Keeping Perspective

My annual Lake Placid triathlon camp is this week, and we are up a few days ahead enjoying the Village and Adirondacks. This year, we rented a boat and went tubing on Lake Placid for Father’s Day. It was a great day, and both my kids and I were able to go tubing for the first time.

I must have been reliving a Mission Impossible moment when I decided to jump off the tube. Somehow I landed at an odd angle and (bruised/slipped/insert damage adjective here) my ribs. Having done something similar on a mountain bike crash in the past, I knew what in store as soon as I stopped skipping across the surface.

The next day I actually went to have them checked out, and already knowing what the doctor would say, there was not much they can do. They suggested a Tylenol and Aleve cocktail, but said it would heal on its own, and I was free to train. Heh.

A quick stop at the pharmacy, a pull of water, and three pills later I was about as close to pain free as it is going to get for a while. I took the rest of that day off, and tried out a few disciplines today with limited success.

The bike actually seems like it will be manageable. Bumps and climbing are painful, and deep breathing in aero is uncomfortable, but overall, I should be ok to ride. Now running, oh running. I did an ‘easy’ 30 minutes to test things out. Yes, this hurt considerably. The bounce of each step felt like a bad cramp, but when I moved my torso in the wrong way it is a wave of pain. Keep in mind, I was only able to muster 13:00/mi pace during this little shakeout.

It is disappointing to hit another snag after just healing up from an ankle fracture (I did get it checked before leaving for camp since it has been swollen over a month now), especially so close to the camp and the race. I have about 30 days before the race itself, and have already had to sit out a month of running. But, like last time, it is important to keep everything in perspective.

First, the benefit of being a Professional Amateur is that my career is not at risk. Second, I am still here in the ADK enjoying the outdoors, and PLAYING instead of working. Yes, it will be very painful to float, spin, and walk, but I will just make sure I have some good playlists to pass the time in the pain box. Lastly, training for an Ironman to me has always been about the journey. Crossing hard things off the list on days when you don’t want to. I think this meets that threshold.

While I may be suffering in my own way, it still beats what 99.9% of everyone else will be doing this week. As much as it may hurt, I will still finish my day with a smile, and get up the next day and do it all over again. No matter what the output looks like, just keep moving forward. Even small steps will eventually get me there.

That is my lesson to learn from this one. The worst day of training beats the best day of doing something you hate. Things don’t always go your way. That is ok. Realistically most of us are not in the running for much beyond a personal effort goal. There is not a big difference between 1200 and 1400 in the overall standings. Yes, we all want our best each time, but that is contextual. Injury, weather, outside stress are all big variables that we can’t always control. We can only hope to play the cards we get and drink the lemonade we make. Just do it with a smile and remember this is all supposed to be fun.

So I Picked Up A Whoop Strap

I have been on a bit of a gadget buying spree lately. Among the things I have picked up is something called a Whoop strap. Odd name for sure, but an interesting little device. Basically, you wear it on your wrist, and it measures your heart rate, the activities you perform, and sleep. From these and a few other indicators the app can determine your recovery, sleep needs, and ability to absorb fitness.

The reason I picked one up was to measure my sleep a bit more effectively. I wanted to know how much rest I was getting, and if I needed more. When you start to load up the hours getting ready for an Ironman, recovery is critical. I had heard some chatter about the Whoop strap from some athletes, and I decided to give it a go.

The actual Whoop strap is free, but you must commit to a subscription period. I went for the shorter plan of 6 months thinking if it works well, I will renew.

After wearing it for almost a month, I have a pretty good idea of its strengths and weaknesses. My original intent was something to track sleep, and this does a great job of that. It determines my wake up very accurately and gives a good breakdown on things such as hear rate variability and breathing rates. The app also isolates the types of sleep you have such as light or deep and how consistent you are with amount and bedtimes. Knowing this and the amount of quality I am getting has encouraged me to get to sleep earlier and at more consistent times. When I started wearing the strap, I was averaging just over 6 hours a night, but now I am getting closer to 8, a big difference.

Manual activity tracking works well, but I find it a little cumbersome because you have to do it through the app on your phone. The strap does autosense activities, but it has missed several sessions I put in. I believe the sensor looks for a period of elevated heart rate, and those are then processed as an activity such as running or cycling. Having the activities tracked is important when you are measuring recovery, so making sure they are in there is important.

