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(Wo)Man’s Best Training Partner

** Warning: Many cute puppy pics ahead **

We all love our four legged family members and in our minds they would all run beside us like Balto during the Iditarod. However, this is not the reality for many dogs out there. In addition to being a triathlete off the clock, on the clock I am a licensed veterinary nurse (LVT).  Specifically I specialize in horse medicine!! But when a certain ball of brown and black fur named Denali came into my life one Christmas I had to knock the dust off my small animal medicine.

When we got Denali (named after the breathtaking mountain in Alaska) I knew right away that we were going to have another adventure buddy in our pack to run, hike, swim, and explore with. This will be the first installment in a few  doggie related training posts to help you train with your pet the right way. Canine fitness has many facets to it and things to consider so keep reading to learn how to turn your fur-baby into your best training partner!

Is my dog a suitable fitness partner?

In many cases this may be an easy question to answer. Pomeranian? No. Belgian Malinois? Yes. Toy Poodle? No. Golden Retriever? Yes. For many breeds however the answer is more grey: Terriers? Newfoundlands? Great Danes? A good place to start to answer this question is to find out what ‘Group’ your dog’s breed (or predominant breeds) fall into. You can do this by checking out the American Kennel Club’s website.

Dogs that fall into the working, herding, and sporting groups are going to be your athletic dogs. Your dogs who like to run, and are good at it, like to swim, and are smart enough to handle by a bike.  Then you have groups that are a little more unclear and take some deciphering. The non-sporting group has breeds that would love to go out and run with you such as the Dalmation or the Shiba Inu. It also has breeds that will sit on the side walk and stare at you like you’ve grown a second head such as the Bichon Frise or Bulldog.

Next you have anatomy to take into consideration. Dogs that have are heavier built like Mastiffs, Bulldogs, and Shar-Peis shouldn’t be taken out on longer runs. Brachycephalic breeds (the smushed face dogs!) should not be run at all as the stress on their respiratory system could damage their air ways or lungs. These breeds can not take in as much oxygen as their longer muzzled counterparts. Those things said, just because your dog may be small like a Jack Russel or a Beagle doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from a mile at the beginning or end of your workout. 

How much volume can my dog do? How far can we go?

Doggie fitness is very similar to human fitness. You can’t take a dog from couch to 5k without a slow increase in volume. Step 1 is to take your dog to the vet and have a physical exam done to make sure there are no underlying health issues before you begin. Just like with people, if your dog is not very active or is overweight you will want to start slowly and pay attention to your dogs body language. Your dog’s annual exam is a good time to bring this up with your veterinarian to see if running with your dog is something they advise.

To start you’ll want to keep your dog at a pace that is comfortable for them, for Denali (at 2 years old) this is around an 8:30 – 9 min/mile. At this pace she trots comfortably next to me, is not breathing too hard, and her tongue is moist and still in her mouth. This pace will vary depending on you and your dog but if you follow those guide lines whatever pace you hit where your dog seems comfortable will work. All I am saying is if your comfortable pace is a 7:00 min mile there is a good chance you will need to slow it down considerably for your pooch.

When Can My Dog Start Running With Me?

Typically as puppies a dog’s bones are not completely done growing until they are around 2 years old. This will vary by breed to breed but between 1-2 years is the commonly accepted answer. You want to be careful starting running with your puppy as you can cause permanent harm. Damaging the growth plates can also lead to arthritis and joint disease as they age. For smaller breeds you could start a mile or two as early as 8 months at a slow pace. Larger breeds you’ll want to wait as they are slower to mature and develop. I think I started trail running with Denali around 11-12 months old. Always consult with your veterinarian as your puppy grows and goes in for check ups. They will best be able to advise you on when the time is right!

Environmental considerations

Working out outside with your dog can be a fun way for you both to get some time in nature and explore new trails and parks together. 

Winter

When it comes to the cold whether you’ll want to use your judgment and what you know of your dog. Clearly, Tri Dog Denali and I love some cold weather running. If the temperature is above 30 F I will take her out. But, my feeling is if its in the 20s F no one should be out! Keep in mind that if the air hurts my lungs/face it is also probably uncomfortable for her. Be sure to also keep an eye out for ice patches along the road. Remember that the salt used to de-ice the roads can burn their pads. Make sure to clean their paws well when you get back inside. So, in the winter we keep it short, keep it fun, and always make snow angles at the end.

