Tag Archives: review

Road Trip to Sprig & Vine in New Hope

Denise and I both ended up having off on Friday, but we never really planned on doing much. We discussed going to the shore early, but with my cold I didn’t feel like being away from home another night. During the morning though we decided to take a road trip down to New Hope, PA to check out a vegan restaurant we had heard about called Sprig & Vine.

We were originally going to go there for our anniversary on the 18th, but it was such a nice day and we weren’t doing anything. During the morning I started organizing all my tri gear and put the bike rack back on the CRV. We didn’t end up leaving until around 3PM which was a big mistake. We ended up hitting all kinds of traffic on the long drive to New Hope. We ended up getting there around 5PM. This gave us a little time to walk around and check out the town a bit.

Denise ended up spotting some earrings in a little store full of didgeridoo’s and wooden Buddha statues. We also stopped in the wine shop and did a wine tasting of some local wines. They were all pretty expensive($26-30), but they are local and they didn’t have any added sulfites which seems to bother Denise. We ended up with a Cabernet from Rose Bank Winery to take to dinner which was BYOB.

We started heading over to the restaurant for our 6:30PM reservation but was interrupted by an olive oil and balsamic vinegar store. The only one I really liked was the Butter flavored olive oil, but it was artificially flavored so I nixed that.

Sprig & Vine was excellent. I had a split pea soup that was excellent, followed by the jerk chicken flavored Tempeh with sweet potato mash, plantains and swiss chard. Denise had a pickled veggies appetizer and a Pan-Roasted Cauliflower with Sweet Potato and Lentil stew. Everything was great and it washed down nicely with that Cabernet we picked up too. To top things off I had a vegan chocolate mousse pie with coffee ice cream, which was ridiculous.

It was a great night out and we will definitely have to get back there again. Traffic on the way home was clean sailing too. My sinus cold thing was also more of a annoying cough today too. My throat was getting a bit sore by the time we got home which worried me some. I gargled with some tumeric and sea salt before bed in hopes of warding that off. Good thing was my sinuses were clear, so I could breath a little easier today.

 

 

Book Review:A Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington


I had been very eager to read this book for some time. So when I recently attended a 3-day training class, which was over an hour drive each way, I thought it was a great time to listen to it on Audible. The book was very interesting from the start. Chrissie had led a very interesting life even prior to her Ironman success. She had struggled with an eating disorder early on and then eventually soared to success in a professional career that was not triathlon-related.

Chrissie is an avid traveler and adventurer which hits close to home with me. That alone was enough to keep my interests in this book. Her early racer career was extremely short and she really skyrocketed to success very quickly in triathlon. Not even just success but total domination really.

The book did get kind of slow for me towards the end as she play-by-played some of her later races. This could partially be because I was already familiar with the stories behind these events, whereas the earlier info was much more new to me. I would question how a non-triathlete person would enjoy listening to this part. Not sure.

All in all I think this is a must-read for anyone looking to get the most out of life, not to mention triathletes. Chrissie has overcome many obstacles and has been successful on multiple fronts. Now that she is retired from Triathlon I am curious to see what new success will be.

 

Geekin’ Out: CycleOps PowerCal vs. Kinetic inRide

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Update 7/12/2013: Please check out my updated review additions to the CycleOps(now PowerTap) PowerCal unit update post here…

I have been eagerly wanting to start training with power, but am too cheap to fork out the big bucks for a PowerTap or a crank-based power meter. Then came the CycleOps PowerCal Power Meter/Heart Rate Monitor. For ~$100 I could have a fairly consistent way to measure way to quantify my rides. I read the review over at DC Rainmakers’ site and was tossing it around for awhile. Then my Garmin “Premium” (HA!) Heart Rate strap totally died on me so I needed a new HR monitor anyway, so I thought for $30 more I would give it a whirl.

At first I had nothing to compare it too, then I ended up bucking up for the Kinetic inRide power meter for my Kurt Kinetic Road Machine Trainer. Kurt claims that the inRide is around +/- 1-2% accurate(not sure where I saw this), so I thought this would be a good unit to compare too.

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I used my inRide on my laptop with the TrainerRoad workouts and then paired up the PowerCal with my Garmin 910xt. This one way to make those winter workouts a little more fun I guess.

As you can see from the table below, that PowerCal has been running about 20-30 watts below my inRide. It seems that it is much lower especially at the higher wattage levels. Despite this I feel it is fairly consistent, especially on a total ride basis. The individual readings on the PowerCal are all over the place, which is also cited in DC Rainmakers’ review as well. But if you assess the total ride wattage it is pretty close.

