the paranoid United Airlines were already cancelling flights? We sat through lunch speechless and in shock. Something or someone does not want us to go to Sedona.

We got home and started cancelling rooms, airport parking and rental cars, then trying to reschedule flights for after the storm on Sunday. The storm came and unleashed 3 feet of snow on the area. We ended up being glad that we were home and could shovel out of it. It would suck to come home and not be able to get in the driveway. Our roof was loaded up so I had clear some of that off as well.

The airlines would continue to cancel our flights 3 more times until I finally realized it was more of a Newark Airport issue than an airlines issue. I ended up getting flights in and out of Philly leaving on Tuesday afternoon and returning on Sunday. Our 7 day trip was now only 4 days. The weekend was a roller coaster of anticipation as we kept rescheduling and they kept cancelling. I was starting to wonder if this trip was going to happen at all.

Finally, we got to a very mysteriously empty Philadelphia Airport and our flight went off without a hitch. Actually, all our flights from there on out were effortless. We have been pretty lucky with our air travel over the years, so we were due for a bit discourse. If it had to happen this was probably a good one for it to happen. We also ended up pairing our down our baggage to all carry-on suitcase and a backpack so we didn’t have to deal with any checked luggage. This definitely made things easier, but I had to ditch some of my biking gear(bike shoes, pedals, etc) in the  process.

We arrived in Phoenix around 10:30-11PM, picked up our Prius rental car and made our roughly two-hour drive to the Village of Oak Creek(VOC) in Sedona by 1AM on Wednesday. We found our cozy little apartment, unloaded our unchecked  It is always interesting arriving somewhere new at night, cause it is like big surprise the next morning when you can actually see things.

Day 1-Sedona…Finally!

Despite our late arrival, we were up before Sunrise on Wednesday. Well, my wife was and then she woke me up by pulling the shutters totally open on the window on my side of the bed. I was immediately presented with the “Magnificent Red Rock Views” that the condo is named for on AirBnB. This got me quickly out of Bed.

We walked a couple blocks away to the Red Rock Cafe for breakfast. Breakfast was really good and they were very accommodating. Denise likes to have veggies with eggs in the morning and most places back home look at her cross-eyed when she asks for that. I had French Toast which was very good too. Another older couple near us ordered the Cinnamon Roll which is a claim-to-fame dish there. We found out why when it came. It was the size of a cake! It smelled really good.

We decided to take a walk/hike up to Bell Rock/Cathedral Rock which was only a mile or so away. We walked from our place which added a couple extra miles. Denise was looking forward to feeling the “vortex” energy there but she wasn’t sure if she felt it or not. What I did feel was the warm sun on me which felt pretty good after shoveling snow the past few days. It was a beautiful warm,  blue-sky day. Not the greatest for photography, but I didn’t really care.

We stopped at little place called “Taste of Marrakech” on the walk back to the condo. They had some really good hummus and other Middle-Eastern type dishes. I had a Falafel Gyro which was quite tasty and not dried out like some falafel tends to be. It can be like eating sawdust.

For dinner, we went to the famous Elote Cafe. Usually people line up there at 5-5:30PM to eat since it is a first-come, first serve place. We ended up getting there a little later and were able to walk right in and be served. Dinner was very unique and had a lot of corn-related, Mexican-style dishes. I also tried a special House Margherita which was very different from the typical drink and made with their own house-made Tequila. Our waiter was also quite an interesting character as well.

Day 2-Sunrise and Smoothies

So I have been on this habit of waking up earlier in the morning. Well, I kept this going during our vacation which I thought would benefit my photography. My wife is always saying “you can never be a professional photographer since you can’t get up early.” So I decided to prove her wrong. Never tell me I can’t do something. Anyway, I was up early to try to catch a sunrise photo shoot over near Red Rock State Park which is supposed to have good views of Cathedral Rock. Well, it does but unfortunately, a clear sky doesn’t really provide a great photo in the early morning. Shut out!

After my disappointing early photo shoot, we stopped at Berry Devine for a smoothie breakfast. We got some great smoothies and some entertainment to boot. The fellow working there, Dave, was quite an interesting guy and he kept us entertained for our breakfast. They even had an “Iron Man” smoothie which was my favorite. Coffee there was less than exciting, so we stopped at the Java Love Cafe after for some locally roasted beans. Dave also gave us some tips on some local hikes that would get us away from the tourist crowd.

We headed up to Chimney Rock after breakfast and hiked around it and then on to Andante Trail. It was definitely sparse with hikers. The hike Chimney rock was half decent, but the Andante part was less than exciting. It would have probably been better for mountain biking.

 

For lunch, we stopped at the Mariposa Grill which is perched on a ledge along the highway with amazing views of the surrounding mountains. The place is amazing too. They have a large deck to take in the view which no one was sitting at. We asked to sit outside and they thought we were a little crazy. It was in the mid-60’s and I thought it was quite comfortable. They even turned on the overhead heaters for us. It ended being really nice private dining. The place is fairly upscale so we resorted to just lunches there which were the price of our typical dinner. Food was amazing and the Yuca Fries were out of the World!