The basis of the device is your heart rate. Being able to measure that is probably the most important thing for the product to do. In my side-by-side testing with a Garmin chest strap, I found the Whoop to be off by as much as 20 bpm during a workout. This is significant in my opinion. I also had issues swimming with the device. The heart rate was not read, and the strap seemed to have issues connecting to my phone afterwards. For resting periods though such as while you are sleeping, the heart rate measurements seem more accurate.

The software does a nice job of daily, weekly, and monthly analysis of strain and sleep. It keeps you on track for recovery and may help you to tailor your workouts alongside what your body can absorb. We have to know our limits, but sometimes the signals our body sends are very subtle. I say it a lot, “Everyday can’t be a new record”.  More important though is that although we can build every day, it must be done the right way. Pushing yourself too far can set you back more than the gains you might think you are getting.

Would I recommend the Whoop strap? If you want to track your sleep, yes. There are other options out there, but this does a good job and provides some really nice analytics. If you are looking for something closer to a fitness tracker, I think there are better alternatives. It is important to use the right tool for the right job. This is meant to track strain and recovery not count steps or give you pace splits for a run. If you think your are overtraining, or want to prevent that, you may want to give this a look.

A Trick to Run With Your Dog

I try to do things with the family as often as I can. I also try to get the dog out there so he can exercise too. Recently I took my son and the pooch for a run and figured out a way to keep everyone together.

The trick is simple, put the running leash on my son, and let the dog pull him along. It sounds very obvious, and now it is, but it had never dawned on me before.

Our dog loves to run, and quickly. In fact he will pull me along on a run if I don’t hold him back. My son also loves to run, but he doesn’t hold the same pace that I do when we go out together, although I suspect that is coming to an end sooner than later. By putting them together though, the dog gives my son the extra boost he needs to run at my speed, and everyone can stay together.

On our first go we did about 3 miles in the trails this way. Everyone worked just hard enough and I enjoyed the company. So from now on, when we want to go out together that’s how we do it.

I Ran A Blue Jean Mile

Racing is important to me. Not racing for the last year has left a big void in my days. A normal year I will be racing almost every weekend with some big events like an Ironman sprinkled in here and there.

With that said, when ‘virtual racing’ became a thing, I was very uninterested. I think the idea was there, and it helped some charities, but it wasn’t the same. It isn’t racing unless you are going head to head live with someone. This is why I don’t mind the Zwift racing. Although they are online, they are live, and you are head to head.

So when a local running shop posted a Blue Jean mile race on social media I was all over it. Live racing – sign me up. For those uninitiated, the Blue Jean mile is pretty much what it sounds like. A mile in jeans, but to raise awareness for mental health.

I showed up to the event 45 minutes early in my only pair of dad jeans and a loud Hawaiian shirt, oh and my Vaporflies. I mean what else do you race a mile in?

I elected to skip the warm up because it felt strange to run in jeans more than I had to. I did a few leg swings and lunges and called it good e’nuf. As we slowly came to the starting line, that feeling and excitement of racing came back. Finally!

The race started and I went out hard. It’s a mile so it will be hard the whole time, but I wanted to see if there was anyone who wanted to challenge the champ. Nobody went with me, but I did see some racing flats and Next %’s in the crowd so I couldn’t relax. This mile was on the road, and I knew there was a hill from .25 – .75 and the plan was to attack that and just coast the downhill to the finish. I figured that if I was close to anyone when we hit the final stretch I would open it up and have faith my kick would hold them off.

The pollen was very heavy that day, and as I rounded the turn to start the climb, it was becoming difficult to breathe. I couldn’t let up though and as I glanced down at my watch I was holding about 5:30 pace. Not a world record, but respectable in jeans without a warmup. As I crested the hill and took the left towards the final stretch I took a peek back and saw second place was far enough back that I had the win as long as I didn’t wipe out.

I cruised the final quarter, took a few more looks back to be sure I wasn’t at risk of being caught, and crossed the finish line just under 6:00 minutes. First live in-person race in months and it felt great. Undefeated for the year, haha.

Post race I had quite a cough due to the dry air and pollen. A few bottles of water solved that and I was back to normal pretty quick. Chaffing wasn’t too bad, but I won’t be running down the road in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt again any time soon. It is a fun event, for a good cause, and worth trying at least once, especially if it get’s you back to racing.

