Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Product Review: Headsweats Elite Topless Headband

It's no secret I'm a huge fan of Headsweats headwear.  I wear a visor or a tech hat on nearly 100% of my runs, and I've run in the vast majority of their other headwear at times as well (trucker hats, "safari" hat, etc).

One particular piece of headwear that they have that doesn't seem to get enough (or any, really) traction in comparison to their visors is their "Topless" line of headwear.  These are essentially a headband - which I've found serves the same purpose as their visors and hats - just with a bit less coverage.

It can be found on their store here:  Headsweats Topless
Now, there are a variety of different kinds on the website, but they more or less serve the same purpose.

I often find myself riding on the indoor cycling trainer for training, mainly because of time constraints and the fact that I am required to be at the house.  As I've mentioned on this blog before, I'm a pretty heavy sweater and I would often wear a Headsweats visor while cycling indoors.  With the integration and addition of programs like TrainerRoad and Zwift in my training - I've found that a visor can, at times, interfere with the view of the screen.  So I started turning my visor backwards.  This worked, but would sometimes get annoying when the bill of the visor would touch my back in the aero position - so I started looking for alternatives.

That's when I discovered the Topless - which I didn't even know existed until then.

Top of the band.

Bottom of the band.
There's not much to say - it's a headband.  It's not the same as the elastic band that goes around the Headsweats Visors.  For one, it's a lot less flexy (but still elastic enough to fit).  It's also a bit "wider" - which helps with sweat collection.
Closer look at the elastic on the rear of the headband.

The band fits pretty well.  I have a pretty good sized noggin (~8 1/2 hat size) and had no problems getting it to fit right with me.  There is an elastic portion on the back of the band (see picture above) that stretches that would accommodate, in my mind, just about any head size out there.

How the band fits on my head.

Still plenty of room for the band to stretch even with it around my head.

I've put plenty of miles using this headband and I'm really pleased with how it works.  I ran the Long Beach Marathon wearing it (well, the first 20 or so miles of the marathon) and it served me well during that race.  It was especially hot in the latter stages, and I didn't have a problem with sweat at all during the race.  

Using it on the trainer - it works exactly as I thought it would.  Controls the sweat pretty well, doesn't obstruct the view, and isn't noticeable when you're working out.  Not a whole lot more you could ask for.

The particular headband I bought was the one with the Breast Cancer Fund logo.  Headsweats is releasing a limited set of their products with this logo on them, and donating 50% of the sales of these pieces of headwear to the Breast Cancer Fund collection (details here Headsweats Breast Cancer Fund ).  So your purchase goes to support a good cause, and - if you get tired of the logo - it's reversible anyway.

Reversible so it can be worn either way.
To me, that's a no brainer - because fuck breast cancer.  Horrible disease and anything one can do to help eliminate it is a good move in my mind.

If you do decide to purchase, feel free to use code LAMB25 at checkout to save 25% off of your purchase.  I don't get anything directly from you using the code (maybe a pat on the back when I run into the guys from the ambassador program), but you save some money, get a great piece of headwear, and I'm happy if you're happy.  

Wearing the Topless headband on a training run.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Race Report: Long Beach Marathon

About two months prior to this race - I was named a Long Beach Marathon Ambassador.  I was at the point where I was 50/50 as to whether I'd register for this race, and one of the perks of ambassadorship was that you get a free entry.  So, that more or less sealed the deal and had me running it.

Me with two other ambassadors.

One of my original goals for 2015 was to make an attempt at a sub 3 marathon while pushing my son in a stroller.  That goal, as with most of my athletic goals, was delayed until later - so this marathon was definitely not going to be that race.  In addition, the forecast (both the long term forecast at the time and, as we got closer to race day, the immediate forecast) called for a heat wave during this run - with the temperatures reaching triple digits.  That meant, in a nutshell, that pushing the stroller would be a big no-no.

I was, however, able to get a decent amount of training in before the race - and I was actually feeling somewhat decent leading up to the marathon, so a sub 3:30 was something I was gunning for and hoping to achieve.