Next, we headed into town for some window shopping. One of the annoying things in Sedona is all the outdoor adventure places are fronts for selling timeshares. So when walking by stores you get the line “are you staying in town for the night?” I quickly learned to say no and move on. We then headed up to Fay Canyon for a late afternoon hike. It is a quick hike but we ended up getting up into the canyon when it was dark and we had to partially bushwhack our way off of a ledge. I had my headlamp, but the batteries died quickly. Fortunately, I remembered that I had my trusty iPhone and used the flashlight to light up the trail. It worked great too.

desert, red rock, sedona, vortex

Fay Canyon-Sedona, AZ 2016

We stopped at the Choclatree Organic Eatery in town for a vegan dinner. It was really good food and their deserts are quite amazing. My only wish was that the portions were a little bigger. If you are looking for some healthy, it is a worth a stop.

Day 3 – Chuckwagon

We were up bright-and-early again and headed to the Airport Mesa Vortex to catch a few sunrise photos. We made a quick stop at Oak Creek Roasters coffee shop to get a little caffeine coursing there my veins. We arrived at the Airport Mesa parking lot while it was still dark out. There were only a couple cars in the small parking lot, so there was no problem finding a spot. While I got my photography gear together, Denise checked out the information sign. I saw there was another girl with asking her a lot of questions. We then high-tailed it up the steep and rocky path to the top of the vortex. The girl and her boyfriend/husband were struggling to stay with us and I could hear them sucking air as I flying up the path. Apparently they are not planning on doing any Ironmans this year. 🙂

We got up to the top of the rock and Immediately claimed a nice little platform and setup my tripod. There were a bunch of younger Asian kids up there in shorts and lighter clothing. It was pretty cool up there and the wind picked up as the morning continued making it even worse.

I ended up kicking over my entire coffee on the ground, which did not make me very happy. The sun eventually worked its way up, but there were no good cloud formations to really  gather the color and provide some drama. Regardless I did get a couple ok shots of the valley and rock formations across it. Looking behind us after the sun came up were a couple hot air balloons that I thought might make some good images, but they were a bit too far away.

After the morning photo shoot, we headed back to Berry Devine again for another round of breakfast smoothies. Our buddy Dave was kind of busy this time and didn’t have much time to chat and entertain us. We also headed back to the Java Love Cafe for our morning coffee and latte. Funny how it was the same bunch of people that were in there the previous day too. Definitely a hit with the locals.

Today we had planned to do some mountain biking. My friend Greg had ridden the Chuckwagon trail there in the past and recommended it, so we thought we would give it a whirl. We headed over to Over-The-Edge Bike(OTE) off of Route 89a to pickup some rentals. We had rented bikes from these guys in Fruita, CO a bunch of years ago, so we figured they would be good. And they were. We got a couple nice Trek full-suspension bikes and a rack for the car and we were off to the Chuckwagon trail.

The Chuckwagon trail was pretty awesome. It was fast-and-fun singletrack with some nice views. It was challenging enough, but not too crazy so that Denise was able to enjoy it as well. She wasn’t in super great shape and hasn’t mountain biked in quite some time. It ended up being about 10 miles in one loop. This got us back to the parking lot just in time for some lunch.


We headed to Picazzos for some lunch. Picazzos is a healthier, gluten-free pizza shop and it was fairly busy for a weekday lunch. Denise was excited to be able to have pizza since it was gluten-free. I was psyched because they had Beyond Meat Chicken as a topping option, so I was able to have the Thai Chicken pizza and not have to strip off the animal flesh. Beyond Chicken has a very close texture to real chicken meat, has a better nutritional profile, and is made using pea protein. A great option for those bridging the gap to a plant-based diet. I use it at sometimes when meat is kind of a key element of a dish. Lunch was freaking awesome and we gobbled down pretty much everything. All the calories we burned on the trail were instantly replenished. Better get back out there again.

I had left the mountain bikes on the car rack while we ate lunch, so I was relieved to get done eating. I kept running out to check on the bikes. We then drove back towards Oak Creek for the afternoon and rode up the connector trail around Bell Rock and then eventually to the Llama Trail. The connector trail was a tad bit technical and it was also uphill. There was a lot of on-and-off the bike and Denise was started to get a bit tired…and grumpy. We eventually hit the Llama Trail and that was also a bit challenging. I saw Denise was walking the bike a lot and she was not a happy camper. We eventually hit a shortcut route out and headed back. We took the easy paths and it was mostly downhill to the parking lot after Bell Rock.


We were pretty tired after about 16 miles of mountain biking. We dropped off the bikes and headed back to Picazzos for some dinner. Another good feed fest! After dinner we stopped at the Oak Creek Brewpub and I sampled a couple of their Pales Ales. Denise was having trouble keeping her eyes open so we then headed back to the condo for some sleep.

Day 4 – Road Trip to Jerome

We were up again at 5am on Saturday and made a b-line for Red Rock State Park to hopefully get some good sunrise pictures of Cathedral Rock. Denise dropped me off at the park gate entrance which was closed and it didn’t open until around 9AM. I blindly made way through the park following the river. I searched for a good spot to shoot some pictures of Cathedral Rock with the river in the foreground. It was a bit difficult since I could barely see. I walked and walked some more until finally I found this huge opening where the river which would have been perfect. Apparently it was a bit too perfect. There was another photographer standing right in the middle of the area with one of those old, large format cameras with the black sheet that goes over your head.

