Ride Recap: Chicago’s North Branch Trail

This weekend I went up to Chicago in order to drop Bride off for her Ireland trip (hopefully she will update everyone on her journeys).  While up there I figured I might as well not waste a trip so I should get in a good bike ride while up there.  I studied what bike paths were available and asked some friends for their suggestions.  The North Branch Trail seemed to be the best one for the distance that I wanted to ride, as well as for being close to where I was staying near O’Hare international airport.

Bike and Trail MapThe day was pretty cold for May (temp at the start was 46 degrees) but since when did Chicago actually listen to the seasons when it came to its weather.  I decided to wear my long sleeve jersey but I wore it over my tri-suit rather than wearing pants.  I figured once I got going I would warm up.

Over the first few miles I realized there was a steady wind coming from the north that I would have to compete with for the first half of the ride before turning back south at the end.  The wind, plus the cool temperatures made the ride a lot more uncomfortable than it would have been otherwise.  With that being said, after I got going and warmed up I welcomed the challenge of the wind.

The trail was in great shape.  It was paved the whole way and even had an extra horse trail that paralleled the path, including have a few crossovers during the northern half of the trail.   Throughout most of the ride you are riding on a path covered by tree canopy connecting multiple parks following the North Branch of the Chicago River.  Below is a video of a small section of the path to show what great shape the path is in:

The only negative part of the path that I found was the lack of water fountains available to the riders and runners.  I did see there were some bathroom facilities available in some of the parks next to the trail and I assume there were some water fountains available near those bathrooms but there were no signs indicating their presence.  For cyclists this is not too big of a problem, but for runners this could really prove to effect your performance.

After riding approximately 13 miles north you get to ride around the Skokie Lagoons in an adjoining 4.2 mile trail before heading back south 13 miles back to Caldwell woods. (The video of my ride around the lagoons is directly below.)  I would love to do this ride again later in the summer as a 50 or 60 mile ride since it would be easy to complete two laps while being able to stop at the car to refill at the half way point if it is necessary.

Lastly, the quality of this trail has made me want to ride on many of the other trails around Chicago.  Although many are not long enough to be attractive for many of my rides, there are a few others that I would love to try eventually.


Gear Review: Aftershokz Trekz Titanium

Trekz PackagingDisclaimer: I received the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Whenever you do anything for a long time without stopping your body will begin to ache. That is no different than when you are running with headphones your ears will begin to hurt, or the headphones may begin to rub your skin raw.  The Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones are the exception to this rule.

During the time I have had the Trekz Titanium headphones I have put in multiple runs and bike rides of well over an hour and never have the headphones ever become uncomfortable.  At the end of each run and ride the headphones were the last thing on my mind.  Never did they cause any irritation or any discomfort which would cause me to pay attention to them before paying attention to my run or ride.

Beyond the comfort, these headphones are very practical.  The headphones were initially very easily to hook up to my phone through bluetooth connection.  After they were initially set up  they would quickly connect to my phone when I would turn them on.

Out on a RunWhile you were wearing them it was easy to control the primary functions of your phone including answer calls, and using voice controls.  I was very impressed with how much you could do with a minimal interface.  There are only a few buttons available, but from these few buttons there are many options for a user.

Lastly, it cannot be underestimated how nice the listening experience is.  Although when you first turn them on you feel the vibration from the headphones, which is a little odd, once they are on the experience is simply amazing.  You could clearly hear the music, radio or commands from the phone.  Most importantly, I was shocked at how well I could still hear what was going on around me.

I usually do not wear headphones when I run because I like to be aware of my surroundings, and am constantly looking around and seeing what is occurring around me.  With these headphones I am able to not only listen to what I choose, but to still be aware of what is going on around me.  I believe these headphones are in a class of themselves.  They are one of a kind, provide a unique experience, and will prove to be a leader in what I hope to be the future of athletic headphones.


Gear Review: 2xu Vectr Sock and Calf Sleeve

Disclaimer: I received a pair of 2xu Vectr Socks and 2xu Calf Sleeve to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

When I started to run I never would pay attention to what socks I was wearing, or what impact they had on my day.  I quickly realized if you take as many steps as are necessary to complete any long run a small issue with a sock can cause havoc during and after the run.  A small rub on your foot causes a blister that stays for days effecting your ability to run or even walk around during a regular day.