Summer

In the summer months you want to be cognizant of the time of day and sun strength. Especially if you have a girl who never leaves home without her black fur coat like mine! Generally if the temperatures get in the upper 70’s and low 80’s you’ll want to keep the runs significantly shorter. Around 15-20 minutes is all I would take Denali for when we were on Guam. I paid extra attention to how she was feeling and if she was lagging and trying to walk – we would walk. Remember dogs can’t sweat like we do, most of their thermoregulation is done through panting.  Dogs that are excessively panting where their tongues are bright pink and hanging out of their mouths are in the first stage of heat stroke. Click here for more on heat stroke. Also consider the how hot the side walk gets in the summer. You hear every summer about dogs getting their paws burned. If possible do your runs in the early morning or after the sun goes down. I also try to take Denali on more trail and park runs when the sidewalks are super hot.

What workouts can my dog do with me?

Most dogs will love both swimming and running with you. It is the biking portion is where you may have challenges navigating with your dog. Biking with your dog can be very dangerous for both you, the dog, and other people around. I will write future posts on how to safely swim, bike, and run with your canine. Stay Tuned!

Your Dog As Motivator

The most important way your dog can be your best training buddy is by always being psyched to get out there with you. Whether 6am or 9pm Denali is always up for a run with me. Having her and knowing she needs exercise too motivates me out the door. First I think, well I will just do a mile or mile 1/2 with her. Then before I know it we’ve done 4 or 5 miles and are ready to lounge! More often than not, I use Denali as my warm up or cool down for a longer run. This way it isn’t too taxing on her but she still gets exercise. I, in return, get some quality time with my friend and get to relax the pace a bit.

Many a time I didn’t want to do my run or go do a swim but having her got me started. Unfortunately, Denali’s high prey drive (for the wheel spokes… and woodland creatures) makes it impossible for us to bike together. When on Guam we would swim in the ocean together sometimes. But, Denali always felt I was drowning and needed saving which made the swims unproductive. I’m not sure if that’s a comment on my form?? Stay tuned for more articles from this vet nurse on training with your dog!

How to be a champion: Guam Edition

Guam National Triathlon Championship 2017

The capstone event of the Guam Triathlon Federation calendar is the annual National Championship race. This race happens mid-July each year and is nothing short of island extreme. This Olympic distance race features a 1500 meter ocean swim, just under 25 miles bike ride, and a 10k run (6.2 miles). It is a great prep race for athletes who are competing in off island races and draws athletes from Japan & Korea too! However, being able to withstand the heat and hills is not the only requirement to becoming the “champion”. To be crowned the Guam National Championship you need to meet some requirements…

According to the Guam National Olympic Committee you must hold a US Passport and have lived in Guam for 5 years. Being born in Guam qualifies you as well. Even if you don’t qualify to be the “champion” there are still Age Group awards three deep. Yet, before we get to the awards we need to survive the race.

Getting warmed up \ 6am

Starting Strong on the Swim

The race starts at 7am sharp in the beautiful Coco’s Lagoon waters.  The swim is the best part of the whole race so be sure to take it all in and enjoy it while you can. You can’t beat the warm clear water that Guam offers. Transition and the swim take place at the same location as the Coco’s Crossing so if you swam that OWS race you’re golden. There is really no current to worry about as you swim the triangle course. You start as deep in the water as you choose depending on how you seed yourself on the ramp. Your biggest concern is the jelly fish potential – I was lucky to not have any in the water when I raced in 2017. The atmosphere in the starting chute is electric with all the spectators lining the ramp.

Exiting the swim feeling strong

Champion Made on the Bike

The bike course is glorious for Guam. Honestly, you couldn’t ask for a better (i.e. flatter & shaded) course on the island. Considering how hilly the southern part of the island is and how trafficked the northern part is, this bike course is perfect. From Merizo pier you head out south along the 4 snaking towards Inarajan before turning back to complete loop one. You ride this course twice before heading back to transition. Keep a close eye out for boonie dogs (feral dogs), chickens, and children running out on the course. If you can dodge all of these, hold >20 mph, and maintain your hydration as the day heats up… you’re on your way to National Champ!

Champion Earned on the Run

This run course makes or breaks your race… or at least it broke mine. It is a 2 loop 3.1 mile course where the turn around point is at the top of a steep climb known as the “Pray For Jesus” hill. You’ll start out feeling fine, nice and flat, getting sprayed by the mister manned by our awesome US Navy divers. After about 10 minutes you will approach a steep hill where you’ll climb an 86 ft gain to the turn around point where you can load up on cold sponges before heading down the hill. It was the rare person that even attempted to continue up it at a run. As the hour approached 10 am the heat and humidity became unbearable.

