Exercise and Racing

July 8, 2013

Duck Dodge!

Categories: Exercise and Racing

As I've written about previously, I crew on a racing sailboat in the summers. Maybe once a year, we skip our regular race on Lake Washington and do the Duck Dodge.

This race is a Seattle institution (apparently, it's listed as one of Fodor's Top 100 Things to Do in North America). It's held on Lake Union, just on the north edge of downtown Seattle with the Space Needle in the background. Each week there's a wacky theme (we went out on Egyptian Night); many crews dress up or even decorate their boats, although we didn't. There are typically a ton of boats out, so it can be quite lovely and fun.
Duck Dodge fleet in front of the Space Needle

It's a pretty casual race with loose rules, but the one special rule is that you can't make a duck change course; if you do, you have to do a penalty turn. The first three finishers in each class (there are three, roughly divided by how fast your boat is) get a gold, silver, or bronze duck sticker. These are highly coveted in the Seattle area; winners typically put the stickers on their boom.

We've won a sticker in each race we've entered, but we had never won a gold first place prize. Despite the shifty, tricky winds, this year we finally won our class, by quite a big margin actually.

The funny thing was that we thought we were in second the whole race. It's a little difficult to tell which boats were in which class. We thought we were in the same class as a J/80 ahead of us (we had taken second to a J/80 last year - it's a much faster boat than our J/24), but when we finished, the committee boat staff told us we had won. The J/80 crew had apparently decided to join the faster class.

So, we looped around and picked up our sticker from the committee boat.
Bobby picking up the gold sticker from the committee boat.

We promptly stuck our first gold sticker on the boom. (We have a bronze and a silver duck on the other side of the boom too.)
Our gold duck sticker, next to an older bronze duck sticker.

Our merry band then motored back to our dock, quite happy. (It didn't hurt that we had an amazing bottle of rum onboard: a Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 - perhaps the best rum I've ever had and one that many commenters on my "Best Rum in the World" post mentioned. Highly recommended.)

Posted July 8, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 7, 2011

A Nice Hike Up Little Si

Since the weather was so nice today and since they spent most of the day playing video games and watching TV yesterday (for Michael's 11th bday), the boys and I got outside today and went for a hike on Little Si. This was the first time I'd been there, although Michelle had taken them there before.

Little Si is a nice hike about 25 minutes from our house. It's around five miles round trip from the trailhead with 1200 feet of elevation gain. Most of the hike is through the woods with some scrambling up rocks in sections. The views at the top are great. It took us about 1:15 up and :50 down. It was a popular hike today, so the parking lot was pretty full. Andrew (14) enjoyed it and wants to do more hiking; Michael (11) was inexplicably grumpy today (as you can see from the photo below).

Here's us at the summit (actually standing at the highest point:
Michael, Tony, and Andrew standing on the top of Little Si

You can see the breathtaking view here behind Andrew (this is looking SE, I think).
Andrew standing in front of a great mountain-and-valley vista.

Posted August 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 31, 2009

RoadID - Don't Leave Home Without One

I've been meaning to blog about RoadID for a while. As longtime readers of this blog know (thanks to all four of you, especially my mom!), I run and bike on occasion. I have a long standing paranoia, though, of being found dead or injured on the side of the road, and first responders not knowing who I am or how to reach my family.

My RoadID

So, to address this concern, I always wear a RoadID (usually on my ankle because it's out of the way). These are bracelets with your emergency info engraved on them. They have a few different varieties (e.g. one that you can lace into your running shoes). I now have one for China and one for the US. They're inexpensive and well-made -- I whole-heartedly recommend them to anyone who runs or bikes.

(As a side note, when I'm on the road or vacationing, I usually slip a note with my name and hotel info into my pocket. It's not as durable, but it's better than nothing.)

RoadID logo


Posted December 31, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 13, 2008

Fun Sailing Season

Categories: Exercise and Racing

We wrapped up our sail racing season this week with a perfect evening: sunny, warm, and breezy. To top it off, we sailed really well, taking a 5th and a 7th out of 28 or so boats (and beating some of the top boats in the fleet).

Not sure what I'm going to do to scratch my sailing itch now that we're moving to Beijing. Hopefully, I'll be able to squeeze some in somehow.

The fleet on a downwind leg
J24 fleet on a downwind leg

Rico, the skipper/owner, smiling since most of the fleet is behind us.
Rico driving the boat, fleet behind us.

Warren taking it easy after a race.
Warren relaxing against the lifelines.

Posted September 13, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 21, 2008

Rode from Seattle to Vancouver and Partied (A Little...)

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Well, I did it. As promised, I did the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party (RSVP) last weekend with my friends Eric, Jason, Chris, Clint, Whitney, and Gregg. We had excellent ride support from Chris' wife Leslie and son Zack, Eric's girlfriend Sam, and our friends Kellie, Barbi, and Juli; they kept us well hydrated and fed the whole time.

The crew at the starting line: Chris, Clint, Whitney, Tony, Jason, Gregg, and Eric.

To be honest, I didn't feel great the first day. Even twenty miles into the ride, my legs were bothering me. We separated into two groups for most of the ride: the "varsity" fast riders (Whitney, Clint, Gregg, and Eric) and the "JV" slower riders (me, Jason, and Chris). After a hot, thirsty start, a long climb to Lake Stevens, and then a brutal push into a heavy wind in the Skagit Valley, I wanted to quit, wondering why I was doing it. I rested a bit in Bow and then pushed on for the final ten miles or so -- a big climb up Chuckanut Drive in Bellingham. This turned out to be a highlight of the first day -- a great view and not nearly as punishing as I had heard (certainly better than windy flats) plus I rode by my favorite oyster farm -- Taylor Shellfish. At the end of the 105 mile/7:20 riding time first day, Michelle and the kids met me in Bellingham where we stayed at the very lovely Chrysalis Inn and had a nice pasta (gotta get more carbs!) meal at D'Anna's. I slept very well indeed.

Jason and Tony on Chuckanut Drive.

RSVP Day 1 Route

I felt much stronger the next day for the next eighty miles. Jason and I caught a long line going through the countryside at a good pace for us with four pretty girls and a guy rotating the job of leading, so we just drafted along for the first twenty miles (drafting in a line cuts about 30% off your effort). We stopped in Lynden at the Dutch Bakery for a late breakfast. Jason has had a long, passionate affair with banana cream pies from this bakery. Apparently, they don't always have them so he ordered one ahead. We picked it up and bought another chocolate caramel pie, eating them both on the street in front of the store -- way better than Gatorade and Gu! (The whole crew at the pies, not just me and Jason...)

Jason and the amazing Dutch Bakery banana cream pie

Shortly after Lynden, we rode to the Canadian border. At one point we were separated from Canada by a little ditch; there was a road running on each side (the Canadian side looked like it had much nice roads) and telephone/power poles on each side with the lines facing into the appropriate country. Odd. We had a painless border crossing at Aldergrove and then proceeded on our ride.

US on the left, Canada on the right. Little ditch between the countries. 

About twenty-five miles into the ride (just after the border), while I was drafting behind Chris, I bumped up against his back tire and went down. Fortunately, no bikes or cars were behind me. I got unclipped from my pedals pretty well and managed to roll a bit, so the damage was contained to two skinned knees, a frayed glove, torn up bar tape, and a smashed rear flasher. This was the first time I had really crashed; I feel lucky it went down as well as it did and that I didn't take Chris down with me. I brushed off my bike and ego, and we continued on.

Tony, Jason, and Chris just after the border (photo courtesy Leslie).