Sock on.jpgThe 2xu Vectr socks are some of the best socks I have ever had an opportunity to wear.  I have had great runs ruined by socks but I am confident these socks would allow any run to not be ruined by a sock.  These socks do not add what a new pair of shoes does to your run, and in fact these socks only do their job because you do not notice them having any effect on your run.  To test the socks I wore them throughout a whole day where I am able to concentrate on how the socks feel more easily than I can during a run.  The socks did not disappoint. Throughout the day, no matter what I did, the socks performed well and did not rub uncomfortably against my feet.  To also test these socks I wore them with multiple pairs of shoes, running shoes, basketball shoes, and regular lounge shoes and the socks performed perfectly with all of them.  There is nothing I would change about these socks and from here forward I will wear these socks during my long runs and races.

Calf Sleeve (From Dicks)

Taken from Dicks.com

The second product I had the ability to test was the 2xu Calf Sleeves.  I must first admit
that I do not normally wear calf sleeves.  So needless to say I knew I as tried these they would take some getting use to.  During the first couple of runs with them I was inside and running on an indoor track for some speed work.  During these workouts I felt the calf sleeves might have made my calves sweat more than normal, but at the same time they felt fresh throughout the workout.  After these initial workouts I was able to wear them during some outdoor runs and here is where I was really able to feel a difference.  Not only did they provide some warmth to my lower legs, but they allowed my legs to feel more responsive throughout the run.

Products in Box.jpgOne opportunity I had with these products was the ability to test them together.  When they are worn together the products cover the whole bottom half of my leg.  Just like when the sock is worn by itself, these products work best when you do not realize anything about them during your workout.  During most of my training session with the products, I was wearing both of them at the same time.  NEVER did I have any issues with either product rubbing, or chafing.  I did make sure they did not overlap too much around my ankle in order to better allow no chafing to occur.  I believe the only way to improve on a great product is to partner it with another great product.  That is what happens when you wear the 2xu Vectr Sock and Calf Sleeve.

Products on their BoxI have never been the biggest proponent of compression but after testing out these products, as well as previously testing the 2xu Hyoptic Tights, I am coming around to believe good compression gear can make a difference in your training.  After wearing both of these 2xu products I felt I was able to more quickly recover, or I felt better after the exercise was over.  I still will not suggest everyone wear compression gear, and I will not wear it everyday, but I do believe there is a benefit of it and no company creates compression gear better than 2xu.

Both the Vectr socks and the 2xu Calf Sleeves are products at the top of their market. There are no products that can compete with the quality of 2xu. They are made with comfort and practicality in mind.  I would recommend everyone go out and purchase both the 2xu Vectr socks and Calf Sleeves to add to their regular running closet.

You can get 15% off any 2XU product with the code “TRAIN15”


Training Thursday: Feb 22-Feb 28

Feb 22:
-Swim Session: 500 yd Easy Swim (9:09; 1:50 min/100yd)
-Strength Session: Shoulders & Core (1 hour 15 minutes)

Feb 23:
-Run Session: 5 Mile Fartlek (39:08; 7:50 min/mile)

Feb 24:
-Strength Training: Legs (40 minutes)
-Indoor Soccer (40 minutes)

Feb 25:
-Swim Session: 2,000 Long Session (600×3 yd reps-each rep faster than previous; 37:49; 1:53 min/100yd)

Feb 26:

Feb 27: 
-Cycling Session: Cycle 120 (1:49:45; 32 miles; 17.5 mph)
-Run Session: 6 mile run with Franky (6.04 mi; 1:18:11; 12:57 min/mi)
-Soccer Practice: 90 Minutes

Feb 28:
OFF DAY! (Became an Uncle)

Sorry I was a little late this weekend.  It took me a couple of days to catch up from my weekend.