The PowerCal does not have any input as to the specific riders’ age, height, weight, or sex and calculates strictly on heart rate. It does not peform any type of calibration either. It astounds me as to how they can accurately calculate this very specific measurement with so many unknown variables. Given this it does a really decent job at it. Pretty amazing really.

 

 

I will continue to assess this tool, but it seems like a fairly good tool for measuring an overall ride for the money. I would not count on it for assessing your power output at a moment in time during a ride. The one week I noticed my HR was a bit more depressed training than normal and I did see some of that indicated in the power measurements as well.

TrainerRoad-The Poor Mans’ Computer-Based Trainer

As my training ramps up heading into the Winter, I had anticipated purchasing a new computer-controlled resistance trainer for my cycling. I projected many long, boring hours creating puddles of sweat on the basement floor. In an effort to make that more tolerable I thought a pre-programmed, video –enabled trainer would help alleviate that. Unfortunately, this comes with a pretty large price tag at ~$1600.

While scanning through some past blog entries on DCRainmakers’ site one day I came across a mention of TrainerRoad. You can check out the detailed DCRainmaker review of TrainerRoad here. TrainerRoad is a web-based application that allows you to ride power-based workouts using your standard bike trainer, ANT+ USB dongle, and a speed/cadence meter. There is a small Adobe Air application that you download to your PC/Mac which communicates with your ANT+ dongle and reads in from your ANT+ enable cadence sensor as well as HR monitor. They have profiles for most standard trainers although they seem to be best calibrated with the Kurt Kinetic models. This allows them to estimate your power output which they call “Virtual Power”.

My Dual Monitor Setup

A TrainerRoad account is $10/month and they have tons of different workouts to choose from. It is recommended to first do a test ride to establish your Functional Threshold Power(FTP) and Lactate Threshold Heart Rate(LTHR) zones then all subsequent rides are then based on that value. You should also test every 6-8 weeks to adjust for improvements you have made.

TrainerRoad Intervals

TrainerRoad Intervals on Ride Screen

TrainerRoad also has some base workout plans you can follow which prescribe different workouts each week for a particular time period. You can select a plan based on your level of fitness, goals and time period. I like this feature so I don’t have to sit there sifting through all the workouts on the site, but they do provide a nice filtering capability for narrowing down the type of ride you are looking for.

 

Ride Video Synchronization

Ride Video Synchronization

One of the cool features of  TrainerRoad is the ability to integrate biking videos with some of the workouts. If you filter on “Video Workouts”, you can select a workout that is synchronized with a particular cycling video such as Spinervals or Sufferfest. The videos are sold separately through the appropriate sites and links are provided in the workout description. Pretty cool feature for passing away those hours in the basement.

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TrainerRoad also works well with regular videos on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, etc. by providing a minimized view that allows the video to take most of the screen real estate. I actually prefer the minimized state better as it is more simple.

If you are looking for a way to make those long hours in the basement go faster and more productive, I would highly recommend TrainerRoad. They are always working on improving the product and new features come out pretty regularly.

 

Race Review: Independence Sprint Triathlon 2012

Race Name: Independence Triathlon – Piranha Sports

Race Distance: Sprint – 1/4 mile swim, 10 mile bike, 2 mile run

Race Location & Country: Lake Nockamixon State Park, Quakertown, PA

Date: June 3rd, 2012

Race Category: Male 40-44

Why did I do this race?  I had a free race credit with Piranha Sports due to the closing of the bike course(freshly oil * chipped road) at the Patriot Triathlon(Bath, PA) the year before. This was close to home and was the only race I could fit in my schedule.

The Swim

One lap lake swim. Clockwise rectangle. This was one of my fastest swims ever with a 6:23 for 0.25 mile(01:27/100yd pace). I was going hypoxic towards the end. It was wetsuit legal. I would suppose it would be at this time of year unless it was unseasonably warm.

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The Bike

1 quick loop. Follows same road as Steelman course but a bit shorter. This was over before I knew it. Bike exit was a decent little incline and I got my shoes stuck under pedal and one popped off. Lost some critical time dealing with that. Ended up with a 18.8MPH avg, which should have been more in the 20’s.

 

The Run

A 2 mile blast! Follows the same path that Steelman uses, but again much shorter. ~7:00min/mi pace for me is pretty good.

Transition

Pretty roomy. They stagger the people on each side pretty well so there was plenty of room.

