Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Essential Gear Recs

When you spend so many hours moving, having the right gear matters for your comfort and performance. I'm not competitive, and comfort is VERY important. Here are some of my favorite and necessary fitness products.


RoadID: Emergency contact and ID bracelet
I'm young, healthy, and don't have any notable medical issues that would affect acute treatment. What sold me on this was a testimonial from a woman who was at a regular old race one day when the runner beside her fell, accidentally tripping her in the process. The woman lost consciousness, but emergency personnel were immediately able to contact her family to let them know what happened. And that really could happen to anybody.

The item doesn't just have your emergency info printed on it; it also has a unique serial number on the back that will allow emergency medical professionals to access your whole health history online (that you input and update), including any medications you're taking.

I first bought the Ankle ID, thinking it would be least likely to annoy me, but I took it off when I wasn't working out and would then forget it when I needed it. At a friend's suggestion, I bought the Wrist ID Slim model to wear 24-7, and it has been perfect. The order form had one too few characters for me to put my sister's whole first name and phone number, but when I contacted customer service to suggest altering that for future customers, they went ahead and added the extra character for me!

Bonus: The Road ID app lets you notify a few contacts that you'll be going out for a walk or a bike ride and will be finished in XX minutes. If you stop moving for 5 minutes, the app sends an emergency alert to your contacts with your exact location, in case you got in an accident and are unable to contact them. It's a great design and gives me peace of mind when I'm riding my bike.

Sports bras:
Six years ago a busty runner friend introduced me to the ENELL SPORT, and I've been evangelizing ever since. Folks who wear larger than a C cup just can't wear a simply elastic sports bra, and it's virtually impossible to find actual high-impact support for running anywhere. Even the highly recommended Moving Comfort brand was a huge disappointment when I tried it on. Enell offers serious support and actually keeps everything in place. I can run in it and I can even visit the trampoline park in it. Enell products range from size 32C to 56G, and they offer custom sizing, too. Though the cost may seem steep, it's worth every penny, and busty folk aren't going to find high-impact sports bras for less.

I also recommend Shock Absorber's Ultimate Run Bra. It both encapsulates and compresses. Some people say that it's difficult to get into, but I have limited shoulder flexibility and have no problem fastening the bottom hooks in front, spinning it around to the back, sliding in my arms, and then fastening the top hook. As a short lady, I love love love that the shoulder straps are adjustable and don't slide. My one complaint is that the band runs small, and that's saying A LOT compared to how snugly the Enell band fits, so I had to add a bra hook extender to wear it.

Both these recommendations are wireless and come from a 34DDD runner. I've compiled additional sports bra recommendations from folks of all sizes in another post here.

Running shoes: Vibram FiveFingers
Minimalist running shoes aren't for everyone, but those who like them LOVE them. I started running in regular tennis shoes but got such awful blisters that I'd have to spend time taping half of each foot before every run. I also had constantly dead toenails. I received the VFFs as a gift and have since run two half marathons and a 15-mile Spartan Beast in them.

They've had some bad press lately because people are changing their stride suddenly and getting injured. If you've been landing on your forefoot for a while, you'll be fine; otherwise, very slowly integrate the VFFs into your running, 5 minutes at a time.

Not sure whether you'll like them? Run a lap on a track or down the length of your block in socks or bare feet and see what you think of that. REI and Whole Earth Provision (Texas only) have great customer service to get you fitted for the right VFFs and very generous return policies.

What are your running essentials?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Texasman Triathlon Race Recap

Today I attempted my first Olympic-distance triathlon after having completed 4 sprint tris in the last year.

First of all, I gotta say, I am in great spirits. I am so so SO excited to never do this again!

I set my alarm for 3:30 AM, got up at 3:40, packed, dressed, ate, and left at 4:30 to pick up my mom at 4:40, arrived at the site 5:45, got to transition by 6, cleared transition at 6:45, and waited on the beach to get in the water at nearly 8.

I expected to struggle with the cold water as I had in my first OWS, especially with all the rain and rain and rain we've had this spring. I waded in before the race, though, and the water temperature was fine. But the wind kicked up as the morning wore on, and the water was super choppy by the time my wave (the 9th and final one) started. I crawled forward but struggled to slow my breath. I asked the first kayaker if it was all like this.

"I'm not gonna lie to you," she said solemnly. "It's ugly out there."