I quietly made my way around her so not to startle her. Not sure if she ever heard me since her head was under the sheet. I tried to find a spot up river a bit, but it ended up being too close. I started making my way back again and was kind of throwing in the towel at this point. The lady photographer waved as I passed by her.

I was almost back to the front gate, where Denise dropped me off, when I found the killer spot. Argh!! Despite that the sky was pretty uninteresting anyway. Oh well, maybe next time?

After another breakfast at Berry Devine and some coffee at Java Love Cafe, we took a ride up to the town of Jerome. Jerome was an old Copper mining town that is situated high up on a ridge which overlooks the Verde Valley below. Kind of cool little town with some shops, bars, and restaurants. We cruised through but were really into stopping, so we headed back to Sedona.

We decided to do a short hike to see Snoopy Rock. The trail was called Marg’s Draw and it was pretty close to town. It was actually a pretty nice, easy hike. Perfect end for our trip.

We headed back to Phoenix after our hike and had a nice dinner at True Food Kitchen. We then checked into the Hilton Garden Inn for the night and then back to Philly the next morning.

Despite the rough start, it was a really great trip to Sedona. Our shortened length forced us to make the most of our time. We had some amazing food and adventures. The only thing we didn’t get much of was relaxation, but we really aren’t into that anyway.

Thanks for reading!  Until our next adventure!

 

Winter Trip to the Canadian Rockies

We originally had made plans to go to Lake Placid in mid-December for a little Winter ski vacation. We had plans later in the Winter to head to Arizona for a week, so we needed to get a little Winter-fix before going to some warmer climate. Planning a ski vacation to the Adirondacks in December can be a little questionable as to whether they have snow or not. Last year they had a lot of snow then, this year practically none.

So, with only a few weeks to go, we decided to change things up. Denise checked around with her friends living out West and there was not much snow to be had there either. She then came across Banff & Lake Louise in Western Alberta, Canada. They had a good November snowfall and conditions were perfect for some early season skiing. We had always wanted to go there too, so no time like the present. We quickly changed our plans and locked in our flights to Calgary.

Our departure out of Newark was an early one. We were up at 3:30 AM and on our way to

Early Morning Wake-up at 3:34 AM

Early Morning Wake-up at 3:34 AM

the airport. We dropped the car off at the usual parking place, ABC Airport Parking, who quickly whisked us away to the terminal. The airport check-in and security checks went pretty smoothly and we were on our flight just in time to see the sunrise before take-off.

 

Sunrise Take-Off from EWR

Sunrise Take-Off from EWR

Houston…We Have A Problem…

Our flight to Calgary went fairly well until we tried to land in Calgary. There was a low-lying, dense fog that we had to go through to land. We could not see anything as we entered into it at the very last part of our landing. All of a sudden the runway appeared out of nowhere within feet of touching  down. Before the wheels were about to touch the pilot “hit the gas” and we were ascending at a steep and fast pace. Denise and I looked at each other saying WTH??!

Before long the pilot got on and said that the visibility was too low to land and they were going to give it another try. I believe we were possibly too far down the runway when we were about to touch-down. We then made a long sweeping turn and got back in line to land again. Fortunately, the 2nd time was much more successful. I usually don’t have an issue with flying, but I was a little uneasy after that episode.

We picked up our bags and rental car and made our way to West from Calgary to Banff. Calgary had a fresh inch or two of snow on the ground, which was a welcome sight after the warm start to Winter we had back home. The outskirts of Calgary are filled with these large walled communities of very tightly clustered housing. It seemed a bit strange to me. After flanking the city we started heading West over large open plains with the Candian Rocky Mountains looming in the distance.

Canadian Rockies in Sight

Canadian Rockies in Sight

We reached the town of Canmore after about an hour and turned in to get some lunch at CrazyWeed restaurant. Denise had found this place as being one of the best ones in Canmore. She did not let us down with her research either. We had a nice lunch there and then drive through the downtown area and up to the Nordic Center to check that out. It is a pretty lively little place with lots of shops and restaurants. I think it is a more reasonable option as compared to Banff which gets a little more upper-class folks and everything is a bit more pricey.

I pre-booked the first few nights of the trip at the Juniper Hotel in Banff, which is located across  Highway 1(Trans-Canada Highway) from Banff. It sits up and above the highway and overlooks the town with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. Our room had a big window that allowed you to take it all in from your bed. The rates here were quite reasonable too. They have a nice restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We wish we would have dined there more cause food was really good! They also have a hot tub which was not far from our room.

Canada, banff, lake louise, mountain, rockies

Juniper Inn Room-Banff, Alberta, CA
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We also dined at the Banff Brewpub(twice) and the Bison Restaurant. I really like the brewpub since they had a wide selection of food and the beers were really good. The Bison was a bit more upscale, but I didn’t find the food all that great relative to the price. There wasn’t much choice for vegan/vegetarian, so maybe carnivores would have a better luck here. Melissa’s was our go-to place for breakfast.