As we rode, Chris' bike started acting up, dropping his chain and making a lot of noise. At a stop in Port Moody with about twenty miles left, a ride mechanic proclaimed Chris' bike dead and told him he was done. Jason and I rode on while Chris threw his bike onto his car and drove on. With the end near, Jason and I picked up the pace the powered along the Barnet Highway and into Vancouver. We climbed up and down through the residential neighborhoods in Burnaby (really? more hills?!) and then sprinted light-to-light in downtown Vancouver. Unfortunately, the finish line was a bit anti-climactic at the Coast Hotel; you sort of just pulled into the garage. The finish at STP was much nicer and more fun. Still it was great to finish. I felt really strong the whole second day. (I don't have accurate data for the second day, but I think the riding time was about 5:30 -- I forgot to turn my GPS back on for a little while.)

RSVP Day 2 Route

We had a nice group dinner at Glowbal Grill in Yaletown that evening -- lots of sangria and stories. I turned in after dinner to recoup and spend time with the family. The next day, I felt fine except for my knees which were bugging me after the crash (they're still giving me trouble as the skinned parts heal.)

RSVP was definitely a harder ride than STP despite being short; there's just tons more climbing. I liked that it was way less crowded (I think there were 1000 riders vs. the 10000 for STP); at times it felt like just another weekend ride with my friends (albeit a really, really long ride...).

I'm glad I did it. Time to find my next goal event...

(Check out Chris' account of the ride.)

Posted August 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

August 14, 2008

Time to Ride

Categories: Exercise and Racing

RSVP-08-sm Back on January 1st, I said I'd ride the RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party). Well, tomorrow morning at 6:30am, we take off. A bunch of us will be doing the 183 mile, two day ride together up there so it should be fun. I didn't ride nearly enough to prepare for this, but I think if I keep a good pace, I'll be alright. I am more concerned about the warm temperatures forecast - 85-90 degrees F (and maybe a little higher!) We'll have to drink a lot the whole way.

Anyway, much to do tonight before I leave, so I'll see you on the other side.

(P.S. Here's the route if you're interested. No, we're not riding up I-5.)

Posted August 14, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 21, 2008

Wild Night of Sailing

Categories: Exercise and Racing

We had another windy night for our regular Tuesday night sail race. The wind was probably 20 knots/hour+, so all of the boats were carrying their jibs instead of the larger genoas. The deck of our J/24 and all of us were pretty wet, even before the first race, just from the spray splashing up.

We sailed pretty well all night, managing to avoid the collisions, round-ups, and sail handling mistakes (with accompanying penalty turns) we saw on the other boats, but I did have one scary moment.

The boat was heeled over quite a bit when the skipper called for us to tack. When we tack, I duck under the boom over to the other side of the boat. I started moving a little too quickly and started sliding feet first across the wet deck toward the water. My feet and legs went under the lifeline and into the water. I caught myself on the lifeline with my arms and dragged in the water for a second. I managed to kick my legs up onto the boat, but now I was wrapped around the stanchion (one of the posts that hold the lifelines up), with my torso on one side and legs on the other. I was stuck for a bit until some of the other guys helped me back on board, and we continued the race.

Through all this I didn't even get wet (since I had my foulie pants and sailing boots on), but it was definitely a spooky moment. I never want to see the boat from outside the lifelines again. I promptly put my inflatable life jacket on after that (which, like most idiots, I wasn't wearing at the time.) Apparently, someone else on another boat wasn't so lucky and went overboard. Fortunately, another boat picked up the wayward crew member.

I managed to finish the evening without any other incidents aside from bruises on my hips and knees from scurrying around plus another briefly scary moment as I pitched into the cockpit spinnaker bag (just barely catching myself before dropping headfirst into the bag). It was perversely a very fun evening, exactly the kind of evening I love sail racing.

I'll just be sure to wear my life jacket from now on.

Posted May 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 23, 2008

Cold Observation

Andrew (10) is normally my nice kid, but he made a cruel, but accurate observation the other day.

Andrew [earnestly]: "Dad, you're big but not tall, if you know what I mean."

Time to diet and work out more, I guess...

Posted March 23, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 24, 2008

Not Off to a Good Start

Categories: Exercise and Racing

As I mentioned earlier, I had hoped to ride my bicycle in the Chilly Hilly as part of my training for RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party). Well, it was today, but I didn't make it. I came down with a sinus infection and have been feverish, congested, and generally miserable for the past few days with no relief in sight. Too bad too -- it was a lovely day today -- not chilly at all. I did manage to get a few rides with friends; good to get an early start on the season. Once I recover, I'll need to get moving again. Oh well.

Posted February 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2008! I'm not really one to make New Year's resolutions, but I have been thinking about things I want to do this year. Mostly, I have a list of things I've wanted to do for a while that I never quite got around to. Over the past few weeks, I took some steps to get going on these. Here are a few things I want to do and the steps I've taken. (Blogging about them will also help create a little public accountability.)

Spend more time with the boys
I think the kids and I do quite a bit together already, but I think these are the prime years I have with them where they're old enough (7 and 10) to really participate and still don't mind hanging out with dad, so I want to double-down on our time together.

The kids have been bugging me to go camping beyond our backyard for some time, so I thought I'd start there. I haven't ever really camped (OK, we went once when I was two), so I've been dragging my feet a bit, but I really want to try it as well. I looked into camp sites last summer, but it was almost impossible to reserve one at that late date, and I didn't want to chance driving somewhere and not having a site. So, this week, I reserved a choice site at Deception Pass State Park (close enough to home that we can bail out if it sucks) in June. I'm pretty excited and will probably book a few more dates just in case we love it.

Incidentally, the Washington State Parks reservation system is pretty good. They show you the individual sites with descriptions and ratings of quality and privacy, have photo(s) of the site, and make it easy to see what dates are available. Good use of our tax dollars.

Work out more
As I've chronicled on this blog, I've been up and down with my working out. I definitely do best when I have scheduled events I'm working toward, so this morning (the first day of sign-ups), I signed up for the RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party). It's a ride like the STP (Seattle-to-Portland) that I did two years ago. I tried to sign up last year, but I waited too long, and the ride sold out. I'll do the Chilly Hilly again in preparation too, but I'll probably skip STP. Good to have the goals on the calendar now. I may do another half marathon (probably Kirkland in May instead of Mercer Island in March).

Learn to play an instrument well
I took piano lessons on and off growing up (mostly off) but never really reached a level of reasonable competency. I've always wanted to play well, so I started piano lessons last month, taking the half hour before Andrew's lessons (can't skip my lesson without making him miss his). We also just had a little Yahama grand piano delivered yesterday. It's been fun playing again, and my instructor has me working on theory as well to better understand what's going on. This had added an interesting new dimension.

I thought about starting guitar instead (which I've also always wanted to play), but I'm much closer to competence on piano, so I figured that was wiser. (I also played clarinet for six years, but I don't have much interest in picking that up again. Not too many social opportunities for clarinet...)

Learn to speak another language to adult fluency
I grew up speaking Chinese at home, suffered through eleven years of Saturday morning Chinese school, took a year of Chinese in college. I also took four years of high school German (enough to get by as a tourist). However, I can't really do business or carry on adult conversations in either language. Since I'm closer to fluency in Chinese, I decided to build on that base. Although I'm basically illiterate in Chinese, I figured I'd start with my listening and vocabulary skills. I started listening to Chinese language podcasts. There are a few good ones, but my favorite so far is by a guy named Serge Melnyk (really). More on these later.

