Treadmill Intervals and Progression Runs with Zwift!

Disclaimer: I received a Zwift RunPod (to assist me in my review of Zwift Run) 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!

I tested the Zwift platform back in December of last year. I declared it was the greatest thing to happen to treadmills, and I still stand by that statement.

This time I have jumped deeper into the Zwift virtual world and have come away with even more appreciation for this form of training. In fact, I am considering buying a treadmill just so I have easy access to Zwift at home.

When testing last year, we had arranged some vitual 5Ks together, and that was fun, but it was only when we started running intervals and progression runs this time around, did I fully realize how effective this training platform could be.

We have been taking part in weekly training sessions on Zwift, called “Turn It Up Tuesdays” (Tuesdays at 7am EST), and these have been amazing.

Instead of just a steady treadmill run, these are interval runs (short intervals were you run faster, sandwiched by recovery periods) or progression runs (starting off slow and ending fast).

Within the virtual world, your route has “check-points” that you run through to complete each part of the training. It will then instruct you what speed to change your treadmill to for the next section. It could not be more straight-forward.

The last Turn It Up Tuesday workout we did was called “6×800 Hill Repeats”. I didn’t think anything of it until the first interval started and I was prompted to adjust treadmill to 2% incline, then 3%, then 4%, and so on.

I saw where this was going and was hoping the gym treadmill would not incline more than 5%. Unfortunately it did, and the final interval was at 7%. It nearly killed me.

I always have that “WHAT a great work-out” feeling after we’ve finished and I’m totally energized and ready for work! I’ve never really had the motivation to work that hard on a treadmill before. It feels more like an interval work-out that I’d have outdoors.

Zwift (@gozwiftrun) really is an effective training platform. I have no doubt about that.

Instead of struggling to view my iPhone screen, I’m using an iPad this time. The bigger screen definitely improves the experience. If I ever get a treadmill at home I plan to run Zwift on an Apple TV and put it up on a big screen in front of me.

The treadmill speed at the gym seemed to align very well with the speeds reported by the Zwift RunPod ($29.99 on the Zwift store) attached to my shoe. So much so, it made sense to use Zwift exclusively to update Garmin and Strava and not use my watch at all (you can connect apps to sync with using the Zwift Companion app).

This approach uploads a map of the virtual area in which you ran. I was able to fool many of my friends into believing I was in New York, running in Central Park. You can check out how the run looks on my Strava profile by clicking the map below.

Click on map to see run on Strava.

Zwift will not control your treadmill. Instead, directions appear on the screen, “Increase treadmill speed to 6.2mph”, “Increase incline to 5%”, etc. You have plenty of time to make the adjustments for each part of the workout.

Free To Run

Zwift is still free for runners, so the RunPod (or some alternative footpod) will be your only cost — provided you have access to a treadmill already. If you have a bluetooth enabled treadmill, you may not need a footpod at all.

It does appear at some stage Zwift will introduce a subscription service for running, similar to the model used for cycling. There is no pricing or time-frame information at the moment that I can find.

Zwift Apps

There are two apps (both available on iOS and Android) that you need to run on Zwift. One is “Zwift Companion”, and the other is “Zwift”. Search for the on your app store of choice. They are free to download.

The companion app is for account/device management and also for signing up to available events — like “Turn It Up Tuesdays!”. You can also give “Ride On”‘s to other Zwifters (the platform’s phrase for passing on encouragement).

The Zwift app is the actual “game” itself. It pairs with Zwift companion when apps share the same network/wifi connection.

Wouldn’t it be cool if…

While there are ample options for customizing your avatar, I wish there were more options to make you more unique and easily identifiable to your friends online.

Or what about allowing users to take their photo and super-impose it on the avatar’s face — see first photo above. 😉

Instead of “Ride On” — something more specific for runners would be very cool.

I was trying to follow along with someone and they took a different path and I lost them. So what about a way of indicating which direction someone else is going so you can follow!

What would you add here?

I think the Zwift (@gozwiftrun) platform is amazing, but wouldn’t it be cool if <insert your idea here>!

2019 Bull City Race Fest, AKA Bull City Rain Fest

If I got washed away in a flash flood, my dets were on my Road-ID.

I think I’m just about dried out now from running Bull City Race Fest back on October 20th, 2019.

