Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Craziest Race Ever

I was at the dentist and read this article in Outside magazine. This is nothing short of diabolical. Entertaining read:

"Our goal is to break you," De Sena bluntly told me on the phone a few months before the race. A stocky, crew-cut, no-holds-barred entrepreneur from Queens, New York, the 41-year-old De Sena is convinced that America has become despicably lazy and needs a kick in the ass. "We don't give you any water, we don't give you any food, we don't tell you what you'll have to do in the race," he said. "You don't know when the race really starts or when it ends. We don't encourage you. We want you to quit."

Here is the race:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monumental Marathon Race Report 3:30:23

I went into this race with low expectations. I didn't do any structured training, core training, speedwork, or long runs. Worse, I had 3-5 day breaks between runs most of October. So, I just wanted to have a decent race, and would have been happy with a 3:45. Really, my goal was to not have to walk, and to just be under 4 hours. I simply hadn't trained for it. Not that I wasn't in shape for a long run; my endurance is decent, but a marathon is a long race.

The latter part of the week I tried to eat well, and hydrate a little more than my usual 1.5 gallons of water per day. I had a hamburger and potatoes for dinner Wednesday, 1/2 lb of pasta on Thursday, and 1/2 lb pasta Friday. I got to bed around 9pm Friday, planning on getting up around 4:30 Saturday. I ended up waking up at 3:45, and couldn't sleep any longer. I went downstairs, made some coffee, and oatmeal, and though it was earlier than I wanted to eat (I wanted to have a meal two hours before the start), I wanted to ensure I got things "moving" before I left the house. I watched something stupid on TV (I think it was part of "The Crazies"), had a bagel, some peanut butter, and yogurt, and rechecked the stuff I was planning on bringing to the race. My race belt was ready, and was loaded with twelve Clif Shot Blocks and four Gu Roctane. It was going to be cold, but I didn't want to overdress. It was about 30 degrees, with highs expected to be 40. I was planning on shorts and a tank top, with my Pearl Izumi arm sleeves I used in Powerman Muncie. I also brought my Mizuno gloves, figuring I'd need them the whole time. It would be too cold to just have just this at the start, so I went to goodwill and picked up a fleece top and hat for $5. I'd shed these once I was warm enough. In my truck I had packed tights and a compression top, just in case it was too cold for my planned attire. One thing I did this race was to make a cross to put on my back. While in dark periods during my previous races I was passed by people who either had crosses or religious messages, and they helped. I thought I'd try it for myself; maybe it could help someone I pass.

I picked up a Starbucks coffee on the way downtown, in part for the caffeine, and also to try to influence my system to finishing what I didn't finish at home as planned. I parked on Senate Avenue, which is about four blocks north of the start/finish area, and headed to the Marriot to link up with some friends. Getting to Washington Street, I stopped in the Westin, which had plenty of room to stay warm and wait to get closer to the start time. And the bathroom line wasn't bad. I went back out to the gear check to drop a backpack that had a sweatshirt, my phone and truck key, and Gatorade G3 recovery drink. I then went back to the Westin to use the bathroom, which I found had no line. The coffee worked. I then headed to the Marriot to link up with my buddies. The Marriot was a little different than the past two years, as they closed off most of the lobby to runners, which made it a little easier to find people. Note to self: The Westin is better place to hang out before the start. I did link up with my buddy Dave, and we hung out for about ten minutes before heading to the start. I had a Gu Roctane, and though I couldn't find any water, figured I'd get some at the first water point. Much of this race report is for my benefit, as I will read this before my next marathon, since I won't remember some of the detail. Like the water I drank at nearly every point was just 1/2 cup, and it was enough, in cold temperatures. I walked as I gulped it, as I have choked too many times trying to pinch the cup and gulp while running.

The starting area was packed, and I couldn't get any closer to the front than the 9:15 pace area. It becomes clear that people don't follow the guidelines, since I was passing people for many miles. I hit the first water point as planned, and decided I would hit almost every water point during the race. My nutrition plan was to alternate between Gu and Clif blocks every 30-40 minutes. As I passed mile 1, I figured it would be getting close to time to ditch the fleece. I figured I'd wait until I was headed northbound, since I'd be going into the wind for a little while. I pulled off the fleece at 1.5 miles, and ran with it for about 100 meters before I reluctantly let it go. I say reluctantly because I just bought it, and it was a decent fleece. Okay, it was $3.98, but it was comfortable. Well, I wasn't going to carry it for the whole race. My main concern was that I'd drop it and get cold.

I hit the water point after mile 2 and continued to pass people. My pace was steady and I felt good. My heart rate monitor went kaput, and though it had new batteries, I am convinced it was the cold that kept it from working. I tried cycling the watch to find it a few times, but it didn't work. I figured it would come back if things warmed up. I skipped the water at mile 3, and had Gatorade at mile 4. I also had 3 Clif Blocks. My pace was still steady, and though I thought I might be going a little too fast, I didn't have heart rate information to sabotage what I was feeling. I felt good and was just talking it a mile at a time. At mile 9 I settled into a steady 8 minute pace, which continued until mile 22. I had water and Gatorade at miles 5 and 7, and water and Gu Roctane at mile 9. I grabbed a Clif gel at mile 10, as I usually take them for future use. I skipped taking any more at the next two fuel points, as I didn't want to carry them, and was simply focused on the race. I had more water at miles 11 and 12, and I hit the 1/2 marathon mark at 1:43:46. I still felt good, and was wondering how the 2nd half would be. At this point I was occasionally passing and being passed by three of the same people, and we'd continue to do so for a little while. I got water again at miles 15, 16, 17, and 20. At mile 16 I had three Clif Blocks. Funny thing is, as I turned south on College, I blew my nose, and out came part of a Clif Block. What the?? I guess I had it hang in my throat and it just came out… As I passed through the Butler University campus, it was warm enough to take off the hat, and to pull down the arm sleeves. I was going to throw the hat away, but this was a brand new hat, and though it was only $1.49, why can’t I keep it? I stuffed it in the back of my shirt. I took off my gloves and stuffed them into my pocket as well.