Another Setback Or Is It?

With Ironman Lake Placid officially on, training has ramped up, and I am putting in lots of volume. The weekends are 4-6 hour brick sessions, long runs and swims as one would expect. A few weeks back I was wrapping up a 4 hour ride and 30 minute run brick in the woods when I rolled my ankle. Twice. I rolled it, fell to the ground, got up took a few steps and rolled it again. Yes, once more I wound up on the ground.

After a number of artfully used expletives, I was able to stand and eventually hobble the few miles home. It was fun, and I am pretty sure I was passed by a elderly couple with canes. Whatever, but it is not a great time for this.

I had no Ace bandages but I did have compression socks so that would have to do until I could get to the store (two days later). The ankle did swell nicely, and I applied ice and elevated it etc, but a sprain is a sprain. The next day I attempted to squeeze it into a bike shoe, but no luck.

Come Monday, I went to CVS and picked up a brace, Ace bandage, Advil and some instant ice packs. The combination of these items let me do an easy ride on the trainer. So the week went with gradually harder rides on the trainer and eventually outside. It has been two weeks now and still no running, but it feels like that is close.

At first I felt like this was a huge setback. Not being able to train like I want to and losing run fitness pissed me off. The more I looked at it though, I could see I was able to focus on my weakness the bike. Being forced to ride everyday has brought me a new level of bike attention that I hope pays off come race day.

For those of you wondering why I didn’t go to the doctor to have it looked at I’ll sum it up like this. One way or another the doctor would not tell me what I want to hear. They are going to tell you to rest or stay off your feet. Worst case, if I broke something it would be put in a boot or cast and that would ruin the race prep. So I saw no upside to the doctor visit. If I can ride with minimal pain, I will ride. Once I can run I will run.

At the end of the day, the attitude you bring to setbacks defines how you handle adversity. When things go wrong, good. It opens the chance to focus on your weaknesses. Taking things away can actually give you more. My running will bounce back, but my cycling will be stronger. Even though they seem like setbacks, when you look at it the right way they turn into opportunities.

My New Toy

We have a rule in my house: when it comes to learning or health, money isn’t important. This is probably how I am able to do some of the things I do like working with a coach, personal training, traveling to races all over the world, and buying fun toys. Likewise, my wife is always learning and constantly enrolling in courses and taking classes. She is certainly the more cerebral of us, so when our interests intersect I pounce.

Last weekend she declared she would like to get a bike and sent me a few links to bikes from Dick’s Sporting Goods. I politely smiled and said no, we were going to the local bike shop and getting something that will last. To be fair she won’t be riding it very hard, but I much prefer to get a better bike from the local guy anyway.

So I slapped the bike rack on the Jeep and we headed out as a family. She was more concerned with color than options and wound up choosing a very nice Specialized hard tail. Since we were in the store, and I was in need….I started to poke through the inventory. Keep in mind I have been looking for a mountain or gravel bike to call my own for some time, but just haven’t gotten to picking one up. If we are all going to ride together, especially in Lake Placid, I would need something one way or another.

The selection was decent but there were no gravel bikes that were going to work, but there was a hardtail in the price range I was looking at. The Cannondale Trail 5. Being a Cannondale owner already, and living in the area the company was founded in, I was already pretty much sold. I took it for a quick spin around the parking lot and that was that. We had the sales fella wrap them up, and simple as that we became the proud owners of mountain bikes.

Of course as soon as we got home the entire family went for a nice ride (ON THE ROAD!!!) which was great. Spending time together, being outside, and staying active is a perfect use of an afternoon in my opinion. My first thoughts after more than a few circles as my test drive were that the bike is very different from my other on-road bikes. The geometry, the wheels, disc brakes, shifting all of it is a complete alternate universe compared to my Super-Six Evo. Despite initially feeling funny on the bike, it was alot of fun, and I hit as many puddles as I could. Eventually we got back home and I took the road bike out for a nice brick ride and it was like taking off my combat boots and putting on slippers for a run.

The next few days I found I could ride around the yard and the dog would run alongside tiring him out with minimal effort from me. This is a good trick to know, and something I have done a few times already.