Skiing at Lake Louise

On Sunday, we headed about 40 minutes up Highway 1 to Lake Louise to ski. We didn’t have high expectations for the mountain, so we were pleasantly surprised by the terrain. The snow conditions were also very good for early in the season. We headed over to the Larch area in the morning which seemed to have the best conditions according to some people we talked to. There were some gnarly areas, but we found a few good runs there. After lunch, we made our way to the back bowls which contained a good amount of fluffy snow. Although with overcast sky it was impossible to see anything. It was like white-out conditions. At times I had no idea what the pitch was or if it was bumped up or not. I just pointed my skis down and hoped for the best.

All-in-all it was a good ski day. The temps were around 25F which was perfect. We had lunch at the sushi restaurant in the lodge which was quite good. We sat next to a couple of guys who pretty much ran the mountain so they gave us the scoop on the hill. We rented equipment at Wilson Sports just down the road in the Village of Lake Louise. Equipment was nice, but our skis were wider and more powder skis, so they weren’t the best match for conditions.

White Knuckles on the Icefields Parkway

On Monday, we decided to take a break from skiing and take a drive up the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper, Alberta. The parkway starts at Lake Louise and heads Northwest through the heart of the most beautiful sections of the Canadian Rockies. It is supposed to be one of the most scenic drives in the world and takes about 3 hours to get Jasper in good weather. The only problem is that it was now the middle of the Winter and they don’t maintain the road very well during that time. Another factor was that my wife decided she wanted to drive that day. Since I can be a little bit of a control freak where driving is concerned it left me a little grumpy for the start. When we hit the start of the Parkway there was a flashing sign indicating that the roads not in great shape and to proceed at your own risk. The start of the road was covered in very bumpy ice which appeared to be several inches thick. I was not having a warm-and-fuzzy feeling for this 3 hour+ drive. My grumpiness ended rather quickly though once we got into the mountains. It was amazing! The mountain scenery with all the snow was one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen.

The road eventually mellowed out but was still covered with snow most of the way. Locals flew passed us in large 4-wheel drive trucks like we were standing still. We ended up stopping pretty often so I could take pictures, so the trip took even longer than expected. We knew we would not get to Jasper in time to come back again before night, so we ended up turning around just past halfway where Route 11 intersects. We stopped at Peyto Lake and did a little hike through woods to a lookout overlooking the lake.

When we reached Lake Louise we decided to continue our scenic journey and head down the Bow Valley Parkway instead of taking the highway back to Banff. We were rewarded with more magnificent views and even had an Elk sighting along the way.

Skiing at Sunshine Village

On Tuesday, we headed over to Sunshine Village  after a nice breakfast at the Juniper Hotels’ restaurant. Sunshine Village is only about 6 miles up Highway 1 from Banff. It is actually behind Banff, nestled in a narrow valley between the mountains that open up to a wide bowl at the top. A 20-minute gondola ride takes you from the parking area just to the base of the mountain. You can stop off part of the way up to hit the Goat’s Eye section.

When we arrived at the base we were greeted by a very friendly staff “greeter” that gave us the whole low-down on the mountain. It was a beautiful morning with the sun shining away before the snow clouds filled in later in the morning. We played around in the Wawa Bowl and Birdcage area for a bit in the morning and then eventually wound around to the Mount Standish area.

We had lunch at the Chimney Corner restaurant in the lodge, which ended up being a rather unpleasant experience. Our wait for our food took an exceptionally long time and when it finally did arrive the waitress indicated that my wife’s meal was accidentally served to another table. When my wife’s meal finally arrived, it was overdone and she asked to send it back. She also asked to get something else instead, like poutine, that would be quicker since she was hungry and we had wasted enough time in the place. When we got the bill, we noticed they had obviously comp’d us for my wife’s burger which she didn’t eat, but they still charged us for the Poutine. Given the poor experience, we were kind of surprised they didn’t just comp her meal all together as most places would typically do. We said something to our waitress who said she would talk to her manager.

Not soon after we were greeted by a slightly nervous looking younger guy who said he was the manager. We explained the situation to him and he then proceeded to tell us that we were basically wrong about our observation of how my wife’s burger was done. Really? Growing up in the restaurant business, I can tell that you that the customer is never wrong and that if they are not satisfied with their dining experience, you do whatever it takes to make it a good one. This kid was obviously a little puppet for someone else and was just following orders, but I was amazed at this. Especially in a country where everyone was so nice, this really stood out. And really, comp-ing a $10 entree to “make things right” would be no skin off their back. We are obviously not going there again, not that would have anyway. We were planning to hit one of the other bars there for Apres ski that day, but decided to bag it because I didn’t want to be paying them any more money.

Skiing at Sunshine Village pretty nice. We found a good bump run with a little tree section leading up to it.  We spent most of the afternoon on that before making our way down the Gondola back to the parking lot. We headed back into town to return our ski rentals and then grabbed another dinner at the Banff Brewpub before heading to our next destination.

Baker Creek Mountain Resort

We drove back up Highway 1 towards Lake Louise again and then about 10 minutes back down the Bow Valley Parkway to our accommodations for the next couple nights at Baker Creek Mountain Resort. Baker Creek is a somewhat remote little outpost consisting of really nice little log cabins and deluxe rooms. We got there late and they left a note on the office door indicating which room we were in. The room had a little kitchen, a gas fireplace, and big hot tub. The perfect little retreat for a couple days of rest and relaxation. The temperature was also dropping to below zero(C and F)  for the next couple days, so skiing was out of the question anyway.