During this time I prayed, thanked God for giving me my health and the ability to do this, and for the strength to continue, and began giving serious consideration to qualifying for Boston. This was my 5th marathon, and given my first two were good, and the second two not so good, I had concerns with falling apart after mile 18. This time I felt good, and did the math, figuring I could make it as long as I don't slow down. I'd make a commitment at mile 20 for the final push. After exiting the Indianapolis Museum of Art, there is a long descent (1/2 mi), and I stepped it up to make up a little time. I was still feeling good, and shortly after getting water at the Naval Armory, came to mile 20. It was time to commit. My time so far was 2:38:23, leaving me 52:36 to finish and qualify for Boston. I can do this. I was talking to myself. "Dig deep!" "BQ baby!" "Don't Bonk!" Though my pace was still steady, I had to push the effort higher, to the point approaching having to breathe on a 1/4 steps, verses the 1/6 I had been running. After mile 21 I had more water, and around mile 22 mile I started to feel tired. My calves were beginning to revolt, but I just pushed through it. I had the last of my Clif Blocks and knew the pain that was to come would be over soon. My pace dipped sharply for two miles, and looking at the time, knew I had to dig deep to make it. I started to notice people around me who I would never expect to be up here (like, people who looked out of shape). As I headed down Meridian I upped the effort, trying to decide when to make a final push. I was running an 8 minute pace at a 7 minute effort. Passing through Monument Circle, I was keeping on the heels of a couple of guys who had sped up as well, but were clearly not in distress. I knew exactly where I was, and where the finish line was. Turning north on Capitol, I kept the pace, knowing there were just three more turns. I increased my effort as I turned on New York, and as I turned again on Martin Luther King Drive, closed my eyes and gave what I had left. I made the final turn and glanced at my watch, I'd make the cutoff. "Try not to look stupid crossing the line" was what ran through my head.

Crossing the finish line and looking at my watch, I saw 3:30:27; I made it. I grabbed a bagel, a banana, chocolate milk, peanut butter, and water. I went to the results tent and got my results slip. Strangely, my finish time was recorded as 3:29:24. I’m not sure how or why, but this was in the preliminary results. Later, that was adjusted to 3:30:23, more in line with my watch. Which means I made the cutoff by 36 seconds.

There were plenty of volunteers at every water point. I never had to wait or skip a stop due to not having enough people with cups. The volunteers were great, and plentiful. The race medal is cool, the shirt nice, and I like the addition of a hat. I’m disappointed with the failure of my Suunto heart rate monitor, as the data could be useful. At the same time, it might have made me slow down. Or speed up. But hey, BQ BABY!


Mile time
1 7:56
2 7:42
3 7:53
4 7:53
5 7:44
6 7:43
7 7:52
8 7:54
9 8:01
10 8:05
11 8:09
12 7:59
13 8:02
14 8:06
15 7:46
16 8:05
17 7:59
18 8:00
19 7:33
20 8:02
21 8:00
22 8:13
23 8:39
24 8:38
25 8:13
26 7:59
.2 2.22

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Nicest Muggers Ever

I've never really been mugged, though I think I once had a close call on the A train headed from the George Washington Bridge to 72nd Street when I was fifteen years old. Two unsavory chaps wer eyeballing my overnight bag, which did actually have some valuable stuff in it (my Nikon FM and lenses). I had enough sense at the time to simply open up my bag (which had clothes from staying at my buddy Walt's house for a couple of days). I casually displayed my dirty socks, underwear, and shorts, keeping the good stuff hidden. They lost interest and moved on.

But in another sense, I witnessed a mass mugging last week. I spent the week in Orlando, with visits to Disney, SeaWorld, and the Kennedy Space Center. I have been to Disney before, am am still amazed at how good they are at getting people and their money to part ways. From the expensive food to the stuff kids must have, there cannot be any spending restraint. It would probably be easier to simply hand over your wallet upon entry, and kindly asking them to please let you keep your driver's license and family photos. And the muggers always say "Thank you." I felt bad for the families with little girls who just had to buy a princess dress to wear around the park, or go to the salon for the princess treatment (it was packed). The giant Disney store at Downtown Disney appears to be a printing press for cash for The Walt Disney Company (DIS). They were really good at it.

But, the parks were super clean, well-staffed, and set the standard for how parks should be. The boys had a great time, loved Space Mountain, and didn't nag about buying junk (maybe the drills are starting to take??). As crazy expensive as it is, I really do enjoy Disneyworld. They don't cut corners; the FastPass system is great, and even the line queues are nice. No fake backdrops, lots of shade.

SeaWorld's shows were nice, though shorter than I expected (must be a limit to the working hours set by the Whale & Dolphin Union Local 383). The park was nice, and the boys had a great time. They loved the Mantis roller coaster (very cool coaster). Gabriel has become a roller coaster fiend, and I think given the chance, will ride anything.

Kennedy Space Center

I have wanted to go to Cape Kennedy (as it was called in my youth) for four decades, and as much as I enjoy the space shuttle stuff, it is the Apollo program and the Saturn V building I really wanted to see. I was not disappointed. This is the "space stuff" I grew up with, fantasizing and playing with models of the command and lunar modules, and watching launches on television. The Apollo astronauts were the heroes of my youth (and still are). There really was much to see, and I'm really glad I went. The gift shops had tons of stuff, some cool (enough Apollo stuff (some signed by the astronauts) to construct an Apollo shrine at home), to junk (who wants an "official" Matchbox tour bus like the ones used to ferry tourists around KSC?). Anyway, KSC is a pretty neat place for people (like me) who like this kind of stuff.