I knew I wasn't panicking . . . yet. I thought for another moment and said to her decisively, "Yeah, okay, I'm done."

I wasn't comfortable with the swim distance but believe I could have powered through on a calm lake. There was just no way I could fight those waves for a mile, though. I hung out cheerily while the kayaker signaled a boat to collect me. As bad as the waves looked from within the lake, things looked much worse from the boat.

As I sat shivering on the warden's boat, I felt REALLY good about my decision. I thought I would feel bad about giving up, failing, not even making it to the first buoy . . . but I didn't. Still don't. (Seeing the news much later in the evening about a triathlete dying that same day was a sobering reminder of the real dangers I faced.)

I thought that was the end and I'd be going home. I was disappointed about that. But when we got ashore, me and the other people pulled from the course (and there were a LOT this morning), the race official who asked for our timing chips said we were welcome to finish the bike and run portion; we just wouldn't be timed.

This just became the best triathlon ever. . . . The one I didn't have to swim. "But, Moniqa," I thought, "you KNOW duathlons are a thing, right? I mean, you totally do." It just never occurred to me before today that they might be a thing I'd do.

So I ran up to my bike, did my fastest T1 transition ever, and hit the course. I got to ride past beautiful longhorn cattle. They'd said it was a fast course with Texas hills. Holy fuck, it was HARD. I put my head down to embrace the suck and slowly stuck it out. I kept telling myself, "This could be worse.You could still be in the water." There was one hill near the end, though, that had me thinking I might have to walk. But I'm stubborn and stuck it out, moving so slowly I might have fallen. Oof. This was the first race I didn't pass ANYONE on the bike leg.

I'd been lucky so far that the sun stayed hidden behind clouds. The run course was shady but also hilly and with dead, humid air. It wasn't THAT hot; the record says 72-75°F, but the sun and 80% humidity were killer. The 10k course was two loops, and I walked most of the first but jogged for several stretches. After mile 2, my sweat wasn't evaporating, the cold water at the aid station couldn't cool me, I was exhausted and starting to feel nauseated. "Oh, hey, I know these to be the early signs of heat sickness. I should probably call it quits."

I thought about it for several minutes but just could not come up with a reason to do the second lap. I'd have toughed it out and walked the rest if I still had a timing chip, but I didn't. And I didn't have anything to prove, either. I was just really happy that they let me on the course at all.

So I ran to the finish line after 5k and accepted a finisher's medal and t-shirt because they'd already been printed and paid for. I'm honest and not gonna lie about having completed the course. The medals were misprinted, so I didn't even get one naming the distance I'd attempted. I'm SUPER proud of my DNF medals and the stories behind them. They're more memorable than any of my dozens of "successful" races and are some of the best decisions I've ever made.

I got a cold water and strode into the lake, successfully cooling myself down finally. The lake felt wonderfully icy cold compared to the hot sun and me.

Soreness doesn't usually set in til the next day, but my butt and adjacent joints are REALLY achy since the race. I'm not looking forward to what develops tomorrow.

So that's it. My first, and most certainly last, Olympic triathlon. I’ve always been amazed by those who do the half and full IronMans, but now I have a much more visceral feeling about such things.

Quick gear review:

One thing I didn't have to worry about was my ENELL sports bra. It fit great and felt great under my tri kit through the whole 5-hour ordeal (from fastening it about 6:40 AM to getting in the water near 8 and heading home about 11:30).

For sprint-distance triathlons, I wear the same tennis shoes to bike and then run 5k. With this run course being 10k, I needed my Vibram Five Fingers, so changing shoes added a little extra time to T2. But I chose the pair I can get on pretty quickly, so it wasn't bad. The VFFs are much lighter and cooler than tennis shoes and socks, which is definitely important in the heat. Further, I feel the dreaded "brick legs" worse when I wear sneakers, but the having lightweight footwear makes the transition much easier.

I had a new BAWG tri kit from epix to wear to this race. I'd worn it to bike with before but hadn't tried it out for the other legs. The sizing is a bit tough. The medium bottoms work for me but do squeeze my thighs quite a bit and are much shorter than my lightly padded bike shorts. Ideally, I'll buy a different padded base layer for future events, such as sprint distances, duathlons, and other bike races.