I have lots of other things I want to do, but I figured this is a good start. Hopefully, I can stick with these and build some good habits. What are your plans?

Posted January 1, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

June 10, 2007

Owning clubs doesn't make you a golfer

Categories: Exercise and Racing

I played a round of golf yesterday at the very posh and lovely Members Club at Aldarra. Chris bought a round at a charity auction for FareStart and invited me along. The course was easily the nicest I've played in the Northwest and our host, Doug, was really great. This was the first round I've ever played with caddies. Because of the rain, the carts had to stay on the path; it's a real luxury to just call out the desired club to the caddie and have him bring it out to you. Even in the rain, it was a super experience. The course is really gorgeous and in fantastic shape. It drains super well and wasn't muddy at all in spite of all the water coming down.

It's too bad I played like an absolute idiot. I barely made contact with the ball and had a few swings where I missed entirely -- a problem I haven't had for years. I've played three times so far this year and have sucked beyond measure. I had been doing pretty well the past few years, improving steadily. However, last year, I pretty much stopped as I spent my time biking and running instead. I'm going to have to decide to stop pretending to be a golfer or start spending more time on my game. I have too darn many hobbies and am not spending enough time to be great at any of them. There's a fine line between being a well-rounded renaissance man and a dilettante.

Posted June 10, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 28, 2007

Post Race Report

Categories: Exercise and Racing

It's been three days since I ran the Mercer Island Half Marathon. Monday (the day after) my calves were a bit sore; I felt pretty good to have gotten by so easily. I had spoken too soon; Tuesday was worse. My thighs hurt a bunch. I could still go up and down stairs and sit down/get up, but I felt every step. Fortunately, today was much better.

The race organizers posted the results. I finished 1032nd out of 1406 half-marathon runners, 634th out of 765 men. Even though I was really just aiming to finish, these results bummed me out at first. I was used to finishing at or above the mid-point in the 5K runs I've done previously. However, I realized that there are probably fewer casual runners in a half-marathon than a 5K. That made me feel a little better. Need to stroke my fragile ego in any way possible. I would have needed to run over a minute a mile faster to finish in the top half; that's pretty close to my 5K pace. No way. (Not yet, anyhow.)

Posted March 28, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

March 25, 2007

Mercer Island Half Marathon: Done

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Hooray! I ran the Mercer Island Half Marathon today, finishing in 2:06:23 (this is my watch time - actual gun time will be about 2:08 since it took me two minutes to get to the line after the start). This works out to be 9:34 minutes/mile on average. I'm very happy with these times; they're way faster than my goal times (I was shooting for 2:15 overall.)

I'm also happy that I didn't feel any real discomfort during the run and feel good now (we'll see how tomorrow is.) Somewhere around six or seven miles in, I got a small stitch in my side, but I managed to work through that. I was actually mostly concerned at the start about being cold and wet. We started out in a pretty heavy rain, so the waiting around part basically sucked. Fortunately, it cleared up during the run, so I wasn't uncomfortably cold, wet, or hot.

As with most races, I started out quick and kept having to hold myself back to keep on my target pace. I did an OK job following my plan of slowing on the uphills and speeding up on the downs. I walked through the water stations, taking Gu gels every forty minutes or so. I also walked a bit on the uphills in the last few miles as my heart rate was starting to get high (like 195). With maybe .8 miles to go, I caught up to Eric, and we both sprinted to the finish. Well, I should say he sprinted to the finish. I sprinted to about 50 yards short of the finish and staggered across the line. (I like to think I let him win. He has a fragile ego...)

The biggest issue was the hills; this is not a flat course (my GPS says it +323/-494 which is a lot of up and down when you're running). Worse, from 10.95 miles to 12.21 miles, there's a 150 foot climb that sucked the life out of me. (Fortunately, the last .9 mile is downhill.)

I must say, one of the nice surprises were the little kids cheering by the side of road. They'd hold their hands out to high-five the runners. I always got a charge out of that and found new energy. Thanks, kids. It was also great to have Kellie and Kristen come out to cheer us on at the finish. Bruce, of course, was already at the finish too and was very vocally supportive.

After the race, my calves cramped so I had to stretch for a while. I had hoped there would be Gatorade or something at the finish, but they just had water. (The run was well organized, but they certainly were not extravagant with perqs for the runners.) A bunch of us went out afterwards for lunch at the Seattle Yacht Club. Nothing like a Bloody Mary, a bacon cheeseburger, and fries and onion rings to celebrate an accomplishment like this.

All in all, I'm really happy with how things worked and feel good about having done this. Not sure what's next, maybe the Issaquah Sprint Triathlon. Right now, a nap sounds good...

Posted March 25, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

March 24, 2007

Tomorrow is the Big Day!

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Three months ago, I signed up for the Mercer Island Half-Marathon to motivate me to work out. I have mixed feelings about it now that I'm facing the run tomorrow. My eleven mile run two weeks ago was a big confidence builder, but I have some pre-race jitters as I think about the hilly course and all of the random things that can happen during a run.

Just to get my excuses out into the public light in case I need them later:

  • My calves and shins feel a little tight.
  • I pinched some skin on my toe last night playing Dance Dance Revolution in my socks at Kellie's last night: not heroic, I admit, but very fun. (And yes, Kellie, I will keep linking to that photo that you hate until you put up some online presence.)
  • The weather looks iffy for tomorrow.
  • My horoscope suggests I'll have a bad day tomorrow. (However, it looks like I'll be peaking physically tomorrow according to my biorhythms.)

Still, the race has already accomplished its goal: it got me to work out more regularly and longer. I wasn't as diligent as I'd hoped, but I'm certainly stronger than I was three months ago and have lost a few pounds.

So, with any luck, I'll finish the race tomorrow without injury. With a little more luck, I'll actually run this in pretty good time (anything sub-2:30 would be awesome). I'll be running with Eric and Bruce plus some other friends like Kristen will be there to cheer us on, so I'm sure it will be fun no matter what.

Posted March 24, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 19, 2007

Ideas for Running Tunes?

As my runs get longer, I'm getting bored of the music I'm listening to. Any ideas for upbeat songs to keep my mind occupied?

Posted March 19, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

March 12, 2007

Two Hour Run

Categories: Exercise and Racing

There's just two weeks left before the Mercer Island Half-Marathon. I've been having a little trouble with my shins; at first I thought it was the increased mileage, but then I had the same realization I had given Bruce grief about: it was time to replace the shoes after so many miles (about 250 running plus a bunch walking). So yesterday, I bought a new pair of Saucony Grid Omni 6, the updated version of the Grid Omni 4 I had been using.

I set out for my long run today with my new shoes. It was raining pretty steadily (I know, hard to believe it's raining in Seattle in March) and I considered bailing. Fortunately, it was pretty warm (58F). I was aiming for two hours and at least ten miles - both new records for me. I finished the two hour run with 11.28 miles, an average pace of 10:12/mile. If I run my half at that pace, I would finish in 2:13 (that's two hours and thirteen minutes); I'd be super happy with this time, especially since the Mercer route is so hilly. I felt good through the whole run with only the hint of cramps in my thighs at eleven miles; I know could have run two more miles. I'm feeling much more confident about the upcoming race.