Don’t be fooled by this smile, I was suffering!

By the time you’ve run the loop twice you’ve ran nearly 180 ft of elevation gain… almost all of it hitting that hill twice! I had to talk myself out of checking myself into the med tent versus having to hit that hill again! Most people walked up and down the hill – there was no shame on that course. It was tough! Beautiful but tough! To earn the title of National Champion your hill run game has to be unshakable.

While I consider this one of the worst Olympic’s I’ve ever raced, I am so proud I didn’t quit. I wasn’t happy with my times. That said, I was still thrilled to earn 2nd place in my AG with a time of 03:01:00. This race is such a great community event with people from all levels racing together and embracing the challenge. For me this day and this race is about friendship. There were so many people out there that I enjoy training with, racing against, and hanging out with. I even convinced one of my friends who’d never “tri-ed” before to do his first race… and he came in 2nd place overall male! If you’re interested in chasing the champion title click here!

Hotel Review: Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa

Hotel Review: Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa

This trip was preplanned with friends and it fell directly between IM Taiwan 70.3 and the United Guam Marathon. So for me, it was only important that I found time to get some milage in on this holiday. Keeping my legs fresh and in shape was the only real goal. I had illusions of running outside in the Vietnamese country side but while researching the trip it became clear that wasn’t an option. So started my research into the Victoria Sapa Resort & Spa…

If you haven’t been to Vietnam the streets there are chaos with motorbikes and cars going in every direction. There are sidewalks, however, they are crammed full of parked bicycles, motorbikes, and bar stools for drinking beer and coffee. The mountain town of Sapa was the last stop on our Vietnamese journey. Having already spent a day in Hanoi, 3 days cruising Ha Long Bay, and taken the sleeper train overnight to Sapa we were ready to get checked in and explore the area.

Location

Sapa is located around 236 miles northwest of Hanoi near the Chinese boarder. Originally a French hill station that was established in 1922 for wealthy French colonists to escape the oppressive heat of Hanoi. The air and climate was thought to have health benefits. Sure enough, it was significantly cooler when we got off the train. After arriving at the train station we were picked up by a shuttle which took us up a winding mountainous road to the Victoria Sapa Hotel & Spa.

The Staff

They were wonderful. The check in process was super easy and efficient. We were worried they wouldn’t have a room ready for us since our train got in at 6:30 am. However, we only had a short wait and they were able to get us into our rooms. We had plenty of time to drop our bags and take a quick cruise around town before our afternoon spa appointments. My husband and I quickly found a large pond to run around and stretch our legs after the travel. This region of Vietnam has cool weather usually in the upper 50’s – low 60’s F. It is also usually overcast with some drizzle which is why it is a popular rice growing region. Our first day however we got lucky and there was some lovely sunshine to warm things up. As a side note: there are many groups of gypsies around Sapa waiting to swindle or pit pocket unsuspecting tourists. Keep an eye on your belongings and pockets at all times and only carry what you really need.

The Room

The rooms here were beautiful. Candidly, we didn’t spend much time in the room as we tried to do many day trips, runs, and spa time! Complete with a very comfortable king bed with a small loveseat and coffee table, the room was nice for kicking back at the end of the day before dinner. Very importantly, the room had aircon and heat which helped us keep the room comfortable. I loved our room location for the views! Our balcony looked out over the courtyard and the valley. In the mornings, a beautiful and magical fog was always settled in the valley and brought with it this sense of calm.

Hotel Amentities

The Victoria Sapa is set up as a true resort & spa. The Ta Fin bar is complimented by a few crackling fireplaces that are the perfect place to warm up and relax after a mountain hike. The concierge will organize any day trips you need to the surrounding rice villages or for a hike up Mt. Fansipan. The gym is located in the same side building as the spa. It consists of a small pool – you *could do laps here but it’d be pretty short. The photos on-line make it look more lap capable than it really is, as you’ll read later on. The gym however is well working. It has cardio and free-weight equipment but it is the view that really sets it apart.  The spa is complete with facials, massages, and a Vietnamese herbal bath. Perfect for unwinding after a long chilly hike in the mountains!