The top is great, though my only complaint during training was not having a sleeve to wipe my runny nose. Fortunately, allergies did not trouble me at the race. The top rides up a little bit when I run but not as bad as my other tri top, and I can easily add snaps to keep it in place on the shorts. Though the top unzips partway to offer a cooling element, the weird shelf bra thingy blocks all air flow, and I've been thinking about cutting it out entirely.

I did get a zillion compliments, though, and exchanged high fives when I passed one other Wonder Woman on the run course.

I also got to test out my new superhero Bondi Band and am pretty happy with it. The humidity was too much to keep all the sweat off my face, but it otherwise did a great job and stayed in place easily, even as I put on and removed my bike helmet. Get 10% off your own Bondi Band with discount code: WITHAQ.

Friday, May 20, 2016

What is a brand ambassador?

Small companies with small advertising budgets frequently set up brand ambassador programs where they send their reps a free item in exchange for a commitment to writing about the brand on their social media accounts. The best kind of evangelism.

I applied last fall to become a Brand Ambassador for ENELL because I LOVE their products, but I did not expect to be accepted because I have a relatively small social media following (though it's doubled since then!). I was accepted as a Race Ambassador, meaning ENELL helps me with costs for 3 race registrations and sent me some of their new gear to wear and talk about; and in return I'm committed to writing a couple blog posts about ENELL and hashtagging them on my race pics and such for the year. I was already doing these things for several years anyway, because I love the product.

An acquaintance shared info about repping for two other brands: Moosejaw and Bondi Band, so I applied for those as well, again doubtful because there is no Moosejaw brick and mortar store in my state and because I was unacquainted with Bondi Band. I was willing to promote Moosejaw because they are an online athletic retailer similar to Dick's Sporting Goods, and their brand rep tagline cracked me up. As for Bondi Band, I dig their designs and it's hard to mess up headbands.

Both accepted me. I thought I was just getting a t-shirt from Moosejaw, but they sent a nice technical fabric shirt, a flag, a beer koozie, sunglasses, and a discount card for running apparel and shoes. In exchange, I wear the awesome shirt and take pics with it and the flag at finish lines.

Bondi Band will be sending a pair of compression socks for me to try out and offered a unique discount code for 10% off (WITHAQ) that I can share and use for myself as well and be entered into contests for various prizes. I committed to talking about the brand for 3 months minimum and received access to a private Facebook group with monthly ideas for spreading the word. I ordered a couple headbands as well and will be trying them out this weekend. So far, I definitely like the look and feel.

Dreaming Elegance found me on Instagram after I posted about these brands and twice solicited me to become a brand rep for them. I checked out their athletic wear and found it uninspiring, but I would have said something nice about it for a t-shirt or something. Instead I found out that Dreaming Elegance CHARGES people $60 to $300 to represent their brand. The benefits? Boring, basic-ass, and culturally appropriative gear (2 mystery items for the cheapest package) and a chance to earn commission. Hell no. I was not surprised to find similar complaints on their Facebook page.

Who wants to pay for the pleasure of doing someone else's work for them to promote their brand? YOUR MARKETING IS BAD AND YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD.

A photo posted by EW In The BW (@ewellard) on

#ENELL #Moosejaw #BondiBand #DreamingElegance

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pre-Race Jitters

So I have my first Olympic triathlon this Sunday. I'll be swimming a mile, biking 24 miles, and running 10k. I've been out of the pool for a couple weeks because I tweaked my shoulder, and I haven't gotten any open water practice this season aside from a few minutes in Galveston because everything around DFW is flooded and closed. If Anxiety Brain would STFU for, like, 10 seconds, I'd be fine. But Logic Brain can't get a word in edgewise about this stupid triathlon, so I'm mostly just freaking out.

Hey, Moniqa, the course is well supported, and the kayak to athlete ratio will have greatly increased by the time you get tired, so you're really not gonna drown.

Hey, Moniqa, the only cutoff is 90 minutes for the swim, and there's pretty much no way it will take you that long.

Hey, Moniqa, you're really fucking stubborn and tough no matter if you're slow as hell. Remember that time you slugged it out through a 15-mile Spartan course over 7 hours when you were dead-certain going in that you'd drop out by mile 9? Well, you only have to jog, walk, or crawl 10k on this course.

Hey, Moniqa, remember that time you finished a 5-mile Spartan when your ITBS flared up after the first mile and any sane or reasonable person would have asked for a medic and sat her ass down?