We were a little disappointed to find out that the restaurant at Baker Creek was closed for everything but dinner, so we would have to drive up to Lake Louise Village next day for breakfast and get groceries for any meals we wanted to eat there. I was kind of looking forward to just hanging out there, but was not meant to be. They had also just sold the place to new owners, who had taken over only a few days before, so they were in a bit of a transition period. Despite that, the place was very nice and we had a very relaxing time there.

On our jaunt up to the Lake Louise Village, we enjoyed a great breakfast at The Post Hotel and then equally good lunch at the Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise. I also got out on the lake for some photography, but it was so cold there I could not stay out there for very long.

We also managed to get out for a little snowshoeing around Baker Creek and I was able to get a few images along the river at sunset.

Last Stop…Canmore

For the last couple nights we headed back to Canmore, Alberta to stay at the Falcon Crest Lodge. The room at Falcon Crest was more like an apartment than a room. It was very spacious, clean and new. The only bad thing was we had no view of the mountains from our room. Instead, we looked out on a walking path and another building which looked similar to it. It did have an underground parking lot which was kind of nice.

On our fist full day in Canmore, I was able to get out to the Nordic Center for some skate-skiing. Their nordic center is pretty elaborate and I was looking forward to checking it out. The only bad thing was there was a bunch of signs warning of bears still on the prowl and mountain lions which are always around. I was a little uneasy at first, but there were enough other skiers out that it didn’t appear to be an issue. I ended up getting about 10 miles in which was sufficient.

Dining out in Canmore was not a problem. We headed back to Crazyweed again which was very good, but there wine prices were outrageous.  We also tried Rocky Mountain Flatbread Pizza Co. which was also very good. Our Favorite though was CommuniTea Cafe which we ended up eating at 3 times in 2 days! They had really healthy food and it was much needed at the end of a vacation where we were eating a lot of less healthy stuff.

After dinner at the Pizza place, we headed over to the Canmore Curling Club to check that out. The bartender there was really nice and sat down and explained it all to us. Super-nice guy! There was recreational leagues going on and it was pretty funny to watch them. Looks like a very fun social thing.

On our last, full day of the trip we did a little hike up to Grassi Lakes. It was a pretty well-established trail, but it was a constant ascent on a snow covered path which made it a little tricky. I only brought one pair of YakTrax, so we had to share them by each putting one on one foot. We were quickly rewarded at the top with some beautiful little crystal-clear lakes and cascading brooks linking them together. The walk back seemed to be a little more tricky with the traction since gravity was coming into play.

We then talk a more leisurely walk along the footpath that runs along both sides of the Bow River in Canmore. Still snow-covered, but a nice little path to view the river and surrounding mountains.

This trip ended up being one of my favorites. It is surprising such a last-minute decision. We didn’t have a bad meal the whole time other than the Chimney Corner at Sunshine Village. The exchange was also a nice surprise after getting my credit card bill when I got home. I would definitely like to head back here again in the warmer months. I know it will probably be much more crowded, but if we spend more time in the backcountry we may be able to escape some of that.

Thanks for reading!

 

IMMT 2016 Training Update – February 29th 2016

I am now already a month into my official training for this seasons’ “A” race, Ironman Mont-Tremblant. My quest for a sub-12 hour Ironman last year at Coeur d’Alene left me a little high-and-dry, or more like HOT-and-dry, with DNF due to the 107(F) degree temps on race day. I am hoping Mother Nature will be a little more cooperative this year in Canada. I will also be hitting Ironman 70.3 Syracuse in June and probably a couple local tune-up races before that.

Snow Blizzard Jonas 2016

Blizzard Jonas 2016

This season I decided to go back to hiring a coach. After self-coaching the last two seasons, I felt I needed a bit of a change and a different perspective on what I have been doing. I have hired Todd Wiley, from Bucks County, PA. Todd has extensive coaching experience and was also a professional triathlete. I had met Todd last year through a strength training workshop he put on with my current strength coach, Fernando Paredes, at Fusion Fitness & Performance and also at a training camp he put on at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid last year.  I have met a number of other very successful triathletes who have been trained by Todd and having nothing but great things say about him. Several of these folks have even qualified for Kona under his guidance. Besides his experience,  Todd is a super nice guy and very easy to work with, which is so important in a coach-athlete relationship. And after working with Todd for the last 4 weeks I can definitely confirm that that is all true. I am definitely looking forward to some great outcomes in my events and also gaining some new coaching knowledge from him too.

Race weight? Not! So after having two vacations in two months(December & January), which I hope to post about soon, I started out my training season a bit on the heavy side. I didn’t hit the 2-bill club, but at the max was about 2 lbs shy of it at 198lbs. This is far-and-above my optimal 170-175 race weight for the season.  I definitely have my work cut out for me. So far I am already down about 10lbs after only 4 solid weeks of training. Progress in the right direction. Keeping tabs on my caloric intake, elimination of microbrew consumption and an increase in training load should bring everything under control well before my B race at Syracuse.

One thing I really like about Coach Todd is that he stresses the importance of strength training integrating it into my weekly training plan. I used to add it to my plan, but would frequently blow it off. Lately though, I have been realizing the importance of it and being accountable to someone else helps to make sure it gets done. I have a good feeling that it will make a huge difference in my results this season. I have been really consistent with it over the last six months and have developed a good foundation to start the season.