While that was all fun, with work, I wasn’t able to go out alone, in the woods until today. I had been really looking forward to exploring some trails I’ve driven past near my house, and as soon as I was home tonight I changed up and headed out. Pedaling as I wanted to let me see what the bike had under the hood. With a one-by the gearing is very widely spread out. The bike has a very torquey big gear, so much so that it is easy to pop the front wheel off the ground on a hill. The small gear is an 11 tooth I believe, but don’t expect to go very fast on this thing. I’ll eventually put a computer on it, but I don’t think I managed much over 20mph. The front shocks and 29″ wheels rolled over anything on the road with out much notice. Smaller logs and rocks are also not an issue. I only managed about a mile or two on the trails but it was alot of fun, and reminded me that I don’t know jack about trail riding. Water crossings, mud, logs were all an issue, but I took it easy while I get the feel of being out there.

For the price, and being able to tinker around and explore, this is a great bike. I already have a few smaller upgrades plan like a few lights and some better pedals, but beyond that, this thing is good just the way it is. I wound up spending just under $1,000 so it didn’t break the bank. In fact my wife told the sales rep I was still planning to get a new race bike and didn’t want to spend very much (aka she is a keeper).

I’ve been hesitant to mountain bike for several years now due to a crash I had that really set my training back for months. But being honest with myself, I enjoy trail running, exploring the woods, and being away from traffic. It will take some discipline to go easy and just ride for fun versus hammering like I normally do when I am in the saddle. Being in a position when your break from training is actually training is a good thing I think, and the more time I can ride the better. If I can actually learn to love riding even more, my game is only going to get better. Spending time with the family while that happens is icing on the cake.

Ironman Lake Placid 2021

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Lake Placid and all it has to offer. In fact, I advocate for the village whenever possible, and have introduced many people to the Adirondacks over the years. Lake Placid is truly one of those special places that offers something for everyone. The kids enjoy the shopping, the adults enjoy the dining, and families can enjoy the active lifestyle. Training is what first brought me to Lake Placid, and the rest is what kept me there.

Although I have only done the Lake Placid Ironman twice, I have raced in many other long course and WTC races and this is my favorite. During race week the entire village is full of athletes. You can really see the area come alive when the ice cream shop has a line out the door, and the lake is packed with people in wet suits. Every car has a bike rack and pasta is consumed as fast as it can be boiled.

Last year of course we all missed this event. No big crowds, no floating in the lake the next day. It was like many other events postponed a year to 2021. This made a sad Summer for sure. Not just for me, but all of the athletes who look forward to IMLP each year. Even training was way off. Normally on weekends getting closer to race day you will see dozens of people out cycling and running the course. During dinner if you sit lakeside you will see swim buoys floating around the lake into dusk. But last year was much more subdued. No need to work it if there are no races I guess. (I did race a ‘private’ 70.3 hosted by my coach at his LP tri camp) Generally speaking it was a gloomy Summer and didn’t have the same feel as it has in the past.

But here we are. The vax is rolling out, restrictions are being lifted, and finally there are some signs that we might have a race. This is by no means a guarantee, but some of the press from the local paper indicates the race directors are going for it. After reading that the Tupper Lake 70.3 was cancelled for June, the idea of racing one month later seemed pretty far fetched, but alot can happen in a few weeks. So as of right now, I am feeling good that this thing happens.

Now with that said, we will be heading back up to Lake Placid in a few weeks, and I plan to speak to some of the locals about what they know. At the end of the day this will come down to permits and profitability. The race can’t be done without approvals, and it won’t be done unless it makes financial sense for WTC to hold it. With the Canadian border still closed, and any number of travel restrictions still in place, that might be a deciding factor.

I won’t worry too much about that though. It is out of our hands, and all we can do it focus on the training. My coach has a great plan to help work on the cycling this year and the run is on point. For now the goal remains: crush IMLP.

Push or Pull?

Lately I have been seeing more and more around two opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to improving your threshold power or pace. The first school of thought is you push your power up through lower threshold workouts. The second school says you pull your power up with higher intensity work. So which is correct? Both.