Hey, Moniqa, remember that time you finished a half marathon (13,1 miles) in tears because the ITBS flared in the last 3k and the finish line was UP a motherfreaking hill?

Hey, Moniqa, remember that, like, 95°F triathlon you did on Labor Day last year without a proper bike fitting and outright cried through most of the 15-mile course and had to call your mom for help getting back to your car? You finished that god-forsaken race, too.

Chill the fuck out, yo. The weather's gonna be WAY cooler than it should be for late May. Your knees have been quiet all season and you've logged plenty of miles on the bike and run even if it's not as many as you'd planned on. Your shoulders are tweaked but not actually injured. The cold-ass water will help, and it's okay to be miserable and uncomfortable, because you won't be hurt.

 You already picked up your packet, so you already got a really cool shirt and socks and bag!

And you have a brand new, BOSS BAWG kit to wear. It makes you look super sexy AND strong.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

New Ambassador

In instances where people have seen my name but not heard it yet, I often introduce myself:

"Hi, I'm Moniqa . . ." [looks of confusion] ". . . with a Q."

So that helps explain why my promotional discount code is WITHAQ.

I'm a new Bondi Band brand ambassador (dare ya to say that one 5 times fast), and although I'm waiting on my Bondi Brand headbands and compression socks to arrive in the mail, you don't have to wait to take advantage of my 10% discount!

Shop at bondiband.com and let me know what you think!

Dunno about you, but I am one sweaty lady and have high hopes going into Texas summer training.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Doggone Gone and Done It

In the words of Shania, well, I doggone gone and done it.

Last night I set out for a bike ride on a new-to-me trail, intending only to ride 7 miles out and 7 back. But when I got to the lake at the end of the “out,” I was feeling good, the weather was cooler than expected, and I had plenty of daylight left. So I thought, “Why not do a loop around the lake before heading back?” I ended up riding 25 miles instead of 14 and “racing” to reach my car before dark.

In truth, I sorely regretted the last 5 miles or so: I was SO tired! But I had no choice except to ride back to my car; I certainly didn’t want to walk back 5 miles. Seriously, I was SO tired and just wanted to rest a bit, but it was getting dark! So I kept pedaling.

And I had my new BAWG kit to test out. BAWG is an acronym for Bad-Ass Warrior Goddess, and I think the sexy kit with Wonder Woman-esque design gave me delusions of strength.

But I did it! I made it back to my car just after dusk fell and drove myself home to sit upon an ice pack and sip a stout beer. I was exhausted and my muscles ached, but I felt that ‘satisfaction of a workout well-done’ languor. And I looked damn good in my new kit.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Speed & Progress

Two years ago I first heard about and signed up for the Bagel Run 10k, hosted by the local Jewish Community Center, which serves a bagel buffet after the run. It was a warm, humid day on a challenging hilly course. Much to my surprise, though, my 1:18:23 finish netted me 3rd place in my age group! It was the first time I ever medaled. That's the neat thing about small local races.

Last year, the event was canceled due to tornadoes in the area.

This year, I brought my mom to cheer me from the sidelines, and I finished 5 minutes faster than at the 2014 event. And I had a 6-minute negative split from the first lap of the 5k course to the second: 39:36 and 33:47!
AND this 1:13:24 was much faster than my recent training, during which I had been logging 1:03-1:04 5 milers and a 1:21:40 on a flat 10k April 10!

But I came in 3rd to last out of everyone. Small local races are funny that way.

Now I’m thinking about signing up for The Hottest Half since it takes place on my birthday and has a cool medal with my birthday on it, and I’ll be turning 30, which is special. But running in August in Texas is THE WORST. But it will motivate me to train through summer and prepare for the Plano Balloon Festival Half happening 6 weeks later.

There will be no way to keep cool at that event, so I need to try to get fast if I’m going to get through it. I already knew I needed to work on getting fast for the December marathon, because I cannot stomach the thought of spending more than 5 hours on the course. So maybe registering for my birthday will give me the necessary push to focus on speed work. Or maybe I’ll get heat stroke and have a terrible birthday.

Lots of stuff for me to think about. What do you think?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Dallas Staycation

Last Thursday night, my best fran from Korea flew into Dallas. We went to The Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson, snuggled and smushed our faces in soft tiny kittens provided by Operation Kindness, sat down to watch Keanu, stuffed our faces, and nearly died of laughter. After that at my place, we watched the misand-marvelous 2009 Wonder Woman movie and snuggled bigger fluffy cats.