Picking up my packet.  The Daniel Strong T-Shirt is in support of Daniel Allemond, a teammate of mine who is battling cancer.

Alas, it was not meant to be.

The race started out fine - even though I was near the very back when the gun went off and the various corrals started moving forward.  I took off and kept a fairly even pace all the way through the crowd, weaving in and out of people as I tried to find a bit of space.
Some shot of when the run was going pretty good.

Trucking along the bike path, nice and easy - nothing too bad yet.

Still moving right along, again, the wheels were still on at this point.

The run, as I've alluded to in previous blog posts, goes all around the shoreline of Long Beach, Ca (which is where I do quite a bit of my training).  I was used to running there and had run various races that covered most of the marathon course.  The course has a few rolling hills in the later miles, but nothing too bad or obnoxious.

I kept it slow and even, maintaining an easy (but also easily sustainable) 7:30 to 7:40 per mile pace and tried not to get too caught up in running people down and going faster than I should have.

Everything was going smoothly until about mile 17 or so - where my glutes started really screaming at me whenever I tried to fire them up.  By that time, the heat was beginning to get to me as well.  I was roughly on pace to finish at a sub 3:30, but it also was not meant to be and I started to walk.

The look on my face in this picture when I saw the camera guy snapping pictures of me walking. haha

Trying to pick up a bit of a jog, but it wasn't gonna happen here.

Eventually, a familiar face (Anthony Sanders, a SKORA running ambassador and all around badass) caught up with me and we "ran" a bit together for a couple miles (I put the running in quotes only because we both were feeling the heat at that time).  I wasn't able to keep it up.  As much as I wanted to, my legs were killing me and I knew if I kept going I ran the risk of hurting something, so I wished him luck and started walking again.  Then, within the last two miles or so, another friend (Peachy Poso, one of the people I was an ambassador with at A Runner's Circle) caught up with me and I ran/limped into the finish line with her.  She was aiming for a Boston Qualifying time and missed it by seconds - so I'm confident that if she does a marathon in a cooler climate she'll easily attain that.

Jogging a bit with Peachy at the latter stages of the run.

Finishing the race was a welcome sight for me, mainly because I was just glad to be done.  I was out there for 3:52:14 - which isn't a PR by any stretch and definitely not the best time I could have put together - but it was what I did that day, and I'm proud of it.

Finally crossing the finish line.  The first time that I can remember walking across a finish line.

After the race, I was pretty well done.  Trying to cool off was next to impossible and I was overheating until I got to my car and blasted the A/C.

All around, the Long Beach Marathon was a great race.  The medal and race day swag is all honky dory and all, but the thing they do best is the volunteers.  There were several aid stations through the course and not once was there an issue with any of them being understocked.  When you add to that all of the cheer stations they had (there were several areas of people cheering that ended up as "unofficial aid stations"), they had plenty of support for any runner on the course.

The medal was pretty sweet - and well earned.

Now, the heat was an issue.  It reached triple digits around the time I finished (probably 30 minutes or so before I finished) and I would guess it caused a lot of problems for some people (because it did for me, and I train often in the heat).

Looking back on it, there's not a whole lot I could do better/different in terms of the actual race.  I fell apart because of lack of specific marathon training and because this wasn't treated as a significant race for me.  I think I would do a lot better at this race if I were to train specifically for it without having other races so close in succession.  I think lack of training was the one biggest set back - even though I had plenty of miscellaneous run training in the months before this race (mostly for Ironman Lake Tahoe).  

All in all, fun race and a great day - even if I was completely miserable through most of it.  haha

Race Report: Bimbo Global Energy 10k

Initially, I thought this race was just a "fun run" that was put on by the people at Run Racing (who also put on the Long Beach Marathon).  So, even though my legs were pretty much dead (and I ran 0 miles since completing Ironman Lake Tahoe the weekend before), I decided to hop aboard and do the race.

Well, I was mistaken.  This race is actually HUGE.  Aside from the ~3000 people or so that were in Long Beach to do the race - they had several other races in various cities across the globe doing the race as well.  So it was actually a pretty big time event.
At the start line of the event.  You can see the flags in the background from the other places that the race was being run.