Today was the day to try things out. In addition to the new shoes, I had a new Amphipod RunLite TrailRunner belt; this belt lets me carry two 10oz water bottles and a pouch for Gu gels and other stuff. It's much more comfortable than my old water belt and it has room to carry the gels I need for the run. However, my iRiver Clix player doesn't clip on well to the belt (sizes don't match); I discovered this when my Clix took a dive off the belt and skittered across the sidewalk. I carried it in my vest pocket the rest of the time. (Fortunately, the Clix survived.) I won't be carrying my water for the race, but I need it for my long runs. I may carry my own gels; we'll see.

I was also trying out a pair of Smartwool socks and Pearl Izumi Infinity shorts. I like them both, especially the shorts. I didn't think I could tell the difference between shorts, but these were really comfortable; the liner is especially nice. Nothing like trying out a pile of new stuff just before a race.

I still need to settle on a playlist for the race. I had my Clix on random shuffle, going through everything on the player. I forgot I hadn't taken my Christmas music off the player, so I had a bunch of random holiday tunes playing for much of the run.

Posted March 12, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

January 23, 2007

Half-Marathon Looming

Categories: Exercise and Racing

What did I do? With two months before the Mercer Island Half-Marathon, I'm starting to freak a bit and am worrying about the upcoming race.

The lousy weather we've had lately has made it difficult to get a lot of running in (it was even hard to walk), and work/kids have made it hard to get to the gym. I've been riding my bike indoors on a trainer a bunch, which should help my cardio (and which let me finish watching the The West Wing Season 7 - I'm sad that's the last set). However, I really need to get some run time in.

I did manage to get out for a six mile run this weekend (tying my longest run to date); I ran some hill sprints at the end for a little strength workout too. I felt pretty good through the run, although my legs are definitely sore today. My pulse is still way too high though.

I kind of wish I'd picked the 8K run instead, but since I've committed to the half-marathon, I'll keep aiming for it, but I'm spooked. I'm definitely going to need to turn it up if I'm going to finish this thing.

Posted January 23, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

December 28, 2006

Time to Get Serious Again: Mercer Island Half-Marathon

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Mercer Island Half Marathon logo
After riding the Seattle-to-Portland (STP) bike ride back in July, I seriously fell off the work out wagon. I've worked out sporadically, but nothing consistent. I realized fairly recently that I need a scary event to which I've publicly committed to work toward. The first 5K I ran and STP both served this purpose. It's time to up the stakes again.

I just signed up for the Mercer Island Half-Marathon, set for March 25, 2007. I have just under three months to get ready. Even though I've never run more than six miles (and have been slogging through my recent three mile runs) this should be plenty if I'm diligent.

I don't really have a firm goal time. Based on my best 5K, the Runner's World finish time calculator estimates I should be able to do the run in 2:02 (that's two hours, two minutes, btw...).Breaking two hours would be fantastic, but frankly, just finishing would be a big accomplishment and is really the goal.

I thought about taking on a 10K instead, but since I've already run six miles before, it didn't seem as scary. 13.1 miles is scary. I'm definitely going to need to stay focused to get this done.

Just to head off the inevitable question, I'm not sure if I want to run a marathon. The MI Half will be a good milestone if I want to run a full marathon later this year (maybe the Portland Marathon on October 7 or the Seattle Marathon on November 25. It occurred to me that if I want to run a marathon before I turn forty (April 2008), I probably need to do it this year. Now that's really scary.

Anyway, I'm kind of looking forward to this. Who's in?

Posted December 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

November 22, 2006

Exercise Ball from Hell

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Thanks to a generous loan from Bruce of his bike trainer (a stand you put your bike on so you can train indoors), I've started working out at home. It's been hard to go to the gym with the kids in school (and staying up later) plus Michelle working (and getting up earlier). I've enjoyed exercising at home, watching DVDs on a laptop while I pedal away.

Reebok StayBall

Building on this small success, I decided to expand my little home gym to include a few dumbells and an exercise ball. I picked out the Reebok StayBall, because it had some zippy patent pending method to keep the ball from rolling around (a problem I saw at the gym). According to the website, "The StayBall's breakthrough design enables the ball to stay in place..." How could I pass this up?

So, I got the thing out of the box and hooked up the cheapo pump that came with it. I think the real intention is to have you work out filling the damn thing up because this little pump only put a puff of air into the ball each time. What's more, there are two holes in pump; one for the output and an inlet. The inlet had a flimsy rubber flap that hangs over the hole to keep the air from rushing out. Every so often, this little flap would pop out and start venting my hard-earned pressure back out. I had to use a nail to push it back into place.

It took me a long time to the folded up piece of rubber to start to look even vaguely spherical, and my ankles were dying from the forced march Reebok put me through when the little rubber valve gave up the ghost and tore completely. I realized then (admittedly very belatedly) that my bike pump has the right attachment to work here, so I started using that. This worked much better but it was still a lot of work since the volume of the ball (4637 cm^3 by my calculations) is a lot more than a skinny road bike tire. Anyway, I get thing filled up.

The infamous plus.

Now, on this particular ball, there's a black plug that surrounds the filler hole, and a little white plug that goes into the filler hole. When I pulled out the pump, the black plug came out with the pump nozzle. In my rush to insert the white plug, I didn't see this and just put the darn thing into the hole! So here I am looking into the middle of the ball, where I see the plug at the bottom of the inside of the ball, air rushing into my eyes the whole time. I also discover then that Reebok's great innovation in the StayBall is to put sand inside the ball (did they really patent that?!) This means I can't simply turn over the ball to get my plug out since the sand will dump out.

The only solution was to deflate the ball enough to reach the plug. At this point, I muttered to myself out loud (which I almost never do). I pushed on the ball to get the air out. As I got close to the bottom, I started to get excited when WHOOSH - I got a face full of sand that shot out of the ball!

Ugh. After I stop swearing, I got the plug and pumped the damn thing back up. My back and shoulders now ached on top of my ankles, but eventually everything worked out. I almost dropped a lead plate from the dumbell onto my head shortly thereafter due to my failure to tighten the ends properly, but that's another story for another time...

Posted November 22, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

July 23, 2006

Paceline riding secrets

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Riding in a loose paceline
One of the things that the organizers of the Seattle-to-Portland (STP) bike ride emphasize is the importance of learning to ride in paceline. A paceline consists of two or more riders in a line riding close together in order for the riders behind the lead rider to benefit from the draft of the riders ahead. Apparently, the benefit can be up to a 30% savings in energy for the same speed. I can attest to the benefits.

There are lots of places on the web that will teach you the basics, so I thought I'd share some of the less obvious pointers I gleaned from my STP ride last week.

  • The riders in front have to communicate because the riders in back can only see the leaders' butts. There are a series of hand signals and calls that are used to indicate a danger ahead, e.g. pointing to a pothole or yelling "car up"). There were a few instances of leaders ahead forgetting and me hitting a big bump by surprise. Not happy. I'm not naming names, but his name rhymes with "truce".
  • When the rider in front is looking at the fields on the side of the road, chatting with someone, or seems otherwise preoccupied, he is not looking at the road and hence will not warn you of impending danger. Yell at them to get them to pay attention. The guilty party's name rhymes with "flint".
  • When the rider ahead of you lifts a butt cheek, jam on your brakes -- he's about to fart. Let me tell you that riding six inches off the guy's tire is not far enough to avoid the stink, even at twenty miles per hour. I think the gas gets trapped in the draft or something. Truce and Flint were both guilty of this and both had a big smile when they did it. Bastards.

Anyway, if you keep these things in mind as well as the normal tips (like "pay attention" or "don't ram the guy in front") you can easily be a successful paceline rider too.

Posted July 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 17, 2006

STP Day 2: I'm done!