Race Organization

Very good. My only gripes were that there was no vegetarian or vegan food options at all and the line for bodymarking and into transition were too long. They only had one person bodymarking and another checking everyone into transition. Could have used a couple more people to expedite things. Food options at the end were just meat hoagies and chips. Room for improvement there.

Top Tips

  • Go hard and fast. This race is so short you cannot afford to “leave anything on the table.”
  • If you are a decent swimmer, get to front and just outside. It is so fast you don’t want to get trapped behind anyone.
  • Make sure bike is in a easy gear to get out of transition.
  • Either rubberband the bike shoes or wear them.
  • Start comfortably easy for first .25-.5 mile to get legs moving, then let it rip. It is only 2 miles!

 

How did you do?

I was pretty happy with my effort(54:38-46/299). I missed 3rd in my age group by 1, so that was a little disappointing for a few minutes. My only screw up was the bike exit when my bike shoe popped out of the cleat. Lost a minute there. Would have pushed a little harder on the bike too.

Verdict

Fast, fun race. Well organized too. I would do it again if I was free that day. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about doing their first triathlon. It is so short that most people with some decent fitness could do this.

It’s Mountain Biking Season!

[singlepic id=179 w=240 h=180 float=left]The tri bike is in for maintenance and re-fitting upgrades. The running shoes have moved to the back of the closet while I heal my IT Band. So now it is time to get out the old mountain bike which has not seen the light of day probably at least a year. My wife and I checked out some new trails(to us) that we had never ridden before too. It is a great time of year for mountain biking with the cooler temps and we have hit two gorgeous weekends in a row.

Last Saturday I decided to check out the condition of my bike and my MTB skills and run up the road to Bear Creek Ski Area’s mountain bike trails. Bear Creek has always been pretty technical, rocky and it seems like you are either climbing or descending. It is usually a very humbling experience for me. I was really surprised at some of the improvements they had made to the left side of the mountain. It was actually rideable for the majority of that side of the hill. The right side is a different story though. If you are not a hardcore mountain biker, I would not suggest venturing this way unless you stay on the lower part to the right of the lodge. It took me an hour to ride about 3 miles here if that is any indication of the terrain. Regardless, I was fairly happy with where I was and my bike seemed rideable too. I didn’t suffer any major trauma which is always a good thing.

On Sunday, the wife and I headed down to the mountain bike trails at Lake Nockamixon. Commonly referred to as “The NOX”. These trails are relatively new and a mountain biking friend of mine had highly recommended them.The Valley Mountain Bikers group and the park officials appear to have worked together on this effort and have done a standup job. Trails were well marked and maintained. They were very fun, with lots of singletrack, and also allow riders of different levels to enjoy them equally. I was really impressed how the trails had already been cleared of downed trees from Hurricane Sandy which was only a couple weeks before. There is around 10 miles of trails here, but we only ended up doing around 6 or so. I am saving the South Park section for another day.

This past Sunday we decided to check out the trails at Wissahickon Park since we were planning on making a trip to Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting anyway. MountainBikeBill’s website seems to have the best information that I could find about the park. He does mention the Philly Mountain Biking Association’s website as being a good source of information, but all I could find there was a couple dead map links. When we reached the recommended starting point, we were a bit taken back by the amount of cars and people. It was apparent that we were in the city. We fortunately got a good parking spot, popped the bikes off the rack and headed to the trailhead. There were two possible directions to go. One was a very flat, wide rails to trails lane were most of the runners and walkers were. The other was a narrower doubletrack road to the right and up a hill. My intuition naturally directed me the right, but my intuition was wrong. This was a nature area that is closed to bikes. There was a bypass road that took you out of the park altogether. It was a good warm-up ride up the hill.

We headed down to the starting point again and made our way down the recreation superhighway.  I then consulted the map from MountainBikeBill’s website and immediately realized our mistake. The MTB trail did not start until after the next crossroad down the main path. We immediately spotted the marked MTB trail which lead to another nice climb up. This one a little longer and more technical than our first. Once up on top we enjoyed some nice and winding singletrack. It eventually made its way down to the main trail again. It seemed to follow this pattern of up, across and down again most of the way down the west side of the river. The singletrack made the few climbs well worth the effort.