Overall this week was a pretty easy week.  I had a hard Saturday but my Sunday was an off day because I had to head up to St. Louis because my brother had a little baby girl.  Ms. Norah Ren was born at 1:45 on Sunday.  It was a great reason to miss a workout.  Sadly that workout was going to be an indoor triathlon put on by my triathlon club.  The triathlon was a success but I am sad I had to miss the event.

This week (which is almost over) will focus on just relaxing and doing what I want.  This week and next will focus on the same thing before I start my triathlon training officially. I decided to push the start day back two weeks since this weekend I will be out of town and next week is Spring Break.  I did not want to start behind on my training plan, so I will officially start it after Spring Break.


Training Tuesday: Feb 15-21

Feb 15:
-Strength Training (AM): Shoulders (50 minutes)
-BRIC Cycling Session: 20 mile spin (40:03; 30.0 mph)
-BRIC Run Session: 10K Run (48:18; 7:47 min/mi)

Feb 16:
-Swim Session: Lap Swimming (2,250 yds, 43:08; 1:55 min/100 yd.)
-Cycling Session: 30 Mile Spin (1:01:59; 29.0 mph)

Feb 17:
-Run Session: 2 Mile Warm-Up for Indoor Soccer (15:38; 7:49 min/mi)
-Indoor Soccer: 40 minutes
-Strength Session: Legs (45 minutes)

Feb 18:
-Run Session: 5K Lunch Run (3.2 Miles, 26:06, 8:100 min/mi)
-Swim Session: Lap Swimming (2,250 yds, 44:19; 1:59 min/100 yd.)
-Cycling Session: 15 Mile Spin (29:18; 30.7 mph)

Feb 19:
-Run Session: 4 Mile Lunch Run (4.21 mi; 35:07; 8:21 min/mi)
-Cycling Session: 20 Mile Spin (39:38; 30.3 mph)

Feb 20: Bradley Indoor Triathlon
-Cycling Session: 24 Mile Outside Ride (24.21 mi; 1:34:28; 15.4 mph)

Feb 21:
-Run Session: 7 Mile Slow Run (7.27 mi;  1:02:51; 8:39 min/mi)

This week I completed the Indoor Ironman at SIU Rec Center.  This race consisted of completing the distance of a full Ironman Race inside an allotted time period.  The Rec Center allows you three weeks to complete the competition, but I wanted to challenge myself to get it done within one week.  Despite having a lot of school work to do this week I did complete the distances although I feel like I cheated a little by putting so many miles on the indoor bikes.  You will hear more about this week of training later this week.

This week marks 33 weeks until Ironman Louisville.  My training plan is a 32 week plan so I will officially begin the training plan next Monday (February 29)!  I will unveil my full plan next week in a post.  This plan will include competing in the NCAA Triathlon National Championships in April, and completing at least one half Ironman in August (with another possible one in May). Needless to say I am going to take this week easy and just workout when and how I want too, rather than sticking to a strict plan like I will have to for the foreseeable future.


Race Review: Bradley Indoor Triathlon

Review Wednesday has a new installment this week.

I have faced the challenge of a triathlon before.  In fact I faced the task of a 70.3 Race in heat over 100 degrees just last June.  But this weekend I attempted a new type of triathlon that is hard to prepare for.  I did my first indoor triathlon at Bradley University this Saturday.  Although indoor triathlons do not include the long miles found in outdoor triathlons, it does include very intense workouts meant to have you push yourself constantly for the entire time.

I got to the rec center on campus that morning around 7:20am (my swim wave was at 8:40am) prepared for what I thought would be a fun and exciting new adventure but I was in for a surprise.  I got prepared and got into the pool and started my day full of intensity, at a level I have not practiced at in a long time.

Bradley Indoor Triathlon-In the Pool

Swim Review:
Bradley’s pool is only 6 lanes of 25 yards each in a room with one wall of windows.  The sun outside made the room bright and the pool warmer than usual.  The swim wave consisted of 12 people so we were sharing lanes and I was stuck on the half lane closest to the wall.  I only hoped to not hit the top of the wall during one of my strokes (luckily this nightmare did not occur).