Friday morning we went for a long walk around the neighborhood, ate breakfast burritos, and drove down to the Dallas World Aquarium, which we discovered was hosting literally a thousand elementary school students on field trips that day. We enjoyed it all the same, snapped pics with the sloth, acquired alcoholic slushies, made goo-goo baby noises at the tiny monkeys and bats, and admired the majestic flap-flaps.

With a bit of time to kill, we wandered to the Perot Museum’s outdoor exhibits and gift shop before grabbing some tasty Tex-Mex at El Fenix and dipping our toes in the splash park area of the playground at Klyde Warren Park. Then we drove to Spa Castle for a long afternoon of relaxing indulgence, where we later met another friend, slurped some delicious boba smoothies, chatted about bunny rabbits for an hour or two, and grabbed Korean dinner. After the thunderstorms and evening rush hour had passed, we drove home with a fantastic lightning show. 

Saturday morning we trekked to Plano for coffee at an independent coffeehouse that had so few outlets we had to change seats THREE times to finally plug in and do some morning work. Starbucks would have been better.

After that, we drove to Allen for a brewery tour at Nine Bands, wherein we encountered multiple instances of—not exactly astounding but entirely predictable—casual sexism but fired back with our own wit and got buzzed enough to laugh and kvetch about it privately.

Next on the itinerary: TACO FESTIVAL. Not as great as it sounded, to be honest. This event is way too big for its venue, and as tasty as the tacos were, the luchador match was underwhelming, and we had no desire to stay long pressed against the crowds in that warm afternoon sun. So we headed home and had a nap before dressing up to go out.

I’d recently heard about a new hip-hop nightclub on the radio called Truth. We arrived just in time for free admission, waited absurdly long for a drink while two other bartenders stood around doing nothing, and balked at the total printed on the receipt. We danced a bit but didn’t stay long, choosing to drive to Oak Lawn instead.

We walked into Station 4 and headed upstairs to the Rose Room to catch the drag show. The place was PACKED, so we took a seat in an emptier space in back and watched the show on the TVs on the wall. When what to my wondering eyes should appear but FOREST front and center with Cassie. Surprise/not surprise, really. I wound my way through the throngs to say hello and see if he might have reserved any extra seats for the show and then went back for Kaitlin to come sit up front. The stage has new features including an LED screen backdrop and fan, and the performers were fantastic as always. Later we went downstairs and danced for a bit before heading home late.

The 5k we’d signed up for on Sunday was rescheduled due to flooding, so we went to see The Jungle Book instead. It was beautiful, and I teared up more than once. I loveloveLOVED Ben Kingsley and Idris Elba as Bagheera and Shere Khan, respectively. Gosh, I could listen to them talk forever.

We took advantage of the unexpectedly mild weather to visit the Dallas Arboretum. My friend remarked on a girl's dress as we entered, and I explained that lots of families plan their quincaeñera photo shoots here. She sighed wistfully and expressed disappointment at never having had a lovely quincaeñera dress. I joked with her, "But you got white privilege instead, so suck it up, Buttercup. That's the trade-off." We chuckled and sighed at the sad reality of it. The gardens had a lot of new features added since I last visited, and after touring all of the grounds, we laid out blankets in the shade to read books and nap.

We had just enough time for dinner at Babe's Chicken Dinner House, perfectly completing my friend's tour of Southern cuisine, and got our desserts to go. Fortunately, we managed to change and and do our makeup in a mere 20 minutes before rushing back out to catch the train to Fair Park to see Wicked, the grand finale of our weekend. We'd splurged on good seats since this was our first time seeing it, and it was worth every penny. I wasn't familiar with the soundtrack except for two songs, so the whole thing was a jaw-dropping delight for me. I was floored by the vocal acrobatics and fell in love with every word from Elphaba's mouth.

We arrived home late but weren't ready for the night to end, so I introduced my friend to the delightful Netflix series Glitter Force, a "glitter-tastic!" over-the-top, straight-faced satire of every five-girl transforming-warrior anime there ever was, best consumed with alcohol. And then we called it a night and got nearly enough sleep to get up to go to the airport and (for me) then work on Monday.

Playing tour guide for someone new to the city can be such a blast when you save up for it and go all-in.