Swimming is starting to come around finally after taking 3 months off from the pool. I kind of felt taking that much time off was a mistake since it took me a month or so to get back to where I was prior. Now I finally starting to feel stronger again in the pool. Todd has been integrating some drill work too which has helped bring back some form to my technique.

2016-02-24 18.39.39

I have been spending a good amount of time on the bike trainer this season due to the weather. I did get out for a road ride a couple weeks ago and felt pretty strong out there. I think a lot of the pre-season work I did using TrainerRoad has laid a good foundation on the bike. My initial FTP test earlier this season was pretty low(~220’s), but my last one was up to 237. I am just starting to feel like I am outgrowing my power zones so I think the next test should put me back into the 250’s again.

I have also seen some recent progress in my running. Todd has kept most of my runs so far in the Zone 2 HR range and I am noticing my pace is increasing at the same heart rate. I also think that losing 10 lbs is a big help with that too. I usually do most of my mid-week work on my treadmill due to the lack of daylight and then get outside for my longer runs on Sunday. I definitely looking forward to the time change coming up so I can start breathing in some fresh again.

That’s about all for now. I have been slacking a bit on my blogging but definitely want to get back into the swing of things again. I have a couple posts waiting in the wings on our recent trips to Banff, Canada and Sedona, AZ during the off-season.

Happy Training!

 

 

Ironman University Certified Coach

For anyone still reading this blog, I have to apologize for having been a bit out of communication here over the last few months. Besides the busy holiday season, I had been heads down working through the Ironman University online coaching certification since September. This course pretty much consumed the majority of my free time from September until I submitted my final assessment a few days before the Thanksgiving holiday.

I have to say that the course was very well done, despite all the negative comments it generated from people in the triathlon community. The Ironman folks and the top-level coaches involved in it surely put a lot of time and effort into this online curriculum. The course was very thorough and it covered topics such as Exercise science, kinesiology of each sport, training plans, strength training, nutrition and even touched on the business side of coaching. My wife, who works in the Physical Therapy field, had walked past while I was taking the exercise science module   and said “you are going to know more than me!”. I don’t know about that but, it was very definitive and provided solid core fundamentals about what your body is doing when you are performing.

Ironman University Curriculum Menu

Ironman University Curriculum Menu

I was also very impressed by the lack of sponsor influence in the nutrition module. Ironman is part of a corporation that has many corporate sponsors, so I figured the nutrition part of the course would be heavily influenced by these sponsors. Much to my surprise, it was not at all. The nutrition advice they gave was very sensible and based on the most current common sense nutrition concepts. I surely thought they would be pushing Chocolate Milk and Gatorade down my throat, but they did no such thing.

Another area that impressed me was the strength training module. I thought that they would be prescribing the traditional bodybuilding-style weight training which isolates specific muscles. Instead, they provide some good functional and stabilization movements that work the entire body, which I now know is most effective for endurance sports. Thanks to my strength coach Fernando Paredes. Several of the exercises they listed in their database were ones that my strength coach prescribes.

Overall, the course drove home many standard concepts that are used by many of the top coaches in the business. The coaches driving the course content were Troy Jacobson, Lance Watson, Matt Dixon, and Paula Newby-Fraser. Basically, the best in the business! They also identified some of the different philosophies that the master coaches so that you can have some alternative approaches to add to your coaching toolbox. In addition to the great course content, they also provided numerous handouts and worksheets that you can use and refer to later on as you work through developing training plans for your athletes.

The online program also worked pretty well the entire time. The only exception was the one time when it crashed on me, which just happened to be on question 35 of 50 during Part 1 of the final assessment test. AAAHHH!!! I was flipping out when that happened!  I was quickly in touch with a support person for IMU and she gracefully calmed me down and helped me through it. Fortunately, the questions were pretty much the same the second time I went through it and I remembered my original answers. If you are thinking of taking this class, you may want to jot down your answers while taking the during the assessment portion.

The final assessment consists of a 50 question multiple choice online test for Part 1 and an offline, subjective, long answer style test in a MS Word Document for Part 2. The multiple choice portion was not an easy off-the-top-of-the-head type test. Many of the questions required me to dig back into my handouts and notes to derive the proper answers.  The Part 2 assessment basically has you build the majority of a season training plan for a given athlete profile provided in a completed athlete questionnaire. This second part took me a relatively long time to complete due to looking things up and analyzing the athletes profile. You will surely need to know your stuff to complete this part. I was exhausted by the time I was done here. They do give you a second attempt at it if you don’t do well on the first try. I surely didn’t want to have to do that again. So, I was relieved when a week or so later I received an email indicating that I had passed!

ronman University Coaching Certificate

Ironman University Coaching Certificate

I don’t know if I will ever actually coach anyone other than myself, but I believe the course was worth the $599 I paid just for all the knowledge I gained and the materials that I received. Hiring a coach can cost from $130/month and up. Multiply that by 6 months and you are already over $600. So if I only coach myself for another season I would have already broke even. Maybe if a friend decided to do a triathlon and they ask me to coach them I will, but I don’t know if I will put it out there to the general public. For now, I want to continue to learn and gain more information from other experienced coaches in the field.