The Restaurant

Ta Van, the hotel’s restaurant, offers the full chalet style dining experience from the high vaulted ceilings, to the vintage lighting, to the crackling fireplace. The views of Mount Fansipan don’t disappoint either (if it is visible!). It operates from 6:30 am to 10pm and on Saturday nights offers traditional dancing from 8-9 pm. The breakfast buffet was the best part of the day – everything you could dream of! You could get everything from omelets and pancakes to hot ramen. The warm room, delicious food, and hot drinks were particular highlights.

The Spa

Our group thoroughly enjoyed and used the spa. From head & neck massages, to herbal baths, to facials and full body massages, to a foot massage after a day of hiking in the hills we sampled it all!

Spa & Gym Building

The spa and gym are located just up the hill about a 100m walk. It can be a little tricky to find in the haze but the yellow building is hard to miss. My husband got a head and neck massage the second night we were there around 9pm simply because he could and it was so affordable ($20 for 30 min)! The spa is open for services until 10pm and seemed to have a pretty flexible schedule while we were there. He had nothing but great things to say. Our real half-day spa time we had scheduled for the first afternoon we were there. After arriving at the spa complex we checked in, changed into our robes, and sipped some tea while we got ready to get our zen on.

 

 

First up was our dip in the traditional Vietnamese herbal bath. Girls and boys went to their separate sides to soak together. First off, the water, it’s HOT. They’re not joking. The Red Dao bath is a mix of medicinal herbs and bark from the surrounding mountains. It smells like you’re sitting in a nice cup of tea. The ladies lasted longer in the hot bath than the boys but we reconvened afterwards for some ice water. We once again went out separate ways for the massages. They were amazing, the Vietnamese ladies were truly gifted in finding the creaks and bumps (this athlete has a LOT) and working them out!

The Gym & Pool

I was deceived by the photos online and thought I’d be able to swim some laps in the hotel pool. However its pretty short. Probably, around 10 meters by 10 meters. Definitely comfortable for splashing around but for putting in time for a swim work out not so much. Since I had already done a couple swim workouts in the chilly waters of Ha Long Bay I felt okay skipping out here.

Instead, I put time in on the ol’ dreadmill. Luckily, my view was top notch. The beautiful trees and mountain hills with the rolling mist was like running amongst the clouds. The gym was all glass windows so you could appreciate the vistas from all sides. So, depending on our agenda for the day I would sneak up the hill and run for 3-5 miles on the treadmill just to keep me legs in shape. I considered doing another run in town but between the vespas, cars, and gypsies I just didn’t feel safe out there by myself. The gym is open from 7am to 10pm so there are no excuses for no time!

A particularly foggy morning

General Hotel Information

Price Point: $$

Check In: Upon Arrival (usually around 7 am if you arrive on the 6:30 train)

Check Out: 12:00 pm

Free wifi in room, lobby, common areas, and gym

Business center and concierge services for arranging tours

 

Sprinting it out on Guam

For an island that is only 30 miles long and 8 miles wide, Guam has a thriving triathlon community. Being a tropical paradise lends itself well to year long training as long as you avoid the typhoons! Guam’s triathlon club called Guam Triathlon Federation or GTF offers a number of sprint series throughout the year. Most of these races are no frills, less serious, fun races in the community. However, you shouldn’t leave your A game at home as the competition is no less fierce out there! This offers competitive triathletes an easy opportunity to get in the right headspace and practice their transitions. As well as offering a safe and feasible distance for newbies to try out triathlon.

Sprint When?

Typically, the GTF coordinates with the GCF and the GRC so the races compliment each other. G2G? GCF, or Guam Cycling Federation, and GRC, the Guam Running Club, hold their own events respectively but the three organizations try to space out the big ones. The sprint series are typically held in January/February and June. These series are usually a 2 or 3 race series and include a t-shirt and a medal. The distances are usually the same per race with the swim being around 400 meters, the bike is 6 miles, and the run is usually around 2 miles.

Sprint Where?

GTF does a great job of holding the races in a location that is super safe and secluded making it welcoming for first timers. It is held in Piti across from the Guam Power Authority power plant. The swim is protected from currents and swells. Then both the bike and run take place on a road with minimal traffic that services the ports. It is easy to find and there is plenty of parking along the road and outside of the little park where transition gets set up.