When we reached what we figured was the south end of the trails, we decided to make our way back the recreation superhighway. My wife was getting tired and had taken a pretty good spill up one of the more technical climbs. As we road back were were amazed at how far it was back to the car. We really really didn’t realize the terrain we had covered. The sweet singletrack had distracted us from the distance. As we road back we noticed some nice looking trails on the eastern side of the river too. You could really spend a good day here. Again we left something new for another time. This will definitely be a regular stop on our Whole Foods runs.
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Race Review: Steelman Olympic 2012

Race Name: Steelman Olympic 2012

Race Location & Country: Lake Nockamixon, PA US

Date: August 12, 2012

Race Category: Male 40-44

Why did I do this race? Close to home. Very well organized. Third year I have done this race(1 year Sprint, 2 year Olympic), so provides good test of fitness and improvements for me. Challenging course.

The Swim

0.9 miles. Shape is kind of a rectangle and goes in a counter-clockwise direction(see image below). Usually a non-wetsuit swim since it is typically very hot in August in SE PA. Although previous 2011 was wetsuit legal. Lake is pretty clean and I typically enjoy swimming here. This year I overate at the vegan buffet the night before and paid the price during the swim. You can usually find clear water after the first or second turn buoy. Exit is on a boat ramp which can be slippery, but there is always tons of great volunteers here.

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The Bike

24.6 miles. Steep little climb out of the marina right from transition is always a rude awaking to the quads. After that it is mostly downhill to rolling until the first turn. Course is a two loops of the park road(RT 563) for Olympic and one for Sprint. There are several pretty good climbs on this course with ~1300 feet of elevation gain overall. Road is totally closed to traffic during the race, but can get congested with athletes. Doing two loops causes you to run into the slower triathletes on your second loop. There is usually around 1000-1500 entrants in the race, so it can get a bit congested despite the full road. I usually end up out in the middle close to the yellow lines on my last loop. The southwest end of the course has some pretty good uphills and downhills that keep the legs in check. The lane back into T2 can get crazy with overeager athletes. This year one guy went flying past me as I was coming into T2 and took out a bunch of other triathletes dismounting their bikes. I had a first hand view of the carnage and then just tip-toed through them to the racks.

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The Run

The run is probably my least favorite part of this race. It is run on a paved walking/bike path that parallels the shoreline of the lake. The path is only around 5-6 feet wide and supporting 2-way running traffic on here is extremely congested. Trying to pass a slower runner while not taking out another runner coming the other way is difficult. I have frequently had to turn sideways while passing someone. The Olympic race is 2 loops of the path and again running into more slow runners on the second loop is extremely time consuming. Path is mostly shaded, but can still get very hot and steamy. Must be from all the body heat in a confined space. Course is fairly flat with a few undulations along the way.

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Transition

Racks are assigned by wave/age group, but there are no bib number assignments on the racks which kind a stinks. If you get there late you are most-likely at the end of the row. Things can be a bit cramped too if you are in one of the big age groups(M 35-39, 40-44, 45-49).

Race Organization

Race is very well organized and communications are great. You can count on play-by-play emails the week leading up to the race. Swag is good. Good food post race. Usually pizza, fruit, bagels, cookies. Not a lot of vegan fare though. Plenty of volunteers and they do a great job. Port-a-potty line was huge this year, so get in line early. They also have an expo the Saturday before with some decent vendors if you come down for early packet pickup.

Since they close the main road into the race area. You and any family/fans have to be in the race area by 7 AM and you are trapped there until around 10:30AM. The 10:30 exit is usually not too bad if you are doing the Olympic distance, but if you are a faster sprint triathlete you could be hanging out a while. The early arrival for any fans and family is a big detractor to getting any additional fan support. I don’t really have any fan or family support other than my wife, so this is not an issue for me either.

Top Tips

  • Be prepared for non-wetsuit swim.
  • Put your bike in an easy gear heading out of T1 and easy spin up the hill out of the marina. You legs won’t have much blood in them from swim yet.
  • Save some legs on the bike there are some good climbs on 2nd half of bike loop and you have to do them twice.
  • Practice your running crossovers(grapevine)  for the run. You will need it on the run course.

How did you do?

Very good. This was my second time doing the Olympic course and I shaved off ~13 minutes from the previous year. My swim was a couple minutes slower due to no wetsuit and stopping to dry heave occasionally this year, but my bike and run were both faster. It was also not quite as hot and humid this year.

Verdict

Fun local race. Good indicator of your end of season fitness and relative to most of the local tri scene in the Philly-Lehigh Valley area. If you are looking for a smaller race(entrants-wise) this may not be for you. If you like to test your meddle against most other triathletes in the area, do it up.