Even now, I am still in awe watching launch videos: here is a sample:

Marathon Preparation
October has not been a very solid training month; I have basically gone for runs, deciding what I was going to do as I started each time. I didn't put in the miles, nor enough speed work, and had too many inactive days between runs. I'm feeling it now, as I have what appears to be the initial stage of shin splints in my right leg. Not enough to keep me out of the race, but an annoyance. I'll have plenty of time to rest after.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tough Day on a Long Run

With the Monumental Marathon just under three weeks away, I figured I had better get some long runs in. I also figured I should have actually trained for this event. Last Sunday I ran 14 and change, at an easy 8:30 pace. I could have easily run longer, and though I wanted to, had to be back to help get the kids up and ready. Today I had planned an easy 18 miles. I put a water bottle drop at a point roughly 7.5 miles, knowing I would need it. I never carry water, and don't even bother with a drop, unless I'm going longer than 14. Since I drink about 1.5 gallons of water every day, hydration issues are generally not a concern. I had planned on running about 4:30 am, but by the time I got back from dropping the water, I didn't really have enough time. I decided to go after church.

The weather was really nice: about 71 or so, very low humidity, and a beautiful cloudless sky. I felt great the first few miles, but started to feel a bit off. What's this? I was running 7:50s, then 8:30s, and still slowing down. My HR was higher than it should have been, and before long I was have=ing to make an effort to slow down to keep my HR in zone 3. This continued until I was running a 9 minute plus pace, with my HR in zone 4. What the heck? I drank the water at my drop, and had a gel and some shot blocks on the way, but couldn't wait to finish this run. Something wasn't right, and I ended up cutting out a loop near the end, so I could finish at 16.25 miles.

We I got home I was drained, and confused as to what had happened. I had a drink, walked for a few minutes, and went into the house. The scale told the story. I was really dehydrated, as I was down to 150.4 lbs. That's pretty low for me. The part I don't get is why. I have been drinking plenty, and it wasn't hot out. The air was very dry, and the fact I started feeling it early in the run tells me I was not hydrated well to start. But why? I have been drinking about the same amount of water as usual, and I don't think I am eating more poorly than usual. The weather change? The amoxicillin I have been taking for the sinus thing I had? I don't know.
What I do know is had I not felt fine on my longer run last week, I would be more stressed about the race than ever. I'll take it as a bad running day, but a good lesson. Next weekend I'm planning on a 20 miler, as it will be my last long run before a short taper. I'll be out of time. I'll prepare a bit for this one, and it should tell me a little more about what I can expect on the Monumental Marathon.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Powerman Muncie Race Report

This is a long race report, but Powerman Muncie Duathlon was an experience. I signed up for it early in the season, partly because I thought getting ready for this would help me be ready for the Monumental Marathon a month later, and partly for the Aerocat bike drawing they were having after the race. This is a sweet ride, one which I can't possibly afford, as it was decked out with Zipp everything. This ride was worth $10,000. So, I was influenced to sign up early. Anyway, I didn't do near enough to prepare for this race (story of my life). Seriously. My bike shoes were still in the pedals from the Fishers Triathlon two weeks earlier. I only rode 63 miles in September, and 94 in August. My running mileage was off for September as well. But this race would still be fun, though maybe a sufferfest. I had targeted 3:35 as a finish goal, thinking it realistic and achievable. I talked a buddy (Dave - his blog) into the race as well, as he has a solid training base after Ironman Louisville. These events are always more fun to share with a friend. I didn't expect it to be a shared war story. There were three options for the Powerman Muncie:sprint 5k/20k/5k, Olympic 10k/40k/10k, and Powerman 10k/60k/10k. We signed up for the Powerman distance.

Race Day

The start time was pushed out about forty minutes due to the pro race being moved up to the start of the event. This gave us even more time to look at the field against who we'd be competing. Unlike local sprint events that have folks from all levels, from weekend warriors to elites, this was different. We weren't close to anything, competing in a harder event. There were expensive bikes and Zipp wheels everywhere. There were no overweight people. These people had trained. I felt so outclassed. Having had sinus "glue" issues for a couple of days didn't make me feel better either.

It was cold, and was going to stay cold. The temp was low 50s, which is great for running, but not so great for a ride. I purchased Pearl Izumi thermal arm warmers just two days prior, thinking I'd need them on the bike. I think they saved my life (certainly my race), but more on this later. Dave was checking the weather radar, and my quick glance made me look away like I had seen something terrible, which I had. The radar showed a solid weather front coming our way, hitting us about the time we would be starting the race. It was ugly, and about the size of Texas. We were going to be rained on, in 52 degree weather, while half naked. Terrific.

The professional race started, and we listened to their progress during their first run. They were running a smoldering pace, and would finish the first run around 32 minutes. Holy smokes these guys are fast. Meanwhile, we were trying to stay warm in the car. I was trying to get another potty break in, but the movement wasn't with me; I was too cold. I just hoped the one I had earlier in the morning would be sufficient. I knew there was more, but hoped a wave wouldn't hit me, as I had very recent issues with the "wave" being undeniable during a run, forcing me to become one with nature. As it came time to line up at the start, I decided to wear my arm warmers for the first run too. I thought they'd be too warm for this, but didn't want to mess with them at T1. If I got too warm, I'd pull them down to my wrists. While milling about, I saw a guy I see at every race. Every one of them. He's an older guy, and wears the same race suit every time. I was going to go talk to him to finally ask his story, but I ran out of time.

The Race

Run #1 10k 45:42 7:23/mi

The start was fast, and crowded (all distances started together). I was trying to break through to an open spot, which took about a mile. I had already pulled my arm warmers down to my wrists, when I started feeling the first drops of rain. Dave popped in next to me and we ran together for another mile, when he pulled ahead. My heart rate was 168, and being a long race, I was pushing too hard. My HR would go even higher if I tried to stay with him. I stayed within about 50m of him, and started "chatting" with the two people by me. Before long, I realized I had lost focus, and Dave was 100m+ ahead. Get back in the race! I kept a steady pace for the rest of the run, but started feeling a "movement" starting to churn. This is one of my worst fears for a race. First, having to stop and pooh, while the clock is ticking, is not good for PR. Second, and far worse, I don't even like to pee in a Porta Potty. Now I had to pooh, and in a heavily used (pre-race) facility. I considered waiting for another down course, while on the bike, but 1) I didn't know if there would be one, and 2) this couldn't wait.