Me, being the hard headed dumbass that I am, decided I would race the race instead of just running the race - which turned out not to be the best of moves.  My legs, regardless of how much I wanted to say they were recovered, were still tired from Ironman Lake Tahoe the week before.  On top of that, I had done very little speed training with my running and no running in the week before the race.  So I had that going against me from the get go.  However, I've run a trillion 10ks before and knew what I could and could not handle (or so I thought).

So, when the gun sounded, off I went in the lead and was running a sub six minute per mile pace.  At first, it felt great!  I was in the lead, I was cruising along, and going fast!

Taking off in the lead of the race.

It felt good at first - holding a pretty fast pace (for me).
At just before mile 2, that all kind of fell apart.  I wasn't in any shape to hold that kind of pace through a 10k, and I soon saw my 5:40 turn into a 6:00.  And then a 6:10.  And then 6:15, and so on and so forth until about the mile 5 marker where it finally cracked 7:00 until the finish.

I ended up outside of the top 10, but first in my age group with a 40:17.  

The medal from the race is super awesome - one of the better medals I've seen for a 10k.
By the time I crossed the finish line, I felt like I had run a marathon.  My legs were sore, screaming at me, and just plain tired.  It was an obvious indication that - athletic and endurance wise - doing this race was probably not the brightest of ideas.  I guess I'm just getting old.  

The race itself was run fantastically.  The run was scenic (although I train here often, so I've done this exact run hundred times before) and very flat - so it was perfect to put up a fast time.  
The only gripe I have with the run is that there were about 1100 people who did the 10k (per the results) and about twice that who did the 3k fun run/walk.  What this caused was a massive amount of congestion where the 3k turnaround was (you had ~2000 people turning around right at mile 5.5 or so of the 10k course) - so kicking hard to the finish line just wasn't possible.  

In any case, it was a fun little morning and definitely a race I'd do again!

Ironman Lake Tahoe 2015: Race Report

The 2015 Ironman Lake Tahoe was a goal race for me - really dating back to 2013.  When I did Leadman in 2013 - the original plan was to do Ironman Lake Tahoe.  That didn't pan out. In 2014, I planned to do it but after getting hurt at Vineman, I pulled out.  So getting the chance to do the race in 2015 was a real treat for me - regardless of me not being at my best.

Before I get into the race report, I feel the need to mention that Ironman/WTC has cancelled this race for the future.  I'm not sure of the politics or reasons behind it (there was a staggering number of people doing the race this year - far more than I initially though - so I'd imagine it wouldn't be a numbers thing), but the decision came out the day after the race ended - which indicated it was made some time in advance.  I'm pretty bummed about this, because it was a great race and one I would do again next year if given the opportunity (which was a sentiment shared by several people whom I've spoken to about the race).

Anyway, on to the race itself.

2015, in general, has been a pretty tough year for me athletics wise.  There's a lot of factors - some things that I could control and some things that I couldn't - but the bottom line is that I haven't gotten the training in that I should have in order to perform at a race of this caliber.  Because of that, I had lower expectations than what I initially had - but you play the cards that are dealt to you and hope for the best.
Particularly, my lack of training showed up in the swim.  After Ironman 70.3 California earlier in the year (where I had a horrid swim), I hit the pool hard and put in a lot of work.  My intention, at that time, was to be the guy who always smelled like chlorine who you knew was going to swim well because he put in the hours at the pool.  Unfortunately, that lasted all of 5 weeks or so.
There's a few reasons this fell apart.  We had a situation with my family which resulted in a surgery for my wife - and that made training nearly impossible while I was at home.  This, in turn, bred a bit of "training laziness" on my part and I got into a rut where I would come home and sit around instead of doing work.  Now, that's not to say I didn't train at all.  I would still put in an hour to an hour and a a half a day during my lunch break, and I still would occasionally hop on the trainer for an hour or two and maybe go for a run after work.  Weekends, I normally averaged a workout (1 to 3 hours or so) once a weekend.  However - pool time was scarce, open water time was even scarcer, and I put in only 3 or 4 truly long bike rides in the time leading up to Ironman Lake Tahoe.  All of that put together, isn't going to cut it when you're looking to have a fast Ironman race.
Basically, none of it was ideal in terms of my training and I took shortcuts (and sometimes altogether just dropped workouts) from my plan.  I can lean on whatever excuse is out there and tell myself that the only reason that happened was because of this or that - but the real truth of the matter is that I just got lazy.  I had every opportunity to keep my training going - even if it met doing it in a not so ideal way (for example, I could help care for my wife during her recovery and get a workout in after her and my son were asleep - yet I didn't do this a single time).  I just didn't put in the required effort to keep things consistent.  When I did train, I trained hard - the consistency just wasn't there.  And when the consistency isn't there - you can't expect results.
All of that said - the race still came and I was there for it.