As the initial whistle blew I told myself to calm down and take it nice and slow.  The swim was for 10 minutes and my goal was to go 500 yards, or 10 full laps of the pool.  I got the first couple of laps completed I realized I felt good and was ahead of my pace. I continued to push the pace but as I did I realized something was wrong.  I broke my nose in high school and since then I have had issues with water getting into my nose.  With that issue I wear a nose piece when I swim but in the middle of a lap at Bradley it fell off.  The crazy part was, I kept going with basically no issue afterwards.  I finished the session with 575 yards completed, blowing away my goal of 500 yards.

Bike Review: 
After the swim we had a quick turn around to get to the bikes.  The bikes were set up along a wall on their indoor soccer/hockey court.  They were very comfortable bikes and I was most impressed with the handlebars and how comfortable they were.  The bikes had bike computers on them so we could constantly see our RPMs and distance as we pedaled.  Above us we could see the track and the runners from the earlier heat.  Also there was plenty of music playing to keep your mind off the business at hand.

I began with a high resistance and an average cadence (95 RPMs) but soon realized it would be better to have a lower resistance and a higher RPM.  I lower the resistance until I could maintain around 105 RPMs.  I kept this until the last 5 minutes when I continued to increase the resistance during the final push.  My goal for the bike was around 8 miles, but it is tough to judge this goal because each indoor bike measures a little differently.  I ended up going 8.2 miles which I am a little disappointed with after seeing the other results.  I believe the bike is where I need to work the most in order to accomplish my goals.

Bradley Indoor Triathlon-On the Bike

Not the best posture, but I am putting in the miles!

Run Review: 
After the bike my legs felt pretty good and I was going into my best event.  I have been a runner for years now and I am confident in myself to push through the pain and to keep running.  My goal was to run 2 miles in the 15 minutes allotted, which was 16 laps of the track.  I started off at a conservative pace knowing I needed to get my legs back before I pushed too hard.  Soon I was up at the pace I felt comfortable with and was on my way.  As the time ticked by my legs began to ache from the previous cycling and running efforts.  I pushed through and at the 2 minutes left mark I was only one lap away from 2 miles.  I completed the lap and a little more, eventually clocking in with a 7:22 min/mi pace for the 15 minutes.

I was happy with my performance and beat all of my pre-race goals.  After my work was calculated they estimated my spring triathlon finish time to be 1:05:42, enough for 30 place out of 90 competitors.  I am happy with my placing and it shows my training is paying off.  I do not consider myself one of the faster people, in fact I have always thought of myself as an endurance person before I was a speed demon but this shows that with practice I can get faster.  This provided me with some confidence that I can use for motivation for my longer distances in the summer and fall.

The biggest news of the weekend is by participating in this triathlon, I have qualified for the NCAA Triathlon Collegiate Championships in Clemson, SC in April! Excited, and cannot wait to participate.



Training Tuesday: Feb 8-Feb 14

Feb 8:
-Swim Session: Lap Swimming (2,250 yds, 43:08; 1:55 min/100 yd.)
-Strength Training: Shoulders (45 minutes)

Feb 9:

-BRIC Cycling Session: 1 Hour Spin (28.2 mi; 28.2 mph)
-BRIC Running Session: 1.25 Mile Run (9:42 min; 7:46 min/mi)

Feb 10:
-Run Session: 2 Mile Warm-Up for Indoor Soccer (15:22; 7:41 min/mi)
-Indoor Soccer and Basketball: 1 hour 15 minutes
-Strength Session: Legs (40 minutes)

Feb 11:
-Run Session: 4 Mile Half Marathon Tempo Run (30:38; 7:39 min/mi)
-Swim Session: 650 yd (11:47; 1:49 min/100 yd; practice with a friend for Bradley Indoor Tri)

Feb 12:
-Off Day! (Travel for Bradley Indoor Triathlon)

Feb 13: Bradley Indoor Triathlon
-Swim Session: 10 Minutes (575 yd; 1:44 min/100 yd)
-Cycling Session: 20 Minutes (8.70 mi; 26.1 mph)
-Run Session: 15 Minutes (2.03 mi; 7:22 min/mi)

Feb 14:
-Off Day to Celebrate Valentines Day!