1 - 6:52
2 - 7:12
3 - 7:08
4 - 7:42
5 - 7:38
6 - 7:25
.2 - 1:46

T1 3:37

I put on my helmet and glasses, changed shoes, stuffed my gloves in my arm sleeve, grabbed my bike and headed to the Porta Potty halfway towards the T1 exit. I saw Dave, as he had finished his run in 44:07, and was on his way out. I hit the facility, and it was bad. I was being timed, and wanted to get away from the horror as quickly as possible. Fortunately, what need to happen did so, and quickly. But now there was no paper. WTF!!! I have always heard to bring paper, and to leave it for good karma. But this advice is pre-race. I wasn't carrying a roll. Panic? There's two wrapper from rolls of paper. They'll have to do. Finish up, hand sanitizer (thank God), and get the hell out of Dodge.

The Bike 60k 1:56:59 19.7 mph

By now the rain was getting heavier, but I wasn't yet noticing it too much. The wind was in my face, and I was trying to get settled in. As I looked at the Clif Shot Blocks in the snack bag stuffed in the top of my Aerodrink container, I thought that I should stuff it in my pocket. One mile later the thought was moot, as a bump bounced it out and it was gone. Okay, I'm stupid, but did bring extra nutrition and should be fine. I had two gels on the bike, and two in my GelBot. I also had my Aerodrink filled with GU Electrolyte Brew, which I had never tried (yes, I know, no new stuff on race day). I was thirsty, but the stuff wasn't going down as easy as I had hoped. The rain was picking up, and as I hit the westbound leg could really see it. The pavement was new, so there was more water on the surface. My feet were soaked, but I could feel the water washing through my shoes. Good thing there were drain holes. I passed a couple of people, and was passed by some others, but overall didn't see many people on the course. Starting lap two (of three), I saw my heart rate data was kaput. Figures. I thought about changing the battery yesterday, but decided not to, since it wasn't in very long. It was probably getting close to time to change, but the cold killed it. And I thought how nice it would be if I had signed up for the Oly; this would have been my last lap. The rain was really coming down now, and mentally I was on borrowed time. I tend to check out while racing, so much so that even simple math challenges me. I still had my gloves (soaking wet) stuffed in my sleeve, and hadn't consumed near enough calories. I hit the GelBot, which worked great, having slightly thinned the gel when I loaded it. It was just hard to hold the bottle, since my fingers weren't very functional. Coming around the middle of lap two, the hills were taking a toll. I made it around to start lap three, and had to focus on getting some fluid in me. I finished the 2nd gel in the GelBot, the Gu Brew, and most of my water. I looked at the two other gels, and though I knew I needed them, couldn't work it out on how to open one and wash it down. It was too hard. The final hills killed my pace, and standing to pedal was not helpful. Previous climbs I had made the rear wheel slip. Not now. And it was really raining. I was freezing, and couldn't wait to run just so I could warm up. I was so glad I had the arm warmers. I figured I must be in last place, and that the SAG wagon would be behind me soon. The end of the ride was coming, just a few more miles.

T2 2:13

Getting to the end of the bike, I was relieved and tried to run to my spot on the rack, but I was just kind of hopping. I saw Dave in T2, and thought I still had a chance to beat him. I was surprised, as I thought he'd be way ahead, not having seen anyone for some time on the bike. I ditched my stuff, and tried to put my running shoes back on. My fingers weren't functioning, and I struggled to get my second shoe on, as the top by the heel had rolled, and I couldn't easily fix it. Once corrected, I ran (or tried to) run for the exit.

Run #2 10k 50:09 8:06/mi

Exiting T2, I found I couldn't feel my feet. It felt like my feet were hard bricks. I concentrated on just keeping my feet moving, hoping I'd warm up soon. I was scared that I might fall on my face, because I wasn't very controlled. I had passed Dave and was passing others. Everyone else had numb feet as well. Mile 1 was crazy slow, and seeing the split I was surprised, since I actually thought I was like, moving... I started feeling my feet in mile 2, but only in a way that made it feel like there was a block of wood under 1/2 of the outer edge of each foot. I saw Dave again after the turnaround, and by mile four had warmed enough to not be cold any longer. At mile 4.5ish, I hit the last turn, and was surprised enough to make a double take: Dave was hot on my heels. I was running a semi comfortable pace, and he had hit the jets of pain (and had to have been for the last two miles). I tried to lag behind him for a bit, but he was going too fast. He was going to beat me. I was beginning to feel the outer edge of a bonk. I'd finish okay, but there was little left in the tank. I hit the finish chute and Dave was at the end with a bottle of water for me. He'd gained a minute on me in the last 1.5 miles. He dug deep for that.


1 - 10:44
2 - 8:03
3 - 7:41
4 - 8:12
5 - 8:08
6 - 7:53
.2 - 1:42

Epilogue finish time 3:38:37

Within two minutes of finishing, I was freezing again, and shaking. We grabbed some of the hot pizza they were offering, and went to the car. I don't like to eat after a race, but hot anything was welcome. My finish time of 3:38:37 was a little slower than my goal. Dave beat me by 1:29. Maybe if I hadn't stopped for a nature break... I was spent, mentally and physically, and struggled to just figure out how to get changed and the bikes loaded. We loaded the bikes and went to the park's changing area/restroom to change. It helped to get into dry clothes, but I was still freezing and shaking. Dave headed back before me, as I was moving kind of slow. When I got back to the car, I didn't see Dave, but got in the car to warm up. A few minutes later Dave knocked on the window to say they called my name for an award; I was second in my age group. Huh? No way. By a strange twist of fate, the really fast people (like Smitty), signed up for the elite class to be eligible for prize money, and I was the beneficiary of some of them vacating my age group. Sweet! I got a "trophy" which is unique: a mason jar with printed stuff on it. Cool. We waited about 30 minutes for the Aerocat to be raffled. Well, we didn't win it. That would have rocked, but all in all, it was a good day, even though it was a brutal experience.