I wasn't the only one there for it.  Some of my mates from Team BSR were also on hand, and they all killed it out there!

Making the long drive to Tahoe.  Well, it was a ride for me.  I got to chill in the backseat the whole way there.
We arrived the Friday before the race in the evening, and that was by design.  I've read a ton about altitude sickness (to the point where I was somewhat freaking out about it) and wanted to make sure it didn't have an effect on me.  Basically, the general consensus is that you either arrive two weeks beforehand to acclimate to it or you arrive a day or two before and hope for the best.  I chose the latter since arriving two weeks ahead of time just wasn't in the cards for us.
The view during our lunch/dinner when we arrived to Tahoe.  Simply beautiful.

We stayed at a pretty sweet cabin about a ten minute walk from the swim start, which, in my mind, was the perfect location for this event.
Dropping everything off was relatively painless - although we caught some incredibly traffic coming back down from Squaw Valley (which is there T2 was).  I did run into an issue where my T2 bag disappeared (which meant my shoes disappeared with it).  After a brief panic - I was able to secure another (somewhat similar) pair of kicks and got everything checked in and was good to go.
Big shout out to the guys at Newton for their support of the Big Sexy Racing team and for helping me in a pinch at IMLT.
Packet pick-up was a pretty easy process, and the swag (as always with Ironman events) was pretty sweet.  The Tahoe backpack this year was especially good - and a big upgrade from some of the previous 2015 Ironman race backpacks I've seen.
The pretty sweet Ironman Lake Tahoe backpack.  Complete with Beet Performer - love the stuff.
The drive down to King's Beach to drop off my bike in T1 was a bit of a bear (no pun intended), but I eventually made it and got everything racked up and ready for the next day's race.
All nice and racked up and ready to roll.  For the record, I retaped my gels in the morning the next day.
Once everything was racked up and all the transition bags were dropped off - it was off to get a good meal in my stomach and get some rest for the next day.

In the morning, my wife and brother in law accompanied me to the start at sometime very early before the sun rose to help me make sure I had everything covered.  Arriving at transition, I felt about as calm as I've ever felt before doing a triathlon.  I suppose that's the result of not having any expectations for a race that you know you can finish - but aren't gunning for any particular time.  I had abandoned all hope of having a "fast" time - so I was there to just enjoy things and I had the right mindset to do just that.  So, in my mind, there was nothing to be nervous about - even with reports of a bear tearing into transition bags the night before.

Before the swim looking at my brother in law with a "I'm naked under here, why in the world are you taking a picture?" face. haha

The swim start was crowded with spectators from the get go.

Me and the misses before I head off to swim 2.4 miles.

The swim was the swim.  As I alluded to before, you can't expect much when you aren't training for the swim, and my swim was virtually non-existent for the better part of 5 months or so leading up to this race.  
Right before the swim start for the full.

Nevertheless, I managed to swim relatively straight and felt pretty good throughout the entire swim. I wasn't fast, but I also wasn't as slow as I thought I would be.  The swim felt a lot faster than my time (which was 1:30:00ish) but I came out of it feeling fresh, and that was the important thing.
A thumbs up AFTER a swim?  Things were looking pretty good.

Running up to grab my bag and head into the changing building to get ready to get on the bike.