Categories: Exercise and Racing

STP finisher patch

Yippee!! Bruce, Clint, and I finished the last fifty or so miles of the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride yesterday, completing just over 200 miles over two days. I'm thrilled and more than a little relieved. I honestly wasn't sure how this ride was going to go given the time and distance and the fact I didn't train as much as I'd hoped.

The amazing thing about the second day was the ride felt awesome. While my hands and butt were still a bit sore from the day before (although not nearly as much as people had warned me about), my legs and back felt great.

Entering Oregon on the Lewis and Clark Bridge
We left our hotel in Kelso around 9:20am and rode the few miles to the Lewis and Clark bridge that crosses the Columbia River into Oregon. We waited for a few minutes there to be escorted with hundreds of other STP riders across the bridge. It was pretty exciting to climb up the bridge, see the "Entering Oregon" sign, and then do a fast descent down the other side. (On one big expansion joint, you could see a dozen water bottles that had bounced off of peoples' bikes on the side of the road.)

Once we got going, Clint took off again. Bruce and I were also riding a lot faster than the day before, feeling very strong. We only made one stop early on to use the bathroom and then rode continuously all the way in. For a while, we rode with a older lady on a triathlon bike. As Bruce talked to her (I call him "Chatty Cathy" because he talks to everyone we bike past) we discovered that she's completed four Ironman races in the last two years, but is taking some time off since her grandson was born. Well, we couldn't get dropped by a grandmother, so the three of us bombed along at 21-22 miles an hour for a while in a nice pace line until she pulled off at a rest stop. Both Bruce and I breathed a sigh of relief and slowed down a bit after that.

I enjoyed riding into Portland. We had nice views of Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood plus the city as we pulled in. The only downer was that we seemed to hit every red light in Porland for the last few blocks. The worst was that we hit the red light across the street from the finish line. After 200 miles, we had to wait a minute for the light to change so we could go the last twenty feet. Bruce kindly let me finish first so the photographer could get a shot of just me. As I crossed the finish line, the announcer called out my name, which was kind of fun too.

Me, Clint, and Bruce at the finish line party with our patches

In Halladay Park at the finish line, the organizers had set up a big party, so there were food booths, a beer garden, and bike equipment/clothes booths. We checked in our bikes and then looked around for Clint, who showed up about 15-20 minutes later. He had been waiting for us at one of the rest stops and missed us as we went by. So, as it turned out, I finished first...

Anyway, we hung out at the party for a while with Bruce's wife Theresa plus Kellie and Chase (who went shopping in Portland since we didn't need support for the shorter ride today). We then headed over to the Heathman Hotel (one of my favorites) where we were staying the night. I had a wonderful shower and then a great massage. More on rest of the afternoon and evening later.

My GPS at the finish
Today I'm barely sore and am walking just fine. I was surprised how strong I felt through the finish. In total, I rode for 12:30 on the bike at an average speed of 16.1 miles per hour over the 200+ milles - faster than the 15 mph I'd expected. The second day was closer to 19 mph average. I think our overall elapsed time was about 15:20. (Note, my data isn't quite perfect because I left the GPS on for the mile+ from the trail to our hotel in Kelso and the mile back to the line, but then I forgot to turn the GPS back on as we crossed the bridge into Oregon. It's close, anyway).

I'll blog more about STP lessons, quotes, and stories later. For now, sufficed to say, I'm very happy.

Posted July 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

July 16, 2006

STP Day 1: I'm alive after 150 miles!

Categories: Exercise and Racing

My first century

I'm very happy to report that Bruce, Clint, and I (and especially I) made it all the way to Kelso on the first day of STP. We rode all the way up to the lovely Red Lion in Kelso, not needing our sag wagon that our friends Kellie and Chase were driving (how funny -- Chase driving the chase car. I'm low on blood sugar. Everything is funny...) You can see the route map here to get a sense of where we are.

What's more, I feel great, even this morning, the dreaded day after. I'm not sore (well, not really sore) except that my ass feels like, well, ass. This, however, was to be expected.

We started at 6:20am, a bit later than we had hoped, but we settled into a good pace after we cleared out of the starting line mess. The first 50-70 miles felt pretty good, so I equalled my longest ride pretty easily. The fact that it wasn't very hilly and the weather was pleasantly cool and overcast helped no doubt. I made the mistake of trying to keep pace with Clint, however, who was booming along, so I started to feel pretty tapped and sore as I limped into Centralia, the 100 mile point (see the image on the above documenting my first century - I forgot to take the photo at the end). I wasn't really sure if I could keep going, but Clint and Kellie advised me to eat some real food and sit for a while. After a big plate of spaghetti and sitting for about 30 minutes, I felt like a new man. The last fifty miles (well forty miles) felt super good. We pulled into Kelso just before 6:00pm, after 148.8 miles and 9:20 riding time.

The one lowlight was that my heartrate monitor was acting up, so I didn't have reliable heartrate data most of the ride. This is important because I was largely setting my pace via the heartrate to keep myself from dying. Bruce did a good job reminding me to slow down. It's good to have the voice of experience to keep you in line.

The ride definitely reminded me that, like Lance Armstrong said, it's not about the bike. There was one very clear moment of this as a line of people who were riding the same Trek 1500 (same year even) as I do came flying past me. I hit an even lower point when the woman on the Trek 1000 (a lower end model that I have) went by. Of course, I passed people on $3000 carbon fiber bikes too, so turnabout is fair play, I guess.

There was an amazing range of bikes. Early on we passed a guy on a Big Wheel, a guy on a unicycle, and a skateboarder. Later, we rode with a dude and a woman from New Belgian Brewing Company (makers of Fat Tire Ale and one of the sponsors) riding heavy single speed coaster bikes. Of course, there were also the teams of racers flying past too. Most everyone was pretty nice along the ride.

Last night, we had a nice steak dinner and a few beers and then crashed. Lots of fun.

Anyway, time to get ready, I'll have more later. See you at the finish line party!

Posted July 16, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

July 13, 2006

Countdown to STP

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Eek. Two days to STP (the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride I signed up for back in February.) I'm still nervous about my ability to do this, but I've done what I can do to prepare. Now, I just need to ride smart and get through it.

Honestly, I'm looking forward to it. I've never tried any physical activity of this length, so we'll see what happens. Hopefuly, the weather will be good Saturday and Sunday. Should be interesting anyway. Who knows, maybe the leaders will get thrown out on a drug scandal or someone will get a red card for head butting. I'll be sure not to insult anyone's mother or sister.

Posted July 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 25, 2006

My hardest ride yet

Categories: Exercise and Racing

As part of my panic preparation for the Seattle-to-Portland (STP) ride in a few weeks, I did a 70 mile ride today with Bruce, Todd, Clint, and Whitney. We followed the Flying Wheels 70 mile route (the longer version of the ride Bruce and I did last week.)

This was easily the hardest ride I've ever done for several reasons. First, it's the longest (albeit by about five miles) and was very hilly. Bruce sold me a bill of goods; the extra twenty miles were supposed to be a flat loop around a valley. Instead, big hills (I swear I'll kill the next person who says, "this is the last hill!"). Second, we were hauling ass. All of my colleagues are in far better shape than I am, so our average speed was even faster than last week's fast ride. What's more, when I dropped out of the line, I had to work 30% harder to keep up since drafting is such a big help. Finally, it was really warm today (high 80's), easily the warmest weather I've ridden in.