It just helps us to be better next time. This was a great race and I recommend it to everyone looking for a well-organized race at a reasonable price.

Next race: 11/6 Monumental Marathon

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cancer Free Lungs 5K race report

20:13 4th overall, 1st AG 59 people

Sunny, 55 degrees

The course was the same as last year. There were a few folks at the start that looked like they were going to run a 17 minute 5k. The race started and I quickly settled into a rhythm. I couldn't hang with the lead pack (three people), but paid no attention as they pulled away. As I approached one of the few turns on the course, I realized the lead group had missed the turn. I didn't see them, an began to doubt my understanding of the course. I stuck with my gut, and as I approached 131st Street, realized I was correct. The lead group was heading my way to then turn around at a point 100m or more behind me. They were not happy, and running very fast. It wasn't long before they caught me again and opened the lead to 100m. As they almost missed the next turn, I yelled ahead for them to turn. The course markings were more clear at this point. As I approached a section that goes through the woods, a guy passed me wearing Vibram "shoes"; these are the newest rage in barefoot or minimalist running. This put four people in front of me. Looking at my watch, I saw my heart rate was too low. I wasn't pushing hard enough. Without having someone in front to catch, or behind pushing, it's harder to push at the highest level. Last year I was at my redline at the end of this race. This year I wasn't pushing as hard, since I was basically running alone. So, as I approached the finish and saw the clock, I knew the course had to be a little short. I finished in 20:13; my effort level felt more like a 21+. I figure it was just about 3 miles.

The odd thing is I finished 4th overall, which means one of the people ahead of me was a bandit runner. I can see someone being a bandit on a huge or restricted entry race (though still wrong), but this was small race (59 people) which is a fundraiser for a cancer group. And an entry fee of $20, with chip timing and a t-shirt. Cheapskate.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fishers Tri race report

500m swim 10 mi ride, 3 mi run

Swim 10:34.4

I felt pretty good, and was catching and passing people. There were a few times, especially at the turnaround/lane change, where I had to either aggressively cut through people, or stop to get through the cluster of people. There were a few passes where I was worried about getting kicked in the face, but overall the swim went well for me. My time of 10:34.4 was 1:38.2 better than my 12:12.6 last year.

T1 1:38.6

Entering T1, I focused on being smooth and deliberate. Glasses on, helmet on, while wiping feet on towel. Socks and bike shoes on, race number belt on, grab bike and go. I was going to skip the socks, but I had a blister I got a week earlier. It was healing nicely, until I skipped the moleskin and tore it through. I hadn't noticed, until I finished the run and found a bloody sock and shoe. With more races coming, I need this to heal. So, moleskin and socks for now. T1 was 1:02.3 faster than my 2:40.9 last year.

Bike 27:04.7 (22.2 mph avg)

I blasted out of T-1 and proceeded to pass people the entire time. Two people passed me, one couldn't hold the pace and dropped back after I caught him again. As I approached T2, I took a little time (too much) to coast and get my feet out of my shoes; I was going to leave them in the pedals. I should have practiced this, but the area where I was coasting was congested and downhill, so I don't think there was much of a consequence. Overall, pretty uneventful, but I felt pretty good. My 27:04.7 was 57.7 seconds faster than my 28:02.4 last year, or .8 mph average faster.

T2 57.9

I quickly parked my bike, helmet and glasses off, shoes on and go. T2 was 57.9, 15.9 seconds faster than my 1:13.8 last year.

Run 21:03.2 (7.01.1/mi)

The first mile is uphill. I felt okay, but didn't think I was going very fast. I goofed up hitting the split button on my watch as I exited T2, so I really didn't know how fast or slow I was going. My goal was to push the pain threshold. This is a sprint, and I should have been in pain mode the whole time. I haven't trained for that, but I figured I'd push a bit on the bike, then hit the run hard. I was passing people the whole time (since I started late in the swim, there were many slower people on the course), and only one person passed me. As I passed a guy in the last 1/2 mile, he said, "God loves you." I waved and drove on. I continued to push hard, though I didn't redline like I should have. More work to do. Still, my 21:03.2 was 1:37 faster than last year's 22:40.2 (7:17.8/mi).

I finished in 1:01:18.9, which is 5:31 from last year's 1:06:49.9. This put me in 5/33 place in my age group and 43/380 overall.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eagle Creek Triathlon

This was my first time at Eagle Creek. It's a popular three-race series every summer, and I found my first race there to be a good experience. The race was sold out, and as is the case with many sprint races, was filled with a broad spectrum of athletes. From serious triathletes with expensive gear and podium goals, to recreational athletes on mountain bikes, this race has something to offer for everyone.

I arrived at the park later than I had planned, but still had just over thirty minutes before the race was to begin. Once I had my stuff set up in transition, I took a look at the lake. The water was warm, and I kept hearing a nagging voice telling me to switch to the duathlon. Wait, the voice was Don Carr (the race director) reminding everyone of the black algae warning. We had to sign waivers due to the state telling people to stay out of the water due to black algae. Included with the waiver was a list of warnings and symptoms that can occur after exposure. Don also reminded everyone that they have this warning every year, and it has never been an issue… He also reminded people that for the folks who didn't want to swim, there would be a duathlon instead. I was there for the tri, so I chose the black algae.