Transition from the swim to the bike was a breeze - and not an issue at all.  I did have to do the whole "Sorry boys, but now's not the time for modesty" routine and got butt naked while changing - but that's how it goes in Ironman.  I didn't have a towel in my transition bag, so that's that.
Running out of transition with my bike.

Another transition shot.
The bike was going really smooth - I was staying on my power target pretty well until about at mile 40 I hit a bump and my front tire popped.  Not a huge deal, I hopped off and got it changed rather quickly (~4-5 minutes) and was back on my way.
Within a few minutes after the tire change, my chain dropped.  I had to hop off the bike again, manually adjust the chain, get it back on and moving, and then I was able to ride again.  
Fifteen minutes later - it happened again and I realized this was going to be a problem.
Fortunately, it wasn't immediately.  I was able to ride the next 20 or so miles about at the pace I wanted and at target power before I got another flat on the bike path right before you reach Brockaway for the second time.  This time, I didn't have a second spare tube (my front wheel is a clincher and my rear wheel is a tubular - I brought one spare for each wheel).  I was waiting and asking people if they had a spare tube.  It didn't take too long (~15 minutes) for someone to swing by and hand me one.  Which was awesome and I was incredibly thankful.  I cleaned off my tire as best I could, got the tube installed, and started riding again.
Which lasted all of eight or so miles until, about 90% up the Brockaway climb, POP!  The same tire burst again.  This one was bad.  I was tired (pun intended), frustrated, hot, and feeling downright miserable.  To top that off, the pity party I was about to have for myself was over shadowed by someone who legitly needed help (he passed out and crashed at the top of Brockaway on the bike).  I helped him (along with one of the cheering spectators) to a spot on a rock in the shade and waited for the medics to arrive (which took them all of 3 minutes or so).
After that, it was another wait asking people if they had a spare tube.  Unfortunately for me, no one did this time.  I was out in the sun waiting for just over an hour (with repeated attempts to flag down marshals to see if tech support could come aid me to no avail) until someone came by and gave me one (and I eventually caught up with him on Facebook and thanked him - he was a godsend!).  He even helped me get it on and I literally couldn't thank him enough for saving my day.
By that time, however, I was basically done.  I had around 30 or so miles left and I wanted nothing more than to be off my bike.
I ended up rolling into T2 with a 7:15:00(ish) time - a healthy chunk of that spent waiting in misery and begging for a tube.

The back end of the run course is beautiful.
I felt extremely good getting off the bike and getting into the run.  A quick stop to fill up my bottles with water and off I went.
The run went really well for me.  I help my pace throughout the entire thing right up until after the first turnaround by the finish line (at about mile 18 or so) when things started to slow down for me.  I managed to keep that slower pace throughout the rest of the run and finished pretty strong.
The run was easily my favorite part of the race and I would do an open marathon on this same course.  It was really beautiful.  Running through Squaw Valley and down by the riverbed provided not only a scenic course, but one that was challenging as well.  There was a variety of small climbs, some different terrain, and twists and turns - but all in all, it was a fairly straightforward course that was fun to run.

I finished the run in under four hours, and crossed the finish line in 13:16:31 - which, considering everything on the bike, I'm more than happy with.  

Crossing the finish line.  I was pretty stoked to finish this race - as it seemed like it wouldn't happen at some points during the bike.

All in all, it was a spectacular race that I was super stoked on and wish I could make a return trip to do it all over again.
My wife and son (and the rest of my family at the race) braved the cold and waited for me to finish - which was awesome of them and I can't express how grateful I am.

As with any Ironman or long race similar to this - I was pretty thrashed at the end and pretty much done.  However, that simply meant taking some time off from training on a daily basis and relaxing with the family.  And lots of pizza.  And Yogurtland.  

Pizza right by the finish line?!?!?  You know where I immediately went!  As always the medal from Ashworth Awards was top notch!
And, at the end of the day the only thing that matters besides pizza and frozen yogurt, is family and friends.  And my son couldn't give a crap about the Ironman - as long as he gets to play in the water and be dirty.