The result was major cramping at a few points (including one very exciting locked up leg) and a sore everything. I feel good for having finished though and just hope I can walk tommorow (I feel OK right now.) I clearly need to drink more fluid; I thought I was drinking enough, but I didn't need to pee the whole five hours, so I understand that means I need to drink more. I also learned that I can't start at a sprint. As soon as we started, we hammered at 22-23 mph and then hit a huge hill. I was dizzy by the top and really considered quitting there, less than ten miles into the ride. Fortunately, once I hit my stride it got better. Finally, I learned that I hate really sweet stuff when I'm hot and thirsty. I had energy drink in my bottles; they were almost unbearable until I cut them with water I bought along the way. I also hated the Hooah! energy bar I ate along the way. I'm sure it was quite tasty, but it seemed cloying during the ride. Everyone else said it was a hard ride too (harder than the first day of STP and about the same as the second said Todd), so I didn't feel quite as stupid. Some of the others cramped too (including Clint, who I heard screaming behind me as he jumped off his bike with locked legs.) Misery loves company, as he pointed out later.

There were a few highlights of course. Much of the ride through the Sammamish River Valley was lovely, and it was nice to enjoy it with my friends. I also love the new gloves and shorts I picked up this week. My hands and butt felt much better than last week, despite the longer distance. I also was amused by the turnout of stupid drivers who feel the need to yell obscenities and insults at cyclists as they drive by. Interestingly, they seemed to be centered in a five mile radius around Duvall, a rural town near Seattle. I've never had a problem with drivers before, but today at least four or five people decided it was important to share their views with us. I guess they're mad because their jetskis and dirt bikes were broken or something.

I also discovered how cool it is to break the speed limit on a bike. I hit 42 mph in a 35 zone going down a big hill. There was something a bit heady about the whole thing; of course, I was terrified I'd be road pizza if I hit even a pebble, but it was super fun.

Anyway, I haven't decided if today's ride gives me more or less confidence for STP. Glad to know it was as hard as it gets for STP, but I'm not really excited to repeat the experience soon. Guess I'll have to keep working out so STP is easiier.

Posted June 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 20, 2006

Back in the saddle

Categories: Exercise and Racing

The last few weeks have been bad for my exercise routine between my trip to New Zealand, family travel, Strategy Conference, and the Business Problems class. I did a few runs in there, but largely, I fell off the exercise wagon. With only four weeks or so until my crazy 200+ mile Seattle-to-Portland (STP) bike ride, I started to freak out a bit.

This weekend I decided it was time to get serious and get back on the bike. So, I went on a fifty mile ride Saturday with Bruce. Now, fifty miles is a good long ride for me, but this ride was especially tough. First, it's been four+ weeks since I've been on a bike. Second, the ride we took from Marymoor Park in Redmond to Carnation and back was pretty hilly (we did the Flying Wheels fifty mile loop). But most of all, I let my Ironman-finishing, somewhat sadistic friend Bruce dictate the pace of the ride. Instead of my typical 15-17 mph in the flats, we were doing 19-21. Even drafting behind Bruce, I was working hard. The hills were especially brutal, sapping my remaining energy. My back and neck were super sore and tired by the end of the ride, and my rear end wasn't super happy about sitting on a post for four hours.

Still, it was a fun ride. I'm happy that I felt pretty good the next day (and could walk). My gear feels pretty good now (although gloves with more pad would be welcome). I just need to put in a bunch more miles in the next few weeks.

Posted June 20, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 11, 2006

My hero

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Bruce Morgan, my friend, colleague, and exercise mentor, completed the Ironman Arizona this weekend, his first. He finished in 13:21, well under his goal time of fourteen hours. He also completed it with no major injuries -- his other goal. His blog entry describes his experience.

I, on the other hand, showed up to work today with my shirt inside out. QuornFlour had to point it out to me. I even argued with her for ten seconds before realizing it myself. Not a high competence moment for me.

Anyway, congratulations to Bruce on his huge accomplishment!

Posted April 11, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 9, 2006

Long solo ride

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Ride map - click to see a larger version

I did a 44 mile ride today solo, out the Cedar River Trail to Maple Valley. This is the same distance coincidentally as my longest ride, but I was on my own, and I didn't take any breaks. Even though a lot of the ride was flat, it was pretty windy, so I'm beat. As it turns out, it really does make a difference riding in a pace line with others. I worked a lot harder today than in my previous rides. Sucking down two Gu packs along the way seemed to help. 3:07 ride time.

I'm also still dialing in my gear. I've been trying out a new saddle; not sure if I like it yet, but it's definitely better than my old one. I also installed SKS Race Blade Fenders last week; good thing since it was raining for part of my ride. I'm not all muddy now (well, not as much).

Anyway, still lots more miles ahead and time in the saddle before I feel confident about successfully completing STP.

Posted April 9, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 5, 2006


Categories: Exercise and Racing

After my long ride today, I weighed in at 169.4 pounds. I haven't seen this side of 170 pounds for probably 10+ years. Undoubtedly, dehydration played a small role, but I'm still excited.

So far, since I started exercising and eating a little better, I've dropped about fifteen pounds and three inches from my waist. Just this weekend, I opened up a box with old pants that didn't fit anymore; I pulled out a bunch of great pants that fit well again (even a little loose!) It was like Christmas!

I still have a lot of fat to loose, but it's nice to see progress.

Posted March 5, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Building bike mileage

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Riders coming onto the ferry to Bainbridge Island
In the last two weekends (really today and last Sunday), I've ridden 77 miles, basically doubling the number of miles I've put on my bike since I got it in December.

Last weekend, I did the Chilly Hilly ride (one of the top rides in the country according to Bicycling Magazine.) This is a 33 mile loop around Bainbridge Island (click to see our route) and sort of formally kicks off the bicycling season. While it wasn't very chilly, it was, in fact, quite hilly. I rode with my esteemed colleagues Bruce, Clint (and his wife Whitney who kicked all our butts), and Todd (who rides for the Zoka bicycling team and is way out of my league). I did my best to keep up, but all these guys killed me climbing the hills. Still, it was a pretty ride and something of an accomplishment, even if I did have to walk halfway up one of the last hills. It took about 2:20 of elapsed riding time.

Tony, Clint, Whitney, and Bruce on the ferry

Today, I just came in from a 44 mile ride with Bruce and Todd around the north end of Lake Washington and back across the I-90 bridge (click here for a map of the area -- my GPS was out of battery today, so no ride map). As I rode to the meeting point, it was raining and very windy. The road was covered in fallen branches; I kept thinking "this is a bad idea". Fortunately, the rain stopped (the wind never did).

These guys were moving pretty fast (20-21 mph, which is fast for me) for the first part. We slowed down a bit as the path got bumpy and traffic picked up, but it was still a good tempo. A short break at the University Zoka coffee shop for a latte (still my favorite place for a latte) and a little pumpkin break helped pick me up. The hills at the end climbing toward the I-90 bridge, going over Mercer Island, and then coming back up Eastgate Way did me in. My legs were shot. I made it and feel proud, but I'm tired and sore now. 3:05 elapsed riding time.

Before Chilly Hilly, my longest ride had been a flat 20 miles, so these last two rides really increased my saddle time. I'm feeling pretty good on the bike, although I have a long way to go before I'm ready for STP. I need to look into different gloves and maybe a new saddle too; my hands and butt don't like the current set up.

More than anything, I'm grateful to have knowledgable friends to ride with. It's been a great help as I get started, and it's more fun and motivating to ride with others. (Drafting is nice too...)

Posted March 5, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

February 20, 2006

What did I do?

