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Monday, September 22, 2014

Gear Review: Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Jersey

We've had what you could call a Polar Vortex kind of summer. July was lovely, but August and September were unseasonably chilly and if weather trends are any indication, October will be below average temperatures. I consider myself to be an all-weather sort of cyclist and appreciate a break from the summer heat. That said, a brisk headwind can take the joy out of any ride.

If you're the same sort of cyclist, dressing for fall rides can be a drag. That's why I'm in love with the Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Jersey - it makes fall rides comfortable.

What Pearl Izumi says about the jersey:
The brushed fabric of the women's ELITE Thermal Jersey feels great against the skin and transfers moisture to the surface so the core stays warm.

•ELITE Thermal Fleece fabric provides superior moisture transfer and warmth
•Three back pockets 
•Reflective elements for low-light visibility 
•Form fit
•Recommended for temperatures between 45˚F and 55˚F
•Retails for $130

I first wore the jersey on a chilly ride in August, about 7C, and then again last week on a sunny yet cool, windy day in Algonquin Park, where the breeze off the Lake of Two Rivers was strong enough to take my breath away.

The fabric features live up to what Pearl Izumi promises: the fleece is so soft, a nice treat when you're dressing for a ride that you know won't be comfortable. Because I tend to heat up quickly, I was worried that I'd be too warm after twenty minutes in the saddle. But again, the fabric in the Elite Thermal jersey wicked away sweat and kept my core at just the right temperature.

The rear pockets are roomy enough for snacks, a phone, ID and keys. The jersey is form fitting, so move up a size if you prefer a roomier fit. I'm about 160lbs and the medium size is snug - but I don't like the feeling of a jersey flapping in the wind when I ride. The medium is just right for me.

Fall is a fabulous time of year to ride, so don't let the cooler temperatures deter you. Add the Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Jersey to your kit and extend your cycling season.

Disclaimer: Pearl Izumi provided me a Elite Thermal Jersey, but all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Connecting with your food

Last weekend I had the opportunity to join an amazing group of farmers in Manitoba - honey, canola, wheat, beef, berry and bison - as part of the Manitoba Canola Growers Be Well Camp. I am still unpacking and mentally processing from the weekend and I promise a longer post soon, but in the meantime, here is one of my favourite shots from the weekend: the majestic Silver Creek Farm bison. Amazing.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Lessons learned from a self-supported century ride

In getting ready for the Kawartha Lakes Classic, I've been logging a lot of weekend miles on the bike. I wanted to be better prepared for this century than the first time I rode it, where I came in dead last and my longest ride before had been 70K. I'd managed to finish a few 60-80K rides and two 50K back to back rides, far short of what I felt was adequate prep for a 160K ride.

*cue music from the world's smallest violin*

Two weeks ago the weather was perfect for a day in the saddle: light breeze, clear skies, quiet roads. I took advantage of the conditions and rode my first ever self supported (metric) century. Here's what I learned:

1. Don't skip the sunscreen. This was my biggest mistake and I ended up with a horrible sunburn. It was an avoidable rookie error.

2. Bring money. Lots of it. I knew that my route along County Road 507 would take me to the small town of Gooderham, where I could buy fruit and water. What I hadn't expected were prices about 30% higher than my local store. Good thing I packed my debit cars because I didn't have the cash to cover the water, chocolate milk, banana and Gatorade ($8 for those items if you're wondering).

3. Embrace the walk of shame. At one point my legs were trashed - the 507 is a hilly road - and I found myself at the bottom of a hill that I could either a) rode up so slowly I bet I'd end up going backwards or b) unclip and hang my head while I walked my bike up it. Guess which one I did.

4. Trust your legs. I've only ridden over 100K twice before, and mentally, the number is daunting. But you know what? It's achievable for anyone with a basic level of fitness who can ride and eat simultaneously. I have the unique gift of being good at both. I am not the fastest rider in the world, but I am stubborn and I know I have bad ass legs. 

As for the KCC, I dropped to the 100K on ride day, but having ridden 100K just days before, I was OK with that. Because any day I get to ride my bike is a great day.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Review and Giveway: AMRAP Bars

My criteria for on-the-go protein bars is little different than what I guess most people's would be. Because the market is flooded with all manner of convenient energy bars (a lot relying on empty carbs or synthetic fillers with hard to pronounce names), the first question I ask myself is "would I feed this to my kids?" If the answer is no, then the product gets left on the shelf. Because as an endurance athlete and mom, I want to not only model healthy exercise habits, but healthy eating habits as well.

This is where I can see AMRAP Bars fitting into my life: they contain only a handful of real food ingredients that I can pronounce.

What is AMRAP Nutrition?
US-based AMRAP Nutrition is the brainchild of a group of enthusiastic cross fitters, triathletes, adventurers, runners and Paleo enthusiasts. Even the company name AMRAP has ties to CrossFit (As Many Rounds As Possible in case you were wondering). The AMRAP Bar is the flagship product, available in 3 flavours: Fig & Cacao, Almond & Honey, Cashew & Vanilla. The bars are 100% Paleo and gluten-free. Learn more about AMRAP Nutrition here.

What AMRAP says about the bars:
For you to maximize an active and challenging lifestyle your body needs proper fuel. You (and your family) deserve the best and for numerous reasons your AMRAP Bars are best in class. Cleverly designed to deliver the richest nutrition without sacrificing flavor there are countless reasons why these bars are in the laptop and gym bags of many top achievers. See the nutritional information for Fig & Cacao, Almond and Honey and Cashew & Vanilla.

AMRAP in real life:
I was provided one each of the three different flavours of AMRAP Bars for review. I really put them to the test, first with a taste test with my kids and then as part of my nutrition during a self-supported 100K bike ride. While you might turn up your nose at including a child's opinion in a review of a product made for athletes, no reviewer will be more honest than picky 4 and 7 year olds.

Taste and texture:
Of the three flavours, we all liked the Cashew & Vanilla the best. The bar tasted very fresh with a definite buttery cashew flavour. I think I appreciated this flavour the most because it's unlike any other bar on the market (cocoa and almond are commonplace). While the other two AMRAP Bar flavours were good, they couldn't compare to the Cashew & Vanilla. Texture-wise, they're comparable to a Lara Bar, but not nearly as oily. They're also less sweet than Lara Bars (which stands to reason as most Lara Bars are date-based).

As part of an endurance cycling nutrition strategy:
My biggest problem with long distance cycling is finding something that isn't too sweet and or too dry (I use a lot of gels on long rides and too much sweet stuff makes me nauseous). I often pack a banana or two in my jersey pockets, but need a quick portable food with staying power. AMRAP Bars did the trick. I took half a bar of each on my ride, biting off small pieces in between gels. The only bar that I wouldn't take on a ride again is the Fig & Cacao - it was just too sticky after being in my jersey. The other bars held up well. I had a awesome ride - no bonking or GI distress - and AMRAP Bars played an important role in that.

Your chance to include AMRAP Bars in your adventures
I want you to be able to ride and run longer so I'm giving away 1 variety pack of AMRAP Bars (12 bars, 4 of each flavour, $48 value). Giveaway opens September 4, 2014 and closes September 10, 2014. Open to Canadian and US Citizens. To enter, complete the follow super-duper easy entry methods:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

I will announce the winner on the blog on September 10, 2014. Check back and good luck!

Disclaimer: I was provided product samples free of charge by AMRAP Nutrition, as part of my affiliation with Sweat Pink and Fit Approach. I received no further financial or product compensation. All view are my own.

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