This was easily the wettest race I have ever participated in. The rain was coming so hard at the beginning of the race, that the road at the start line was a literal river, soaking everyone’s socks and shoes.

I’d ran Bull City Race Fest a couple of times before and have always had fantastic weather. Not this time.

Waiting in my poncho for the race to start

There was a poncho in our race packs, which I picked up the day before. This was very thoughtful, thank you! I did wear it while we waited for the race to start, and then threw it away when it was time to run.

I hadn’t run 13 miles since running a marathon back in March. The most I’d ran was 11 miles a couple of weeks prior to the race. So there was a little apprehension as to how I would perform.

Would I be able to run the distance? Would my injury come back? Could I finish it within 2 hours? Why did I not stay in bed? All these questions were running through my head.

You can see from the photo above, I did not manage to finish in under 2 hours. In fact, I was 15 mins slower than the previous year’s race, and 20 minutes slower than my half marathon PR.

In saying that, I was still OK(ish) with the 2:10 finish, and feel that without RunCanvas’ help, it would have been a lot worse. Janell’s coaching prepared me well for this race and I found it very beneficial.

Happy to have finished!

The rain pretty much washed out the usually great after party as well. All I wanted to do was go home. So I grabbed my beer and off home I went.

The rain was not the only disappointing part of this event. I did not like changes to the course this year. There were several turnarounds added deep within a Durham neighborhood. It felt like I was on a training run trying to fit in a couple of extra miles while staying close to my house.

I used to love this race because the route was mainly through the city streets, and it kind of lost that feel this year. I can’t see myself signing up to run it next year, which is a pity. Time to try some other races.

Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “practice makes perfect”. Well I’ve found that this is not entirely true, especially if you’re doing it wrong to begin with.

But it’s just running, right? Put one leg in front of the other and keep going. You’ll get better and faster very soon, you’ll often hear.

Nope. The reality is, you’ll see improvement for sure, but after a while you’ll most likely plateau after, or end up injured like me.

Where I Went Wrong

There I was, an amateur runner, training for a marathon with a plan I found on the internet. It seemed to work well initially, but my body started to show signs of fatigue. I stared to skip sessions to recover but then pushed myself on the weekend long runs.

I believe this was my downfall. I did not have enough miles in my legs to be running the scheduled weekend distances. Seven weeks before the marathon my peroneal tendon really inflamed to the point I could not comfortably run over 4 miles.

To make it worse, no-one was able to convince me to hold back, readjust the plan or delay my marathon attempt. Heck, I’d put in all this work already, I was going to run it anyway.

If only I had used a coach to guide me through my first marathon. Someone who could provide a range of strength and core exercises to support my running. Someone who could adjust my plan based on my feedback (good and bad).

Coach Janell

It was a few weeks after the marathon that Janell from RunCanvas Coaching reached out to me. Janell is a VDOTO2 certified coach (and also a fellow BibRave Pro), and offers coaching plans via the VDOT platform.

At the time, I had still some penance to endure in the boot, but I was convinced that this was the perfect opportunity to get me back on my feet. In exchange for some online publicity, Janell offered to coach me for an upcoming race. We decided to focus on a half marathon that I’m running on October 20th (Bull City Race Fest).

I filled out Janell’s questionnaire and was sure to provide all the details of my injury, expected recovery and what races I had in my calendar. Janell crafted the first couple of weeks of my training schedule, with full consideration of the injury included.

Avoiding Injury

My biggest fear was pushing myself too hard and ending back in the boot, and to be honest, initially the plan felt like it was pushing me above my comfort levels. I just had to trust my new coach and run with the plan.

It’s safe to say that Janell knew what she was doing. With nearly two months of training complete, I can say my injury is healing very nicely. It’s not 100% yet, and I’m not back where I was fitness or speed-wise, but I still have 6-7 weeks before the race.

Strength Training

Aside from the running aspect of the training plan, I love how Janell incorporates strength training, with exercises specifically aimed at strengthening my peroneal tendon. You don’t get that level of detail in a standard plan you download from the internet!

Flexibility

Janell was also a very flexible with my many “life happens” moments. She was able to rearrange my training schedule as needed, to work around those unforeseen events that can get in the way of training.