The Swim 12:52.6

The start was in waves, and I was near the back. When it came time to start, I hit the water and tried to settle in for a steady swim. Since I am not a fast swimmer (most adolescents can beat me in speed, though I can go for a long time), I don't swim hard, because because if I do, I shave almost no time, but expend exponentially more energy. Someday I'll work on technique… During the first 100m, I was focusing not on the race, but on the black algae. I was getting more and more lake water in my mouth every stroke. What did the warning say? Do not drink…cramps…diarrhea… What the hell was I thinking? Crap! Get your head in this race! The people around me were slower than me (wow), and I kept running into people's feet. This was my first open water swim, which I had always heard was radically different than the pool. So, I expected radical difference. I had not considered what to expect. Or I did, but it was not realistic. What I discovered was I did not have a good sighting technique, though I do swim straight. I was struggling to get around/through people, and getting hit by people doing the backstroke as I passed them. I even had to stop once, so I could see a way to get through a large cluster of people that seem to be stopped. The swim was 500m, and it took me 12 minutes, during which I never got settled in; it felt like high effort the whole time. Had I been in a pool, at this effort, I would have finished in about 10 minutes. Okay, maybe a little longer, considering I had been swimming just once during the past month.

T1 2:49

Exiting the water, I was glad to be finished. My bike was near the transition area exit, so I had to hustle. I didn't think I was going slow, but I had bits of gravel stuck to my feet and had to wipe them off. I got my helmet and shoes on, grabbed my bike a ran to the exit. I really have to practice transitions, because this was one of the slowest. Sheesh, I was already dressed and merely had to get a helmet, bike shoes, and bike (plus the time to run from the water and to the exit). But I was in the 20th percentile on transition speed. With practice, I should be able to cut a minute off of that.

The Bike 29:11.6

I hit the road with a simple plan: Go Fast. I'm not very fast, but for someone who doesn’t ride much, can do pretty well (I did recently average 22mph on a 20mi time trial). If I just put time into riding, I could be so much faster… Anyway, the first half mile was a bit clogged with people, making passing difficult. For most of the race, I was blowing by people (especially the mountain bikers). The ground was slick from rain, and though there were numerous warnings about a sharp turn at the bottom of a steep hill, there was a crash being attended to when I went through. I hit the turnaround and rode a steady but solid pace going back. As I approached the hill where I saw the crash, there was traffic control slowing people down to walking speed to make the turn. This was due in part to the meatwagon that was there just getting ready to take someone away, and probably to prevent another crash. As I rode the last half-mile, I had to slow down due to traffic, and a narrow chute to reach T2.

T2 1:46.2

Entering T2, I had a longer way to go due to being positioned near the exit, and running in bike shoes is a bit awkward. Well, the folks parked up front had the same issue before their ride, so I guess it's a wash. This transition also took longer than it should, but still a bit better.

The Run 22:48.4

The run starts at the base of a hill, and is just a simple out and back course. I was passing people the whole time, and was not passed by anyone (same as the ride). I felt decent, but my head was not in the game. I found myself on numerous occasions going too slow. I wasn't paying attention, and would slow down. I'd look at my heart rate and find I was barely in zone 4, when I should have been pushing much harder. I'd speed up, my mind would wander, and I'd slow down again. This is where having fast people in front of you, or behind and pushing would help.

Had I done the duathlon, I would have won overall, as it was small, and the field not very deep. Still, I didn't do too bad.

Next events:
9/19 Fishers Triathlon (sprint)
9/25 Cancer Free Lungs 5k
10/2 Powerman Muncie Duathlon 10k/60k/10k
10/16 Indianapolis Marathon and Mini (13.1mi)
11/6 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon 26.2mi

AND, I have already signed up for the inaugural 2011 Carmel Marathon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gel-Bot Bottle Review

I stumbled across this somewhere and decided to buy one. It's called the Gel-Bot (or is it GelBot). I wasn't sure what to expect, but know that choking on gels can be an issue for me. I don't run with bottles, but figured it would make gel consumption easier on the bike. I figured I'd be less likely to slow down, or get sticky gel on me, if I had something like this. I ordered the 24oz size, since I'd be on a bike anyway.

I decided to try it out during the Blacksnake Duathlon. I know, don't try new stuff on race day. Since this was a sprint, a gel wasn't going to be necessary, but it would give me a chance to try it out under real conditions.

The loading process is as simple as can be. Simply load the inner chamber with energy gel and fill the bottle with water/fluid. When the nozzle is pulled open, you get water and water only. With the nozzle pushed down, squeeze to get the gel out of the center valve.

About halfway through my ride, I decided to try out the gel function of the GelBot. I had loaded it with Gu, and found it a bit difficult to get a good slug of gel. I squeezed the bottle and sucked at the same time, but I think the viscosity of the gel was a little high. But having the water available without doing anything except pulling the bottle open with my teeth was a welcome change from my usual keeping the gel in my cheek until I can thin it later. I think next time I will simply thin the gel slightly, making the consumption process a little quicker.

Though I have only used it once, I like the product and look forward to another live test.
More information on the Gel Bot can be found at their website:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Race reports

I recently competed in the Geist Mini marathon and the Blacksnake duathlon. It's early season, and I didn't do much to prepare for these.

Geist Mini

This was the third year I ran in this race. I really like the course, as it is my home course and one I regularly run (most of the course, except for the initial 5k). It is well-organized, and though it sells out, isn't too crowded. There are bands along the way, and since it goes through neighborhoods, there are people out watching and encouraging. The past two years, I had run full marathons roughly three weeks prior, but this year I skipped it, as I was at least 100 miles behind in training due to ice and laziness in December/January.

Even with the lack of focused training, I still did okay, finishing in 1:42:12 (7:49 pace), which was good for 225/3191 overall and 35/235 in my age group.

Blacksnake Duathlon

This was the 25th anniversary of the Blacksnake Duathlon. It's a sprint du, with a 2 mile run / 20 mile ride / 2.5 mile run. I really like this race for a few reasons: The course is nice, the middle of the bike course is fast (and the whole course very smooth), the price is an unbeatable $25 (with shirt), and it's small enough I have a chance in my age group. This used to be a three race series, but budget constraints have reduced it to one this year. I ran the first leg at a 6:40 pace and transitioned in just over a minute. The ride went fairly well, considering I hadn't been riding since the Carmel Triathlon in April. There are hills, mostly ascending, for the first five or so miles, but then the course turns north and is a long, fast descent for what must be more than ten miles. Indiana is not hilly, but the elevation does actually change... I came in around 58 minutes, which puts me at around 20.5 mph average. As soon as I put some time into riding, I should be much stronger and faster, given where I was at the end of last season. T2 was about a minute, and the next run I ran a 6:50 average pace, though I am sure the initial 1/2 mile was slower, as it took a little time to get my legs back from the bike.

