January Favorites

January has been one of my most successful training months in that I consistently trained!  I’m loving “Ironman Zone” and the focus I have on my goals right now.  Fingers crossed that it will carry through for many months to come. As I’ve been accumulating miles and training hours, I’ve had a number of favorites that have helped me along the way.  I figured I’d start a monthly(ish) post about favorite products, workouts, meals, etc.

Favorite Product- SBR Tri Swim Shampoo and Conditioner  Let’s be honest, swimming wreaks havoc on your hair and skin, especially in the winter.  SBR makes SUCH great products that you’d never know how much time I’ve spent in the pool.  Prior to discovering their shampoo and conditioner, I used UltraSwim and this is no comparison!  I’m really looking forward to trying their Dermasport skin products next! triswimimg Favorite Nutrition- I’ve been using lots of Hammer Fizz this month.  I love how convenient and portable these are.  I tend to not get any nutrition ready until the last minute when I should probably be out the door already and these are perfect.  I have been using Heed for a year now and find that Fizz is comparable in how it gets me through a workout, these are just more convenient sometimes!  My big draw to both Heed and Fizz is that no artificial sweeteners or refined sugars are used.  As someone who really prefers the taste of water to almost anything, most sports drinks make me want to gag.  I hate the really sweet taste of a lot of the biggest names out there.  Hammer products have a much lighter taste that is easier on your stomach, especially over long periods of time.

These should last awhile!
These should last awhile!

Favorite Workout- This was a swim workout I did early in the month.  I loved how often it changed so that I didn’t have to struggle through any one thing for too long, but still felt like I got a great workout in. Warmup: 200 swim, 200 pull, 200 kick 4×150 swim 4×150 pull 6×50 sprint 4×100 Cooldown 100 (50 kick, 50 swim) Love to hate workout- Any sufferfest video.  These are tough.  This photo is my before and after of a video called Fight Club.  We all know the first rule of Fight Club….. IMG_20150126_230905 Favorite Gear- This was easy, my new Garmin 920XT.  I actually got it in December, but since January held a lot more training in the pool and bike, in addition to running, this is where I really began to fall in love.  For anyone that has looked at these, yes, they are insanely expensive.  I’m counting on this watch lasting me many years.  And for a piece of equipment I literally use everyday, the cost per use is not that high.  (I’m good at justifying anything).  For a real in-depth review on the watch, check out DC Rainmaker, my go to source for all techy reviews.  Here’s what I love broken down by sport: Run- It tracks my cadence, vertical oscillation (how much I bounce), and VO2 Max, along with the standard of pace, heart rate, distance, etc. Bike-  Honestly, my bike computer already tracked most of this, but using my Garmin allows me to upload versus manually entering info like I have to from the bike computer. Swim- Here’s where I get blown away.  I’ve never tracked anything in the pool before.  I would swim a given distance but have no idea how long it took me.  The watch keeps track of my number of laps, time for each lap, number of strokes per lap, it can tell what stroke I’m swimming and more.  Added bonus, on long intervals I don’t have to keep count as much because the watch does the work for me. Activity Monitor- I haven’t explored this too much, but I know it tracks my steps per day and adjusts my daily steps goal based on how much walking I’ve done lately and my sleep patterns.  I’m sure there’s more in this area, but this is more than enough for me. Data- It automatically uploads to Garmin Connect so that I can be a true numbers geek and analyze.  Here’s an example of the graphs from a swim workout this month. Favorite Recovery Tool– Compression anything!  My wonderful husband got me lots of cool Coeur Sports gear for Christmas, including these compression socks and compression pants.  I love to throw compression gear on after a tough workout.  The extra support feels wonderful! compression socks pink_capri_front_large Favorite Meal- This was really hard to choose because I had lots of good meals this month.  Full disclosure, I am not the cook in our house.  Again, my wonderful husband comes through with supporting this triathlon goal and makes meals that definitely help the cause.  He makes lots of healthy, fresh meals throughout the month.  My favorite was grilled salmon, long grain wild rice, and grilled asparagus and yellow peppers.  I should have thought to take a picture, I was too busy eating though! Favorite Fail of the month- Increased training means increased appetite, aka I’m hungry all the time.  There is a new McDonald’s conveniently located right on my way home from work.  After a particularly stressful day at school, the billboard sign reading “Triple Cheeseburger $2.00” was just calling my name…….I don’t regret it one bit! Favorite Activity- There was a local Bike Expo over the weekend that I took the kids to.  Lots of cool vendors, workshops, giveaways, etc.  I got to see my favorite bike store, The Bike Factory, sign up for a local bike ride and learn a lot.  I didn’t think to take pictures of most of it, more the parts the kids were most excited about.  Trust me though, there was plenty to drool and swoon over from a triathlete or cyclist perspective.  The best part though, was how much my kids loved it.  Not much makes a triathlete parent happier than when their kids show interest in the sport as well.