RunCanvas Coaching

I’m in no way a pro runner — not even close — but I want to get better at it. I used to think this could be achieved on my own, by simply running more and more. After this experience, I am now a firm believer in getting some help from a certified coach. I’ve seen it drastically improve the running abilities of friends, and as I’ve mentioned above, it has helped me get back on my feet with renewed confidence.

So without reservation, I have been recommending Janell from RunCanvas to all my running club friends. If you are looking for coach, look no further — speak to Janell today.

Sawyer Stay-Put 30 SPF Sunscreen Review

Disclaimer: I received Sawyer Stay-Put 30 SPF Sunscreen 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!

My Sawyer package arrived just days before we were due to leave on vacation — perfect timing! We had a full week of activities planned in the blazing hot sun and this sunscreen was going to prove very useful.

One of the first things we noticed about this sunscreen, is how quickly it absorbs into the skin. While other sunscreens can feel like a greasy layer on your skin, it was easy to forget I had applied sunscreen at all.

As a follicle-challenged runner, I would usually wear a hat instead of applying sunscreen to my head and face. This is because my sweat would wash the sunscreen down and sting my eyes.

With Sawyer Stay-Put sunscreen, I was able to apply it and go out in confidence. The sunscreen did not wash down into my eyes once.

While most sunscreens hold the lotions in the top two layers of skin, Sawyer’s Stay-Put Sunscreen also “bonds” the sun ray absorbing agents deeper into the skin.

This deeper absorption is also better for athletic activities. Older sunscreen formulas, designed to work on the top levels of your skin, can actually restrict your body from sweating, reducing it’s ability to cool itself.

The newer sunscreen formulations, like Sawyer Products, work below the skin and allow the skin to breathe and sweat much more efficiently, thereby leaving you with more energy to perform your athletic activity.

Aside from running, swimming, snorkeling and beach days, we drove up to the top of a volcano crater to watch the sunset. The summit was well above the clouds at 10,000 ft.

While it was much colder (thankfully I had my BibRave hoodie), surprisingly the sun can be much stronger at altitude — so it was still very important to be protected.

After a week in the sun, I still have plenty of lotion left in the 8 FL OZ bottle. It goes to show, a little goes a long way! With a shelf life of 5+ years, I don’t have to worry about the lotion expiring before I use it next.

You can find out more about Sawyer products on their website, or order some sunscreen for yourself from their Amazon storefront.

To see how other BibRave Pros are liking Sawyer Stay-Put, check out our photos on Instagram.

Shady Rays Signature Series Review

Disclaimer: I received a pair of Shady Rays Signature Series sunglasses 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!

Why spend $$$’s on sunglasses when you can get a quality product for much less? And when you use code BIBRAVE you’ll get 50% off when you buy two pairs.

When I received my Shady Rays in the mail, I immediately ordered two additional pairs for my sons. Since one of the boys has already lost his sunglasses before, the lost or broken policy adds a lot of reassurance to my purchase.

Yes, you read that correctly. Shady Rays promise to replace lost or broken shades — all you pay for is shipping & handling.

Shady Rays have many different style collections to choose from, with prices as low as $35. I am wearing Blackout Polarized Incognito from the Signature Series ($45). The polarized lenses have 100% UV protection and are shatter-resistant and salt water proof.

I’ve destroyed a few pairs of sunglasses in my time, not with the salt water that comes from the ocean, but the salt water that pours from my pores on a long run. There is no evidence of that happening on the Shady Rays. They are as clean and scratch free as the day I got them.

These sunglasses are super durable and comfortable to wear. I’ve been wearing them on all my runs recently. There is no bounce or slippage on the nose at all, and extended wear does not give any issues — in my experience.

If you need prescription lenses, Shady Rays can deliver that as well. Simply select the frames you want and provide your prescription details. I’m a contact lens wearer, so I never need to opt for prescription sunglasses, but when I checked online, you can get frames with the lenses included starting at $88.

One final note — don’t you love a company that gives back? I love that every Shady Rays order provides 10 meals to fight hunger in the U.S. through Feeding America.

Check out some reviews from my BibRave friends:

Don’t forget to save big with code BIBRAVE when placing your order — 50% of an order of 2 pairs!

Science In Sport Isotonic Gels! Review + Giveaway!

Disclaimer: I received SiS isotonic gels 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!