If you are self-coached triathlete reading this and considering taking the Ironman Univeristy I would highly recommend this course just for the vast amount of knowledge it provides. I have to say it was not as easy as I thought it would be either. Although they do not require it, You really need to have some experience training and racing in triathlon to draw on for this class. If you don’t you will struggle a bit. This really came into play during Part II of the final assessment when you have to create the majority of a full season training plan for a given athlete. I spent an entire week on this alone and handed it in a few hours before my course deadline was reached.

IRONMAN Certified Coach

IRONMAN Certified Coach

Off-Season Update and Some Swag Nov 9 2015

Just a little update here on how things are going during the “off”-season. The rebuilding process is being established and I have been laying the groundwork for a solid foundation for the upcoming season.

Miracle Mornings…

After recently reading the book, The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod, I have miraculously turned into a “morning person.” I have tried many times before, but it just never stuck. But by using the techniques in this book it is becoming a reality for me. I have now been waking up early every day for over a month now, including weekends. I believe that by focusing on the things that are really important to me as the reasons to get up early has made a difference. If you are interested in getting up earlier and being more productive with your days, I would highly recommend this book.

Pump!…You Up!!

So what am I doing with all the time I have during these early mornings? Strength training! If you have followed my training updates in the past, you know how strength work typically gets bumped first. Which is common in endurance athletes. Well, I have been working with Fernando Paredes from Fusion Fitness & Performance Studio to develop a solid functional strength program. So I have been fully committed to making this a regular part of my training and it is the top priority of my “Miracle Mornings.”

This new habit is becoming even more ??? since I am really starting to feel the impact it is making in my training. My run times are dropping and I am feeling more solid from the core when I run. I really believe this will be making a difference in my performance for the upcoming season.

The Pain Cave

Over the last 6-months I have been working on getting my “Pain Cave” in my basement up to snuff so I have a good place to train during the Winter months. I happy to report that things have come along quite a bit lately. I have recently had some Radon Remediation done in the basement so that I am not sucking down radon all Winter long. I just got the post-remediation test results back and they were < 0.3 pCi/L for a week long test (anything under 0.5 is considered fresh air), so that is good news. I also picked up a 43″ 1080p flat panel TV for my Zwift bike trainer rides which really puts you in the drivers seat. I moved my smaller flat panel over the treadmill, so now I have dedicated TV’s for each or I can watch a TV show on one while doing the Zwift ride on the other. Pretty sweet!

Pain Cave November 2015

Pain Cave November 2015

Ommmm

One other aspect that I have been working on is developing my mental fitness. A strong mind is essential in endurance activities. I have also been establishing a daily meditation habit with the help of the Headspace iOS app. Meditation seems to be quite the buzzword these days, but I hear more and more endurance athletes attributing a lot of their success to it. Through my early mornings, I now have been able to establish it as a new daily habit. I have to say it is pretty relaxing, but shutting my busy mind off is no easy feat some days.

I have also been reading Matt Fitzgeralds’ new book “How Bad Do You Want It?” which delves into the mental coping mechanisms that endurance athletes utilize to command amazing performances. It has been a pretty interesting read so far and I hope to post a review on it shortly as I wind down the last couple chapters here.

iThlete HRV Guest Post

I recently did another guest post on the iThlete HRV blog about my off-season and how my Heart Rate Variability has correlated with what I have been doing lately. Be sure to check that out. iThlete is also having a 15% off all sale on all HR sensors this month, so you may want to check that out too. I highly recommend the Finger Sensor for easily checking your HRV in the morning. They are also planning on releasing some new features to the iThlete Pro App this month which I am looking forward to as well.

Weight Loss in Endurance Sports

Runner’s world recently posted this article on How Weight Loss Affects your Running Speed?  In it they claim that you can drop 20 secs/mile for every 10 lbs you lose. Multiply that by 26.2 and you got a nice PR on your hands. Add that reduction to your watts/kg rating for a 112 mile bike and you just smashed your leg PR and probably an Ironman PR as well. Really provides a good motivation to drop those excess pounds during the off-season.

Unfortunately, this is one area that my “Miracle Mornings” have not provided too much help too. I have been trying to keep my net calories around 2100, but I am still hovering around the same weight. Unfortunately, I may have to cut that net figure down a few more hundred to see anything significant without increasing training load too much. What will make this more difficult is the holiday eating season is coming up too. Should be challenging.

So, since we are on the topic of weight loss affects to endurance activity, I dug up a few more articles on the topic that I thought were helpful….

What’s my Optimal Racing Weight? | TrainingPeaks

Why is Weight So Important in Cycling? Part 1 | TrainingPeaks

Why is Weight So Important in Cycling? Part 2 | TrainingPeaks

Trainer Season…

As we are now heading into Trainer Season, DC Rainmaker just published his 2015-16 Trainer Recommendations. I would highly recommend reading this if you are in the market for a trainer this year. I will probably be saving myself over $200 this season just from reading this and getting a new controlled trainer sooner than I planned to. Worth a look.