Categories: Exercise and Racing

STP logo
In a fit of madness and with the poorly optimized decision to save the Active.com registration fee by doing it person, I signed up for the Seattle-to-Portland (STP) bike ride at the Bike Expo this weekend. (The cute woman at the sign-up counter egging me on in front of my two sons didn't help, but hey, I got a low number - 358 - and I saved $5.25!)

This is a 200 mile bike ride between Seattle and Portland (as evidenced in the name of the event. I'm doing the somewhat more sane two day ride; the real crazies do this in a day. Of course, since I've never ridden more than twenty miles in a stretch, I have some work ahead of me to get to back-to-back centuries before the July 15 date.

Who else is in?

Posted February 20, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

January 22, 2006

My legs hurt

Categories: Exercise and Racing

After my long run yesterday, I figured I shouldn't run again today, so I went for a bike ride instead (yes, a bike ride on a real bike, outside and everything!)

I took my Trek out for an hour-long spin, riding over the I-90 bridge from Bellevue to Mercer Island, about twelve miles in all. It wasn't a particularly long ride, but it's pretty hilly.

So, it turns out that hills matter. This is obvious, but especially so when you're at the bottom of a big hill. After my first ride, which was twenty miles, I figured twelve would be easy. Well, that first ride was flat; today's wasn't. As I rode down this huge, mile-long hill (Eastgate Way) on the way to the bridge, I thought to myself, "Self, this is going to suck coming back up." And so it did.

I have a lot more strength training to do. My legs are a wreck now between the run and the ride. I was thinking about doing the Chilly Hilly ride next month, but now I'm not so sure.

Still, it was great to get outside and the ride felt good, feelings of near death notwithstanding. I may learn to like riding yet...

Posted January 22, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 21, 2006

My first hour+ run

Categories: Exercise and Racing

I did my first run over an hour today (1:02:43 to be exact.) This worked out to be 6.18 miles, easily my longest distance as well. The previous longest run/distance was around :40 minutes/3.5 miles. Average pace works out to be a little over ten minutes a mile -- not too bad for me.

I was afraid that boredom would be an issue, but I had tunes, which seemed to alleviate most of those concerns. I also ran with a water bottle in a hip carrier (first time I've need to carry water.) The weight and the sloshing didn't bug me.

I felt strong through the whole run, even sprinting up to a blistering (for me) 6:20 pace for the last .2 mile. I wasn't sure I could go for an hour/six miles, so I'm actually kind of proud of myself for getting this done. Hopefully, my shins won't fall apart now...

Posted January 21, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 15, 2006

Swim/bike brick

Categories: Exercise and Racing

I did my first swim/bike brick yesterday; this is a swim workout followed by a bike ride. I did a pretty intense swim. My main set was 400m, 200m, 100m, and 50m at my fastest pace (albeit with a lot of rest in between). I haven't swum that fast for a long time.

I had a few moments of "flow", the semi-nirvana state of everything working right; my stroke felt fast and efficient and my turns were crisp. Inevitably, my arms would get tired and my lungs would ache, disappating the "flow". I'm still a lot slower than I was during my high school swimming days, still, the swim felt good.

When I went to the locker room to change for the biking, I found myself a little dazed. I made a bunch of big mistakes like putting my biking pants on backwards and then my shirt on inside-out. I had a hard time concentrating. I had read about the difficulties people have during their transitions in triathlons, but this was my first real experience.

Once I got on the bike (a stationery spinning bike, actually), I found my legs didn't work quite right and everything seemed harder than normal. I don't normally start my rides already tired, so I suppose this is to be expected. After a few minutes, things settled in, and I felt OK. Watching TV (Seahawks game highlights -- go Hawks! -- and the first part of Total Recall) helped pass the time. I threw in a bit of weight lifting afterwards for good measure.

I wasn't sure I could swim for 30min and ride for 60 so it felt good to finish it without feeling like I needed to die. Those will be longer than the times I need to sustain for a sprint triathlon. I just need to be able to run 5K after doing the swim and bike... And I definitely need to practice transitions.

Posted January 15, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 1, 2006

Resolution Run

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Tony, Bruce, and Malcolm after the Resolution Run

To start off the new year right, Bruce, Malcolm, and I ran in the Resolution Run 5K at Magnuson Park, an old naval air station here in Seattle on Lake Washington. It was reasonably warm for January in Seattle (high 40's) with no rain, but it was bit windy -- in our face for the outbound leg. The course was flat (a nice change), so there was really no excuse for a slow race (other than being fat, old, and slow with aching shins).

Bruce and I both ran personal bests today. I finally crashed through the 27 minute barrier, running 26:35 (actually 26:24 if you subtract the 11 seconds it took to get from where I started to the starting line.) I felt pretty good through the whole race, although my average pulse is still higher than I'd like (183 actual).

This was Malcolm's first run with us and his first 5K in a long time; he came in all humble thinking he'd run nine minute miles and wound up crushing me by 20-30 seconds. Sandbagger.

We skipped the optional "trip-n-dip" into Lake Washington at the end. The 47 degree water didn't sound very inviting. The beer and chili afterwards, however, was very nice. All-in-all, it was a great start to 2006.

I'm laying out my goals for 2006 now and will post them here shortly. I think they will include a sprint triathlon, the STP (Seattle-to-Portland bike race - 200 some odd miles over one or two days), and a bunch more running races. I may move up to 8K and 10K races; I'm not sure if I really want to push for a half-marathon. We'll see.

Resolution Run path
Click for a larger view of the route. Ignore the finishing time. Not sure why it's so much shorter. Cool image generated by SportTracks.

Posted January 1, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

December 25, 2005

Firmware upgrade for Garmin Forerunner 301

I just installed the v3.00 firmware upgrade for the Garmin Forerunner 301. In addition to some bug fixes, the major improvement in this release is the addition of support for MultiSport.

With this upgrade, you can configure the Forerunner for events like triathlons. You specify the order and type (run, bike, other) of each leg. After you start the event, you hit the "Lap" button to transition from one leg to the next. You can even have it record your transition times (hit the "Lap" button at the start of the transition and again at the end). I used this feature yesterday on my brick (run, bike, run) workout. Worked like a charm!

Click here for the upgrade.
Click here for the updated user guide (Owner's Manual Rev. D)
Click here for a page describing the bug fixes and previous firmware upgrades. Good accessories too.

Posted December 25, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 29, 2005

My first ride

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Yesterday morning, Bruce and I went for a bike ride. This was my first real ride on my new Trek 1500 road bike, so I was a bit anxious. Frankly, I wasn't sure I'd like it, never really having done much road biking, plus I had a host of other anxieties including dealing with the pedal clips, doing an aerobic activity for 90 minutes (longer than I've done in recent history), and staying warm on a bike on a cold day. Plus, I didn't want to look like a newbie boob. I had lots of new cycling clothes including tights (eek!), a headband (to keep my ears warm), and a bright yellow jacket.

Fortunately, my fears were foundless. I really enjoyed the twenty mile ride on the Sammamish River Trail. We kept a pretty good pace (averaging 14 miles per hour including a stop for a few minutes to fix my cleats after a screw fell out), I managed to handle the pedals OK, and I was very comfortable temperature wise (with the exception of my feet which were very cold. I need some booties for cold weather riding). Bruce assures me I passed the fashion test and the newbie boob test as well. He's typically one to call a spade a spade, so I'll take him at his word.

I felt great immediately after the ride and today, the day after. I do need to make some saddle adjustments (move it forward a bit so I'm not sitting on my perineum so much) and get the booties I mentioned. Some sunglasses might help too. That said, I'm excited to go for my next ride.