This was a very rewarding week.  I really began to focus on getting in some serious workouts to mark the beginning of my building up towards my half distance triathlon in May.  The week included multiple long and hard workouts in the beginning and ended with an Indoor Triathlon at Bradley University in Peoria, IL.  By competing I qualified for the NCAA Triathlon Championships at Clemson University in April!

This week I have a fun and unique goal.  The Rec Center here on campus is having a three week long “Indoor Ironman” competition where during those three weeks you are asked to complete 2.4 miles worth of swimming, 112 miles on the bike and a 26.2 mile run.  I thought it would be fun to try to get all those distances in one week.  I began yesterday and will work through Sunday in order to get the required distances.  What a week!


Baby Shower

Happy Valentine’s Day! It is snowing here in Carbondale. I’m busy studying for finals but I wanted to quickly share with you our fun last weekend. Runner’s brother and his lovely wife are expecting a precious little girl this March. Last weekend we headed up to Bethalto, Illinois to celebrate the baby shower.

This was my Pinterest-inspired gift:


A welcome wagon!! The fact that you can find a mini-wagon on Amazon and have it shipped to your home is so freakin adorable! To fill the wagon, I bought some Spot the dog books and a toy, a baby cell phone and a hanging turtle. One of my favorite hobbies is scrapbook making, so I made one for Mom and baby. It was “How I Met Your Mother” themed.

The party was held at The Weeping Willow Tea Room. MaryJo worked there many years ago. It is currently open just for breakfast and lunch, serving soups and sandwiches. It was such a cute place. Our party was in the downstairs area but I got a secret tour of the top floor which had a beautiful old stage and hardwood floors.

Baby girl has about 1 month left to bake, due March 13ish. I’ll keep you updated!


Training Tuesday: Feb 1-Feb 7

Feb 1:

-Strength Training: Body Weight (45 minutes)

Feb 2:

-BRIC Cycling Session: 45 Minutes Spin (14 mi; 18.1 mph)
-BRIC Running Session: 5K Run (24:58 min; 8:04 min/mi)
-Strength Training: Legs (50 minutes)

Feb 3:
-Indoor Soccer and Basketball: 1 hour 15 minutes

Feb 4:
-Swim Session: 1,500 yds (Long Sets-700 yd with a short cool down; 28:22 min; 1:53 min/100yds)

Feb 5:
-Run Session: 5 mile run (40 min; 8 min/mi)

Feb 6: 
-Off Day

Feb 7:
-Off Day

This was my last easy week before my training really picks this week in preparation for my triathlons starting in April.  This weekend I was out of town to spend time with my brother and my family for his baby shower that took place on Sunday.  I planned on running while there but the weather did not hold up and I was not able to get any miles in.

This week I plan on ramping up my training in preparation for my April Olympic at the Collegiate National Triathlon and the two half Ironmans that I have this summer.  This training is all about building a great base for me to use for increasing my endurance and strength in order to not only complete the full in October, but to also perform well.


Gear Review: Strength Training for Triathletes

I have a confession to make….I am a reader!!!

I believe that reading about exercises, training plans/programs and the stories of the great endurance athletes of the past and present has allowed me to become a better athlete than just training would allow.  Being a law student doesn’t give me much time to read, but I always squeeze in time to read my own books everyday, even if it just before bed.

One of the most beneficial books that I have read regarding triathlon training is “Strength Training for Triathletes” by Patrick Hagerman and printed by Velo Press.  The book is not big, and it is not a good door stop but instead it is a quick read that you can keep around and use every day when you are training, and every day during the off season.  The book goes through all aspects of how to incorporate strength training, why it is so important for any athlete.

The most useful part of the book are the pages and pages that it devotes to showing you exercises specifically targeting the muscle groups used most in each of the three disciplines of triathlon (it also has a section of core workouts).  It covers both arm and leg workouts for each discipline and provides pictures and explanations.

I keep this book in my gym bag, almost all the time.  I will look at it before I go to the gym to get an idea of what exercises to do today, and will even be that guy who pulls it out at the gym to get some more ideas. If you are looking to improve your times, improve your fitness or improve your physique I would recommend doing strength training and I cannot recommend a better book to start with!