MRC testing some SiS gels on a long run!

I was pretty keen to try SiS gels as I know they are quite popular with my running friends in the UK. I received a very generous supply of SiS gels to test — Double Espresso, Apple, Salted Strawberry, and Lemon & Mint.

First The Science

So what’s all this Isotonic malarkey?! If you’ve taken gels before, you’ll probably know that you’re supposed to consume them with water. Isotonic gels are designed to be consumed without water, minimizing the risk of being bloated that can sometimes occur with over-drinking.

The isotonic formula allows the gel to empty from the stomach quickly as no fluid needs to be drawn into your stomach to dilute the gel, providing fast energy.

The SiS gel consistency is more watery than most other gels, which makes them real easy to consume on the run. The gel packs are also larger than regular gels, so you’ll need a little extra room to carry multiple gels packs on a longer run.

I had no problems carrying my normal supply (1 gel pack for every 5 miles) in my Flipbelt and Amphipod vest.

Now The Flavors

The “Double Espresso” gel has a 150mg boost of caffeine. When I group tested this pack, some of the crew did seem to benefit from the espresso jolt, sprinting to the finish of our long run.

I didn’t think I’d like the strong coffee flavor, actually I thought I’d hate it, but I didn’t! It was surprisingly palatable. However, due to the stronger flavor this gel is more suited pre-run (or post) as the caffeine effects can take up to one hour to kick in.

The yummy Apple flavor was my go-to for most runs, and the only isotonic flavor I was given to test. It had a subtle apple taste and was real easy to consume. This was also a group favorite as well.

Salted Strawberry and Lemon & Mint gels are packed full of extra electrolytes, but since these flavors are not isotonic, it’s recommended you consume some water along with them. If I’m on a long run that requires gels, I’m normally carrying water anyway.

When I shared out some gels with my running group, a couple of them commented on how the Salted Strawberry tasted like Guava Juice. I’ve never had Guava Juice, so I can’t compare!

I do have to say, I love these flavor combinations, they’re so fancy, and they definitely bring something a little different to the usual gel offerings.

As I mentioned above, the consistency of all these flavors is similar. They are not watery to the point they can be poured from the packet, which is great, as that may have caused issues for runners trying to consume them on the run!

Again, science, people.

Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now

Yes, it’s true, Science In Sport want to give away a pack of 6 gels each to 2 of my lovely social media followers. Go to the following post on Instagram, follow me, @alastairvance (if you haven’t already) and follow @scienceinsport. Then in the Instagram comments, tag two of your running buddies who could do with an energy boost. Easy peasey lemon squeezy.

Everyone’s A Winner, Baby, That’s The Truth

Didn’t win the drawing? Well, everyone is a winner here. Using code TRYSIS25 you can save 25% off your order on scienceinsport.com.

And Finally…

Check out other BibRave reviews of Science In Sport Isotonic Gels:

AfterShokz Are Still My Favorite

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

I have reviewed AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones before, and recently when AfterShokz released a range of new colors, I got a second pair in Midnight Blue. I’m glad, because my original slate grey Trekz Air headphones kept disappearing every time my wife went to the gym. 🤣

In the relatively short time since I last reviewed the Trekz Air, I’ve noticed the headphones popularity explode in the various running facebook groups that I frequent. They are definitely becoming something of a runner’s staple.

I’m also noticing that a lot of races that previously banned headphones for safety reasons DO permit bone conduction headphones. This is huge for AfterShokz — their bone conduction technology is the best out there.

It terms of weight, battery life, build quality, and safety, AfterShokz really deliver. My original pair of Trekz Air are still like brand new. The charge still lasts well over a week’s worth of running and gym visits.

As for comfort, nothing has changed there for me. There’s no bounce, or noticeable movement while running or exercising. So this time I did some more in-depth scientific testing. I wanted to ensure it even stayed put on little heads. My wee assistant, Xander, was only too happy to help.

Check out the results below (from my Instagram channel).

The good news is that you can now grab a pair of Trekz Air headphones for less money than before. The Trekz Air headhones are currently $149 from the AfterShokz website.

Alternatively, you can use code BRBUNDLE and get the $50 off the Trekz Air Adventure Bundle at bibrave.aftershokz.com.

The Trekz Air Adventure Bundle