Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My Custom Kit journey with Pearl Izumi!

This January I looked into new custom tri kits. I've raced in three different kits across seven years and the most recent was showing signs it was ready for retirement to the less rigorous demands of training rather than racing.

I reached out to my ultra endurance sports friend Shannon Price who works at Pearl Izumi Custom. I've always been a huge fan of their apparel and all my cycling shorts and nearly all my running shorts are PI. To my delight, he said they would work with me!!

I discovered that PI has a very methodical process to take you through several cycles of design/redesign, review, and feedback along a prescribed timetable that keeps things moving along.  I was paired with a designer, Julie, and we worked using their Dropbox-like system and email. I sent her the logos, color palette, and swatches of patterns that I found appealing, and indicated which general designs I liked from their idea book.

some of my swatches

We started by focusing on the bike jersey, knowing the idea could be translated to other pieces. Within a few days we had the first round of several ideas from Julie. We set up a little creative space, bought some colored pencils, played with her ideas, and provided feedback to inform the next round.

I will confess it was a little scary at times, thinking of narrowing down from an infinite set of ideas, and I would wonder what we might be inadvertently eliminating! We went through a lot of options; here are just a few colored pencil sketches and printouts, sometimes modified with scissors and tape.

Early in the process I found sudden inspiration from, of all places, Zwift! My Avatar had been wearing the jersey below, unlocked by riding 100km on my bike trainer in the virtual cycling world. So we kind of rolled with that theme. 

This is how I "tried on" the jerseys.


After a few iterations we had a bike jersey design finished and then Julie got to work on the other pieces. When we got close to having a full set of designs that was ready to go, I was sent a fit kit so I could try on various sizes and know exactly what I needed. 

I greatly appreciate the fact in addition to the typical XS, S, M, L, etc sizes, Pearl Izumi also offers mid-sizes like XS/S, S/M, and M/L. I ended up ordering the mid-sizes for most things. 

After a few weeks in production, my clothing arrived on my doorstep - bib shorts, jerseys, softshell jacket, arm warmers, and one piece tri suits.

I have been extremely happy with every single piece - the colors, quality, fit, and comfort! I like the yellow and orange for visibility on the bike, and the subtle grey and black solar cell pattern accents.  

The process takes time and creative energy, but it's rewarding to have a unique design and high quality performance apparel. If this is something you or your group is interested in, I'd suggest doing some pre-work to gather ideas and starting early because a good process can't be rushed. I hope my overview has been helpful!

Big thanks to Shannon and Julie of Pearl Izumi Custom, and race sponsor Bryan Walsh of Solar Connexion!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Shawsville Fourth of July 5K: An excuse to run in stars and stripes

On the 4th of July I ran my third Shawsville 5K, a race that has been around for 35 years! It's probably the flattest 5K you can find in the hills of Southwest Virginia.

I love this annual local race that starts on a cul-de-sac road, between two driveways (see top photo), and attracts some fast area runners. The top three men were under 17 minutes; the top three women were under 20 minutes.

Despite my love of the race, the sound of the rain falling on race morning had me considering my love of my bed and remaining in it. 

But hey, I didn't spend $5 on a patriotic tank top at Old Navy for nothing!!

I thought I was SO amazing for getting out the door to DRIVE to the race, until halfway there when I saw two cyclists up ahead in the steady rain and recognized my friends Kristen and Jordan Chang RIDING to the race. Impressive.

The rain tapered off and we really had nice conditions to race!

At the start, I was so surprised (shocked in a "what are you doing here?!" way) to see Michael Casciere (below), a Physical Therapist I worked with early in my running "career" who lives in North Carolina, but was in town and ran this with his granddaughter. He ran for Boston University and had done the Boston Marathon many times. The running world is a small world in many ways!

The race always starts with the Pledge of Allegiance and timely words regarding our nation by Coach Marvin Ballard, a history teacher at Eastern Montgomery High School. It always chokes me up!

Then off we went. 

I paced of off Tom Inzana who usually beats me, then I passed him after the first mile. He must have been having an off day. We spread out after the half-way point and had pretty well settled into our positions. Or so I thought. I got passed by a young runner in the last 400m (shown behind me in the next photo). She had an awesome finishing kick! I finished in 21:50 and repeated as the age-group winner. [Full results here]

I was really glad I ventured out into the rainy morning, thanks to a little extra motivation in the form of a tank top!

photo above and two below by Kristen Chang, RDN, CSSD of Real Food for Fuel 

photo by Blue Heron Photography; Coach Ballard in the yellow shirt at the finish line.