Interestingly when training to get my mile under 5:00, I considered the following strategy. Run an interval at whatever length I was able to hold the desired pace for. Let’s say that interval is 400 meters at 1:15. With that in mind, I would build a program that focused on 400 repeats with some longer sessions such as 800’s and eventually 1000’s when I was able to perform a sufficient number of shorter laps but at the proper pacing. The idea being that by doing a larger volume of running at the desired or slightly faster than desired pace, I would build the muscle memory needed, the strength needed, and potentially the endurance needed. As the volume grew, and the rest shortened, I would expand the intervals to a longer distance but it would be necessary to keep the proper pacing. In this way I was pushing up my mile time.

However, that just isn’t enough. On top of stamina, I also needed some extra strength and speed. If you are only capable of running a 1:15 400 at your top end, the likelihood of being able to hold that pace is low. Continuing to train at that level helps, but mentally and physically you need more. The mile will always be hard, but if you want 5:00 pace to feel comfortable, you need to run harder during workouts so on game day it is no big deal. For these sessions I would go shorter but faster intervals with less rest. Doing 15-20 200’s shooting for around 33 seconds was about right. By going over goal pace I was pulling my speed and capabilities up.

So as you can see, I worked on both types of intervals. Over the Vo2 max and functional threshold. Both working together was a great approach, and a few weeks back I ran my fastest mile yet in 5:08. So there is still work to be done, but considering where we are in the season and how much I have been able to get to a track due to snow, I am pretty happy.

This same principle applies to cycling, maybe even more so. My coach has been giving me threshold and Vo2 max sessions alternating each week. These are also great for me because they really do cause completely different muscle responses. For example, I am very good at holding short painful bursts of power. On the bike or on the run it is something I have always been good at. So 125% of FTP for 60-90 seconds is very comfortable for me. However, when it comes to 10 minutes at FTP, sometimes I struggle quite a bit. The good news is that I am not neglecting either end of my range, and as a result I think the improvements are faster and likely more lasting.

I say more lasting because I have been holding the low 5 minute mile mark for about 4 months now even without getting to the track. The body has taken in the training and I have been able to hold on to it with minimal focus on that goal.

The same will be true for cycling, and with the weather starting to lighten up (although it did snow on my run yesterday) I am looking forward to trying out the new speed on some LBS pelotons. In fact, I am going to search them out just to see if I can ride through them after this big Winter training block. In my head I am riding like Frodo, but in reality it might be closer to Fro-no. Ok bad dad joke, but there is only one way to find out and hopefully I do soon.

So I Turned 35

For the 9th time, but I think I finally am starting to get it. This year I will be stronger faster and smarter than 9 years ago, although I doubt I will act smarter. As a birthday present for myself, I am going to register for the USAT Long Course championships in Long Island in September. While I may not be able to race this one if the European Worlds takes place, I would like to have something on the calendar besides IMLP.

If I am being honest with myself, European racing doesn’t look promising at this point. The travel restrictions and quarantine protocol are very hard to accommodate, especially if something goes wrong. Having just about wrapped up the required 2 weeks for domestic travel to another state, I am not excited to do it again. Yes, I could do the test and get out of jail quicker, but the weather has been terrible, and between that and not having a lot of free time with work it just didn’t happen. The inbound restrictions could be very impacting if you test positive while abroad and have to wait it out overseas. And also yes a ton can and likely will happen between now and September, but better to be prepared, even if I lose the USAT registration fee. If everything goes off as planned, I am game to do a 70.3 two weeks after an overseas 140.6. Bring it.

So outside of that gift of pain, I also was given some great new Bose earbuds by the family this morning that I am looking forward to testing out later today. Review to follow.

One new thing I am going to focus on this year is switching it up when I want, and keeping it fun. Last night as a change I jumped on the Peloton for a 30 minute ride. That was pretty good as I haven’t been on it in at least a year. I managed to get the heart rate screaming at 171! Higher than it was during the FTP test I just did. Craziness. The funny part was I finished about 5000th out of 48000, and only averaged about 165 watts. I just did about 260 watts for 20 minutes during the FTP so I think the Peloton bike may be a bit off on the wattage. Maybe. Or I just suck at spinning.

I would normally do a mile time trial on my birthday, just as a nostalgic thing, but the roads are very icy and technically I am still hiding at home. Instead I may give the treadmill a go and see if I can hit 12mph and hold on for dear life. It is nice to have a long term comparison of performance to look back over. Last year I ran a 5:46, I should be way up on that at this point. In fact, I just convinced myself, now seems like a good time to test that theory. Time to dust off the Alphafly’s and get after it before the cake comes out.