I finished in 1:30:50, which was slightly better than my goal of 1:31:59, good for 3rd in my age group, and 10/63 overall.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Season Opener

I was in the Carmel Triathlon yesterday. It was a sprint, with a 400m swim, 10 mile ride, and a 5k run. I had fun, and as usual TuxBro put on a good race. I was concerned with the temperature, as I think Saturday night was the coldest it had been in weeks. Looking at the hourly forecast, it showed 29 degrees at 8am. With the race starting at 9, I was sure I was going to freeze. The thought of running to my bike, wet, and having to ride was not appealing. Fortunately, the forecast was not correct, and it was mid-40s in the morning. It was still going to be a chilly ride, but the sun was out, and that might help.

The Swim (8:41)

The swim was in the pool, and starts were in waves, based on self-reported 100yd swim times. I know I am slow, and I was assigned #578 (of 900), which should theoretically put me in an area with people about the same speed. Looking at people with 100s or 200s, I couldn't help but make judgments on how I thought there was no way the Biggest Loser contestants had to have underestimated their swim times. Can my swimming speed suck this bad? This helped, as it gave the sun another hour to warm things outside. The wave start flowed by bringing about 150 or so people from the gym to the pool at a time.

With a wave start, I didn't actually get to the pool until 10am. Looking at the people in the pool, it was clear there were real issues with the self-reported times. There were clogged lanes in places, and people who clearly could not swim. I saw someone dog paddling at the 25m point, and was hoping he would be out before I caught him. When it came time, I jumped in and swam comfortably, passing two or three people every 50m. I felt good, and didn't swim any harder than I do normally, as my technique is not efficient, and would burn exponentially more energy for minimal gain. Getting to the end, it took me a few seconds to figure out how to get out of the pool. The edge of the pool was a bulkhead, and I felt like a seal sliding on the pool deck.


I jogged to my bike, and noticed gravel on the sweatshirt I had set next to my bike. Someone had wiped their feet on my sweatshirt/mat! All I had to do was get my socks and bike shoes on, put on my helmet, glasses and jacket, grab my bike and run to the transition exit. I already had my top and HRM on in the pool. And it still took forever. I could improve my time quite a bit if I actually practiced transitions…

The Bike (30:29 – 19.7 mph avg)

Coming out of T1, I was putting my gloves on as I approached a large speed bump. I was sure to have both hands on the bars as I hit it, because it was a big one. The group behind me didn't heed my caution, as I heard someone go down, and looking back I saw at least three riders laying in a pile on the pavement. Whew, I am glad I avoided that! The first couple of miles were chilly, and as I settled in I was glad to be wearing a jacket, and especially the full-finger cycling gloves. I was blowing by people the whole time, with at least 1/3 of them on mountain bikes. Many of these people were sized in a way that made me think of the self-seeding swim time issue I mentioned above. There were areas on the course where I was riding about 25mph, while other places just 15mph. In the end, the ride was uneventful, and I averaged 19.7mph.

T2 (2:21)

Nothing special here. I hung the bike, changed shoes, ditched the helmet, jacket, and gloves, and ran to the exit. I cycled my watch to recognize my shoe POD and focused on getting my legs.

The Run (21:05 - 6:47 avg)

I hit the split on my watch as I started the run and thought about how I shod add more bricks to my training… My legs didn't feel too bad, but I knew I need to work on it. Checking my watch, I noticed that a decision I made while having a bowl of oatmeal in the morning had come back to haunt me. I had consider changing batteries in my heart rate monitor and shoe POD, and decided against it, because I usually get some indication they need to be replaced. Not this time. Looking at the watch, I saw that both the HRM and shoe POD batteries were kaput. Oh well, I would have liked to seen the data, as it can be useful. I used the course markers for my time splits. My first mile was 7:20. Not bad for me. I felt slower, but had my legs and was passing people. Mile two passed at 6:50, which was surprising, as the perceived effort was not that fast. Mile three was about 6:06, which I have not seen in two decades. And I hadn't crossed into a pain threshold. I think I could have gone faster.

When I ran the Cancer Free Lungs 5k last September, I was well into the pain threshold during the last mile, and Mike had to slow down to drag me along. I was at my derived max heart rate then, and had not been there before. We finished that 5k at 21:44, and the course may have been short. This race was USAT sanctioned, and run by TuxBro, so the distance should be accurate. Given my effort was not as high as the previous 5k, and I was faster, even after a swim and ride, I am sure a major contributor to the added speed was the lighter shoes. I stopped using my orthotics, which made my shoes much lighter. I think it cut my pace by 20 seconds.

My final time was 1:05:52. I finished 14th in my age group, and 96th overall.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


This is an amusing application of text to video. Disclaimer: This is satire. I have heard that people have this type of experience, but I don't know anyone who actually has. The names have been changed, and any similarity to anything that might get me in trouble is purely coincidental.
Link to video

Here is another: Link to video2

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Suunto T3

I haven't reviewed products before, but I have been using a Suunto heart rate monitor for a little over two years, and thought I'd give a report on it. I have a Suunto T3, which I got in October 2007. With it, I have a heart rate sensor, a foot POD for running, a bike POD for the bike, and a PC POD for downloading the data to my computer. Suunto has now upgraded to a -c version, which has added benefits I'll cover below. But I think my experience will apply to the T3c as well.

With the T3 I have heart rate zones established, which I use and track in Training Manager Lite (Suunto), and also in Training Peaks. I generally use the autolap feature, set at one-mile intervals, which I use to benchmark and compare performance over time. There is an interval feature in the T3 which can be used to warm up, then train at set intervals, with an alarm tone sounding for each transition. For me though, the alarm is too quiet, and at a tone too high for me to hear well at all, unless I'm in a quiet room and it is near my head. I think the issue is my hearing, and not the watch.