The Swim

The waters on Guam are perfect for swimming and perfect for triathlon. The sprint course is typically set up as a very small triangle. The swimmers will swim straight out for about 150 meters, make a left hand turn for another 100 meters or so, and then swim back to the start for a total of approximately 400 meters. The water on Guam usually sits around 87 F on the surface. There are usually a couple of kayak volunteers floating about on the surface to help nervous swimmers. Plenty of fish are visible below in the clear blue water to ease nerves from below. The GTF also always have a carpet to prevent people from slipping while getting out of the water. All the while, Dave Torre, Guam’s resident Mike Reilly will MC the day and announce people as he catches them coming out of the water.

The Bike

The bike course for the sprints is so awesome. It’s perfectly flat with an insane tailwind going out… and then a strong headwind on the way back. Some days its worse than others but usually it’s perfectly challenging and rewarding. The course is a scenic 2 loop course that is along the port access road. The bike part seems to go by in the blink of an eye. It is not uncommon to see people on a full range of bikes from expensive flashy TT bikes to old rusty bikes with kickstands. Children from ages 10 and up are out there cycling their speed and trying their best.

The Run

Running on Guam around 9 or 10 am is pretty miserable. These sprints usually start promptly at 7am so depending on how long these take you, you’re hitting the run right as the day is heating up. Again, same as the bike portion, the run is very flat and enjoyable. There is always a little aide station at the turn around point with some water and gatorade. It is an out and back (my favorite!) roughly 2 mile course. 

 

All in all, the Guam Triathlon Federation sprints are a super fun race with the local community. There are always a fair number of fans, I mean spouses and spectators, to cheer everyone along. It is a great way to dip your toes into triathlon and meet new people in the community. If you are an existing triathlete this is the perfect way to meet training buddies and other people of your brand of crazy. The sprint turn out is usually around 100 people from ages 10 to … experienced 🙂 If you’re moving to Guam, passing through, or a long time resident first time tri-er check out the GTF facebook page for the next race!

Stomp The Pedal Review #stompthestyle

There’s not a cyclist out there who doesn’t feel giddy when a new kit arrives in the mail! I am no exception to that rule. I was so excited when a new package arrived with some goodies from a new company called Stomp The Pedal. My IG friend Natarsha Tremayne, of @irontarsh and irontarshweekendwarrior.com ,  followed her dream and stepped into the competitive world of cycling apparel. And, she’s killing it.

Stomp The Pedal \ Options

Image courtesy of stompthepedal.co

Right now, STP has four main design options available. The ‘Flor Flor’ is a bright yellow, pink, and blue kit that has some flowery and plant inspiration. The ‘Signature Logo’ is covered in their bike wheel logo (and one of my favorites!) and comes in a couple different bright highly visible colors. In addition to plain black for girls like me who consider black THE only color.  The newest is the Spring/Summer Botanicals collection. This has a beautiful fern & flower print designed by a university student in UK. It comes in two color options – red and a mint/pink. Finally, there is the Gatsby collection which is the one that made me stop in my tracks and buy immediately. ‘Tallulah’ which is a pale pink base with 1920’s inspired geometric print in navy and gold is what I bought. The other two options are the ‘Greta’ which is the inverse of this – navy base with pale pink and gold pattern. Lastly, the ‘Evelyn’ which is pale pink with a gold outline of the geometric pattern. Honestly, they’re all gorgeous and it is hard for me to pick a favorite.

The Gatsby Collection: Tallulah

Stomp The Pedal \ Fabric

I have heard the term buttery soft a few times before but didn’t really get it. Then I felt this kit and the sleeves are buttery soft. The sleeves are so delicate and comfortable I could walk around in it all day. The cut of this kit is super flattering with a slightly longer back and taper in the front. The jersey is primarily made out of bi-elastic polyester and polyester fibre with yarn finess of 50. Candidly this means little to me but what I do know is this jersey is so comfy to ride in.

Stomp The Pedal \ Fun Features

This jersey looks so classy on and one of the reasons it does is its invisible zipper. The camlock concealing zipper means the front of this jersey looks super streamlined.  There are three back pockets for snacks, phones, or small water bottles. One of my favorite features is the small zip pocket on the side for valuables like keys or cash.

  

 

Overall I love this jersey! I was super impressed and this kit definitely exceeded my expectations.  I rode in it through Park City, Utah with my friend Matt and definitely worked up a sweat with the climbs. Never did I feel sweaty or too hot/cold. The breathability and comfort of this jersey meant I felt great both during our ride and during our coffee stop. I can not wait to order more jerseys from Stomp The Pedal and the matching cycling bibs! Stay tuned to find out how the bibs match the top in comfort and design!