Some Macca Drama

Looks like there is a bit of drama going on with Chris McCormack over some accusations being made from surf legend, Sunny Garcia. I first heard about this over a week ago on the TRS Radio Podcast during the beginning of episode 62 with Gordon Ramsay & Lew Hollander. But I haven’t heard anything new since then until I saw this post on Slowtwitch today. Sounds like some pretty serious allegations so we will see how that plays out.

Well, that is all I got for now. Hope everyone is enjoying the off-season and renewing their motivations for the upcoming season. Take care and happy training!

 

 

Swag Bag-October 26, 2015

Training Wisely

Some good words of wisdom from Joe Friel on Training Risk. You cannot train at high intensity all the time and if you are in zone 2 all the time you will never improve. Finding the right balance of intensity without overtraining or injury is the key to improving performance effectively. Note: The background image on this page makes this really hard to read. I would suggest copy and pasting the text to a text editor for reading.

Universal Sports Gone

Universal Sports Gone

No More Free Rides…

So my favorite virtual reality game-like training riding app, Zwift, will no longer be free. 🙁 They will be starting their subscription model on October 29th, just in time for the Winter training season. If you don’t sign up you will get a 30-day free trial at first, but then you have to pay up. Pricing is $10/month.

One new addition is a new workout mode which should give TrainerRoad a run for their money. Although from what I can see so far, TrainerRoad should be fine for sometime. DC Rainmaker did a nice review of the workout mode here which you should check out if your are interested.

No More Universal Sports Network

I have been bugging my cable provider for ages to get this channel which broadcasted many athletic endurance events. Well, I guess they are off the hook now. Bummer for those who were able to get this channel.

Carb Up!

Despite all the recent low-carb fad BS, this recent study provides additional evidence to further back up our need to for carbohydrates for performance. Check out the tables for key guidelines and formulas for calculating your carb needs.
Carbohydrates for training and competition

Not all Fats & Carbs are Created Equal

There has been a lot of BS in the media about how butter and animal fats are supposed to be good for us. Most of the study’s that these ideas were based on were severely flawed. Well, here is more sensible article on some of the fats that really are good for us. Hint, butter is not one of them. Also, a nice explanation about glycemic index which is a good inidicator of the carbs we should eat and the ones we should save for the aid stations during an Ironman.

On Not Finding Your Passion…

Funny but interesting dose of reality if you are seeking out “your passion” from Mark Manson.

I Won’t Say It. But I …

I can’t pass this one up! The World Health Organization announced today that processed meats are on the same cancer-causing level as cigarettes and formaldehyde. Yeah, not to mention that they are the biggest cause of climate change and an extremely inefficient use of resources. I would highly urge you to also check out Cowspiracy movie which is now available on Netflix.

Well, that’s all for this week. Things kind of went in a nutritional slant this week, but hope to balance things out a bit here, but that was just what I came across this week. Enjoy!

 

 

New Weekly “Swag Bag”-October 19 2015

So I am trying a little something new here. I am going to start to put together a regular weekly post containing some tips, websites, ideas, or anything I found interesting in the previous week. Hopefully, others may find these useful as well and  also it also forces me to develop a more regular posting habit. If you like this and get some benefit out of it let me know in the comments. I may play around with the day of the week it comes out, but for now I am shooting for Mondays.

My Miracle Mornings…

So, I have never been an early morning riser. I have always wanted to be and tried a few times, but it never lasted. One the rare occasions that I do get up early(usually for a race) I do feel much more productive for the rest of the day. I don’t want to jinx myself here, but I think I found my solution in the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. So far I have been up early for 6 of the last 7 days now and I am pretty confident that it is going to stick. If you have a desire to get up earlier and make your days a little more productive by attacking those things that always seem to get put off first thing in the morning, then I would highly recommend this book.

In keeping with that theme, I also came across these other posts that also provides some tips for making the most of your morning routines…

Create A Lasting Morning Routine by Making Two Changes
Why Your Morning Routine Isn’t Working, and How to Fix it

Oh Bananas…

I haven’t tried this yet, but here is an article about eating the entire banana peels along with the bananas. We eat a ton of bananas at home and our compost bin is full of them. This article shows you how you can utilize the whole thing and gain some added nutrition from them too. The B12 part kind of caught my attention since I supplement that daily.

People around the world are eating banana peels because they know something that Westerners do not

 

Time for Reflection…

Now that most triathletes’ seasons are winding down for the year, it is a good time to start looking back on what went well and what you need to work on for next season. Here is a nice article from Training Peaks that provides a brief outline on how to go about that in a SMART way…

Three Steps to Take Now to Plan Your Next Triathlon Season

Building the Foundations…

So, as we are reflecting on the past season and starting to turn our focus on the upcoming season, it is important to start laying down a foundation for all those long workouts. One of the ways I am doing that is to develop a very consistent strength routine during this off-season. I taking advantage of that extra time during my “Miracle Mornings” to lay the groundwork for a stronger foundation via strength training. While I am fortunate to have a great strength coach in Fernando Paredes at Fusion Fitness, there are a lot of good resources out there on strength training for endurance athletes. Here are few articles I came across that I thought were pretty good…

7 Hip and Core Exercises for Endurance Athletes

The Best Strength Exercises for Cyclists

One-Hour Workout: The Pros’ Strength Session

That’s all for this week and I hope you found something of use from these tips.

Thanks