The recent logs (fifteen most recent) are easy to call up, and I like the built-in summaries (this week, last week, and monthly going back six months). You can quickly see summaries for distances (running POD, bike POD, GPS POD) and calories. If you want more specific summaries or data, you can simply look in Training Manager Lite.

The T3 tracks calories burned, which helps assuage the guilt for eating certain things. I can't evaluate the accuracy, but I have read it may be underestimating by 10-20% (cool!).
Triathlon transition - easy to use, just quickly cycle the watch (press a button three times) and the watch picks up the foot pod and says you are running. Once the foot POD is on, it overrides the bike POD.

The training effect feature allows you to use the watch to set an intensity level target, but I tend to use it as and after workout evaluation of what I did.

Someone who works for me was shopping for a heart rate monitor, and asked me about Garmin. I told him about my experience with Suunto, after which he purchased a Suunto T3c, which has some added features, including bicycle cadence, pace data, and a button lock. I found much of this while I was helping him set up heart rate zones.

I really like this watch, and it just fuels my desire to upgrade to a newer model, either a T3c, or maybe even a T6c, which I can use to easily upload data to Training Peaks. I have been considering it for some time, but cannot justify the expense, given my T3 is working just fine. With the addition of the above features (especially the cadence and pace features), I am really tempted to upgrade. Now if I can just get the Mrs. to understand that I need this... And some Zipp race wheels... And more destination events…

Battery life - I usually don't wait for things to stop working, though I have found the shoe POD battery (AAA) gives me little warning before the battery is too weak (the light blinks quickly meaning change battery NOW). The HRM and watch use a CR2032 (conveniently available in two-packs at Wal-Mart). For me, I change the watch battery after every other HRM battery change. It may be premature, but I do this a couple of weeks before my spring and fall marathons, as I don't want to find out about battery life at that time.

HRM - The strap is comfortable, and clean-up is simple (I rinse the unit and strap in the shower, and wash the strap in the machine with my workout gear when I do laundry). As for accuracy, my great uncle was looking for a HRM that he could use in addition to a tabletop unit he has been using for many years (he has had heart surgery). We compared the results and they were the same, giving some validation to the accuracy. I have used this indoor at a gym, and at every race, including some very large races (Big Sur marathon), and with the many other HRMs around, never had an issue with interference.

Foot pod - over 2000 miles accurate (compared to G-Map), recalibrate with new shoes, maybe once halfway through shoe life (200 miles), marathon showed 26.5 miles, accuracy issues when running strides, or other intervals with unusual strides.

Bike pod - accurate, compared to G-map. Turns on automatically. Really nothing to say, other than it works, and is nearly transparent.

GPS POD - I do not have this item, as I have both shoe and bike PODs. I considered it, but it seemed redundant. Additionally, I don't think these types of GPS units are as accurate or responsive for this purpose (I base this on performance of friend's Garmin GPS).

Training Manager Lite - Very easy to use. Simply plug in the PC POD (USB) and press a button on the watch. It will download in less than a minute, after which you can name the workouts, make notes, and analyze the data. The detailed graphs are good visual representations of the workouts, but it's important that you either have the Autolap feature on, or you manually hit the lap button.

Warranty - My heart rate sensor started acting strange (giving strange readings, then jumping to normal). I sent it in for repair, and it was replaced under warranty. It took a few weeks to get the replacement, but I was very happy to have a replacement and pleased with the process with Suunto.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I'm tired of the cold weather. It isn't that I don't like cold weather; I just don't like being cold. And due to global warming and climate change, it has been cold for many weeks. It has been low to mid teens more days than usual, and I don't really care to run outside when it goes below 20. I'll do it, especially since I have been desperate to hit the road, given my complete lack of physical activity for some time (my pants are getting tighter). I have gone out for a few runs this month, but there has been ice in the streets, which I don't care to run on, especially when combined with sub-20 weather. I tried to run at Ft. Harrison this week, only to be defeated by strong wind and light snow – I was freezing, then burning up when I turned back. I should just accept it and hit a treadmill. And my bike trainer (though my garage has been quite cold as well).

I really don't mind weather in the 20s. 25-30 would be great. I actually prefer it to the wet spring weather, as this causes muddy dog feet that need to washing every time they go out. Especially Bandit: being a German shepherd he is lower to the ground and trots around getting his legs and entire undercarriage muddy, every single time he goes out. At least Sadie has ground clearance. So, frozen ground and snow = cleaner dogs. I just want clear, dry streets.

So, while I whine about the weather and make excuses for not training, I look at a list of potential races and think about how the April opportunities will not work unless I get my butt moving very soon. I'm looking at a spring marathon somewhere in April-May, and have considered St. Louis, Nashville, Cincinnati, or Illinois. I have heard St. Louis is a nice race, but it is the earliest of these (4/11), and I'm not sure how motivated I am to get started yesterday. Nashville (4/24) would be cool, as I can visit dad and heard it's a great race, especially now that it's a Rock & Roll brand. But the down side is with the new branding, the entry fee is a bit high ($30-40 more than others). I like expos and races with good schwag, but for that much more I can just buy stuff. Illinois (5/1) might be cool, and then there is The Flying Pig in Cincinnati (5/2). These races are nearly a month later, allowing more time to prepare. I'm a bit torn on the Cincinnati. I didn't have a good experience there last year (which I wrote about HERE), and I seem to recall telling myself I would try a different spring marathon in 2010. So why am I even considering it? I don't know. Maybe it's a way to beat it. It was hillier than I thought, but that's what training is for.

Besides the spring marathon, I'm looking at an April sprint triathlon too, but unless I get started again and quickly, I should just save my entry fee for later races. For the season, I have been looking at about two races per month, a mix of duathlons and triathlons, with a bike time trial thrown in for fun. I'm considering the Muncie Endurathon for this year, but I will hedge that until I have a solid training plan to which I can commit.