Fixing My Cadence

For a long time the cadence sensor on my bike has had a dead battery. It never seemed very important to me to fix, because, well, I was getting the workouts done. Recently I had some extra energy laying around and changed out the battery to get my rig 100% operational. All the bells and whistles. As a side note, the batteries it takes are those CR2032 and I have to take a second to call a few things out. First, they are so hard to get out of the package that I almost gave up. I think it required some form of surgical knife and a vise to cut open the plastic. Second, they are clearly labeled as having a ‘bitter coating’. Are there really that many kids eating batteries that we need a bad tasting flavor? Besides, it isn’t even really that bitter.

Moving on, my first ride in a LONG time with cadence shocked me a bit. I was holding around 65-70 RPM. This made me scratch my head a bit, and immediately assume the device was broken. Common theory says I should be closer to 90 RPM, that’s where the magic happens. Where your legs are fresh for the run and you rely on your cardio more so than your strength. After seeing that number, I did some sophisticated experiments such as counting pedal strokes for a minute, and concluded that sensor was right.

It would seem that over the past year, I fell into the habit of grinding alot more than spinning. To be honest it is probably longer than a year as I don’t recall the last time I used cadence. It hasn’t really ever been too important to me if I met the watts needed for the workout. And to be fully open, I still am not fully convinced it really matters and here is why. If I train my body to respond to certain loads or stresses and am able to achieve the desired output, do any other factors really matter? Another way of saying this might be if you run with an inefficient looking gait but at the same time are the fastest person in the race, will changing something make you better? If it isn’t broke don’t fix it they say. Sadly though I am nowhere near the front of the race, and the key to my ultimate success in triathlon is conquering the bike.

With big goals of qualifying for Kona last year now moved to this year, it will take every improvement I can muster to obtain the times needed. To put it in perspective, I will most likely need to race a sub 10 hour Ironman. In order to do that, I figure roughly 1:05 swim, 5:20 bike, 3:25 run. That leaves 10 minutes for transition, which at IMLP is reasonable. There is some float built in, for example, I think if I am in good condition I can run better than 3:25 which would give me more room on the bike. Here is the rub though, last Summer during our bandit 70.3, I rode one lap of IMLP (56 miles) in about 2:49. That only puts me at 5:38 so I still need to find 18 minutes (and yes I know 56 is much different than 112). That is a sizeable amount of time to make up, but the good news is I have a plan and the first part of that plan is making sure I check all the boxes on bike form, technique, fit etc.

Back to the cadence issue. This metric is pretty much all I am watching on the screen these days. The watts are locked in with Erg mode, so as long as I am turning the pedals we are good. I don’t really need to shift because the trainer adjusts resistance based on my cadence. Simple enough just focus on spinning fast and relaxed. Well, not really that simple since now I am essentially retraining my legs. There is a certain ‘feeling’ I am looking for that I get when I am working. Almost a resistance that tells me I am in the right spot. With the cadence shift that changes. You see the faster you spin the less the resistance for the same power output. You make the same power pushing less but faster. This is why they say that a faster cadence is superior for running off the bike. It taxes your muscles much less.

There are a lot of ways to get the cadence up, for one I could jump on the Peloton and get yelled at by a virtual instructor. Maybe I will try that on the next Wicked ride, but until then, I noticed that the higher wattage intervals seem to be helping. My coach has been throwing things such as 125% of FTP for 60 seconds followed by 2-3 minutes recovery and I saw a very interesting thing from that. Heading into the higher wattage I would naturally speed up the cadence to meet the wattage, but then right afterwards, when the rest set started, I would continue to spin at a higher than normal number. Doing these types of workouts has me averaging closer to 86 if I concentrate.

Will any of this make a difference? Time will tell. I do know that keeping an average cadence in the 60’s and hoping to run a sweet 26.2 miles quickly may not be the optimal path. I am on the bike anyway so working on a weakness only makes sense. Ultimately if it doesn’t work, that’s fine too. If it keeps everything the same but I pedal faster there may still be some wear and tear gains on the ol’ IT band. Either way, now is the time to adjust. With around 5 months to go I will keep at it and measure the progress with bike and run data. As long as the outputs don’t appear to suffer hopefully I can bring this with me on race day.