My kids LOVE giveaways!
My kids LOVE giveaways!
We even found the Rad bike from the 80's movie.
We even found the Rad bike from the 80’s movie.
Cool old bikes
Cool old bikes

Product Review- Coeur Sports

I tend to research the heck out of something before I buy it.  Jumping into the world of triathlon has definitely been a learning experience for me.  So many different products and possibilities can be overwhelming.  While some of the purchases happened early on to allow me to train, others could take place closer to my actual triathlon.

For a triathlon kit I knew I wanted a two piece outfit.  A self-professed hatred of one piece swimsuits and someone with an abnormally long torso, I knew I would prefer a two piece.  As I began to research the different brands I discovered that some of them were downright boring.  Every girl has a little black dress in her closet that has its place.  All black or nearly all black just didn’t cut it for me.  I wanted a kit that would stand out, allow my family to see me and that I would love in the pictures after the fact.

That helped me narrow it down and I continued to research a few brands.  The one that I was most drawn to though was Coeur Sports.  This was a new company, not even a year old at the time, making products in the USA, touting great customer service and quality products.

As I researched more about the company and the products I knew I loved them before I ever even placed an order.  Their entire company focuses on products for women only, I’m a big fan of companies who know to how become great at something versus being good enough at a lot of things.  They also make a seam-free chamois that the people writing internet reviews truly raved about.  In addition to triathlon kits, they make running clothes, bike jerseys and swimsuits.  Someday I’ll own their whole line of products!  Baby steps 🙂

Where they really won me over though was when they published an article talking about other companies, their competitors, doing great things.  This combined with how they supported their athletes and seemed to truly care about their customers won me over.

Ordering and Shipment: Finally near the end of the summer I placed my order: a triathlon kit, an extra pair of plain black triathlon shorts for training rides and a really fun #bikelove tank top.  I got immediate confirmation e-mails both when the order was placed and when it shipped that were very personalized and a nice touch.

When my shipment arrived, I even had a surprise in the package.  Since it was near the one year anniversary of the company, they included a free CoeurSports visor!

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The items did not disappoint.  The fit of the kit was amazing.  Despite my long torso the shirt covers everything, even in aero position.  The shorts are cute and comfortable.  The most amazing part though- the material.  As a runner I’ve had different qualities of clothes for working out, ranging from Target and Old Navy to much more expensive name brands.  Never have I felt material like from Coeur Sports.  Think of the softest thing possible, then imagine wearing it for a triathlon.  It is such a great fabric, I’m still in love with it every time I put it on.

As far as my #bikelove tank, I have gotten so many compliments on it.  I was truly sad when the last of the warm days left us here in the Midwest and I had to pack it away for winter.  Then I unpacked it, ha!  I’ll be finding excuses to wear it all year long.

My #BikeLove tank got me through a tough session on the indoor trainer

Now on to my dealings with customer service.  In September I bought a new bike on a whim.  My very entry level bike had gotten a lot of use over the last year and was causing me quite a bit of pain in my neck and shoulders.  My local bike store was offering a special on a bike I’d been eyeballing and I pulled the trigger.  The problem is the tri kit that I ordered was blue and purple and would have clashed mightily with the red and white bike I had just purchased!  I contacted Coeur and they said it wouldn’t be a problem to return my unused, never worn kit and exchange it for a different one.  So I exchanged for the Fleet Foxes kit, seen here.  The shorts in the pictures below are actually the plain black training shorts I had ordered originally.  When my new kit arrived, the shorts that truly went with this tank were too small.  Although both the plain black and the Fleet Foxes shorts were size Small, there was over 2.5 inches difference in the waist and hip area when I measured them.  I talked with Coeur about this and they said they had changed sizing guidelines through their first year and that is where the discrepancy came from.  Again, I could return the shorts without any questions or difficulties so no big deal.

My first 70.3 took me 6:16.  I had absolutely no issues with the kit.  Everything was comfortable, stayed where it should and I never gave it a second thought.  Except of course when other athletes were complimenting me on how much they loved it!  And there were lots of them, never got old though!

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Last .1 of my first 70.3. My face and my fists indicate how I’m feeling!

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Just last week I got the Chevron kit and cannot wait to race in it in 2015.

My cute new tri kit!

Again, sticking with my grading scale:

Quality:  A

Functionality: A-, the only criticism here is I’d like a little more padding in the chamois

Fabric: A+

Fit: A-, I wish the built-in bra lines didn’t show through on the tank.

Customer Service: A-, they do the right thing, just understand that it takes a couple days to hear back.