Posted November 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 21, 2005

My new Trek 1500

2005 Trek 1500

In my ongoing quest to get into shape and spend more time outside, I picked up a 2005 Trek 1500 today. This is my first road bike. I had done a lot of research online, but when it came to doing ride tests, I really didn't know what I was looking for. I tried a bunch of other bikes out; at the end of the day, the 1500 felt the best. The fact that it's a 2005 closeout and, hence, on sale, was a big plus. I also was happy to find one of the 1500's with an Ultegra rear derailleur and a 105 brake set. Some of the other 1500's I saw had a 105 rear and no-name brakes. Nicer components at the same price are bonus.

Shimano Flight Deck
Of course, when you get a new bike, there's more than the bike cost. Naturally, I "needed" a computer, so I added a Shimano Flight Deck. This is a pretty standard bike computer except that it integrates with my other components; the control buttons are on the brake hoods, there are sensors that know what gear the bike is in, and it calculates cadence (how fast I'm pedalling) from a combination of the speed and gear. Slick.

Next up were clip in pedals and shoes. I went with Shimano again. I'm hoping to use the same clips and shoes for my other bike at some point, so I went with SPD-style clips on PD-A520 pedals (two sided, basic pedals) and SH-T092 shoes (ones I can actually walk in!). I need to learn to how to ride a bike with clips; I've already done the slow-motion fall twice in my garage, banging up one of my control levers, my knee, and my ego. Time to find a softer place to practice.

I added some bottle cages (blue to match the bike), a Blackburn Air Stik pump, a little adapter so I can fill the Presta valves with a Shrader pump if needed, and some Pearl Izumi gloves (full winter ones and normal shorties). I still need some riding pants and a water/wind resistant jacket. I think I can make do with my other running gear.

Jimmy at Gregg's Cycles (Aurora store) was a great help, explaining everything, making sure I had what I needed (and no more). I highly recommend the store and Jimmy.

I can't wait to go for a ride (once I figure out the damn pedals so I don't tip over like an idiot).

Posted November 21, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

November 20, 2005

Toys for Tots Trot

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Toys for Tots Trot race route

Bruce, Will, and I ran the Toys for Tots Trot 5K today. Bruce, of course, is veteran companion for these races, but today was Will's first time out with us. It was pretty damn cold, especially since it was foggy, so I had a warm hat, running gloves, and a vest on. These made standing around before the race bearable, but proved to be a bit of a pain during the race; I still need to figure out my clothing strategy in these things.

I ran a respectable 27:08 by my time (I think the official was 27:17 or something) which works out to 8:29 miles on my clock and a bit more (like 8:45) on the official clock. I like mine better. If my Forerunner is to be believed, then I finally beat my 8:30 split target. However, my splits were a mess. I started out too fast at 8:14, had a bad second mile at 9:02, and then came home in 8:27 for the third (including a short walk to get my heart rate back under control). I finished strong at 7:13 pace for the last part. I had hoped to beat the Marine who ran the race in a flak jacket and carrying the Marine Corp standard; I passed him at one point, but during my short walk, he passed me and then ran a strong finish.

I did, however, beat Bruce, who normally beats me by a minute per mile. It would be more accurate to say that Bruce beat himself, deciding to do an extra loop around Seattle Center. The course was not well marked and the attendants were not always diligent, but I like to think I had better course management than Bruce. In the end it looks like he ran an extra .8 of a mile -- definitely significant.

Will did very well, finishing in the low 25's I think. I guess all that Salumi's didn't slow him down.

Of course, the most important part of our races is the brunch afterwards. Today we went to an old haunt of mine, Mae's Phinney Ridge Cafe. Per my tradition, I had huevos rancheros (with grits this time!) -- lovely.

Tony, Will, and Bruce in front of Mae's Phinney Ridge Cafe

(This is quite possibly the most unflattering photo ever taken of me.)

Posted November 20, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

November 14, 2005

Drowned rat

Categories: Exercise and Racing

I did my best impression of a drowned rat today. As is typical of Seattle in November, it rained today. Actually it was a bit heavier than our normal spitty, drizzly rain. But, if you live in Seattle and let the rain stop you from going outside, you'll never leave your house.

So, Bruce and I did a bike ride around Mercer Island this morning. It was a rolling twelve mile ride; Bruce was kind to me and kept the pace managable. He also brought a bunch of useful wet/cold weather biking gear. Since I'm new to this, I have almost nothing (this was actually the first time I've done a ride with someone other than my kids and the first time I've taken my bike somewhere else to ride.) Nonetheless, I came back soaked from the rain (especially my legs) and soaked from sweat (especially my torso). I hadn't brought any other clothes, so I drove home wet.

Shortly after I got home and showered, Andrew (8) and I headed back out, this time for a hike with his Cub Scout pack. We went to Twin Falls State Park, about about 45 minutes east of Seattle. There, we hiked up to Twin Falls with eight other boys plus ten other adults. It was raining moderately for the first part of the hike, but it really opened up when we reached the farthest point (of course)of our out-and-back hike. Despite being pretty well equipped for the weather, Andrew and I both came back to the car wet. I can only imagine how the less-well equipped families did (one guy just had a fleece jacket and jeans on and an umbrella to keep him dry). Learning from the morning's ride, I brought extra clothes this time. A quick change in the car made the ride home more bearable. (Our Honda Element was perfect for a soggy outdoorsy day. Lots of room to move around, plus waterproof seats...)

I think everything I own that's moderately waterproof is soaked. There's a difference between waterproof for daily use and waterproof for hours in a rainy forest or zinging along on a bike. I do have sailing foul weather gear, but I think I'd steam to death in them on a hike or a bike ride. Oh well, if you play outside in the rain, expect to get wet.

Posted November 14, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 10, 2005

Swam a mile today

Categories: Exercise and Racing

For the first time since 10th grade, I swam a mile today (actually 1800 yards -- a little more than a mile.) I used to race in junior high and high school, but I haven't swum regularly since then. When I have worked out in the pool, it's always been around 800-1000 yards and around 30 minutes.

This evening, I was determined to swim a mile or an hour, which ever came first. Turns out I can swim the mile in about 45 minutes of various 200 yard sets (kicking, intervals, straight 200s, etc.). While this is not exactly record setting, I was surprised how easy it was, frankly. I used to struggle to get to 1000 yards, but I think the mental expectation that I was doing 1800 yards today reset my internal clock. I'm also in a little better shape these days, so I'm sure that helped...

My shins have been bugging me since the race last weekend, so I haven't been running. I'm glad to have another way to continue to build my aerobic base, especially now that the days are short and dark.

(Tried out a new pair of Speedo Vanquisher goggles today. Hated them with a capital H. Strap kept coming off, goggles kept leaking, anti-fog didn't. I like my old Speedo goggles; I think they were the Pro model. Too many damn choices at the store today, although not the Pro.)

Posted November 10, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Pace Race Followup

Categories: Exercise and Racing

The results from the Pace Race last weekend are up. My "gun time" was 27:12.5 for 8:46 splits. I finished right smack the middle of the pack: 17/34 for my age group and 58/115 for all men. I had secretly hoped to finish in the top half of both; this was pretty damn close. Lots faster than the last two races too.

I still can't figure out why my Forerunner times/splits are always a bit faster than the scored times. I thought I had run 8:35 splits. Bugs me.

With some help from Bruce, my colleague and always-willing-even-though-he's-busy training coach, I think I figured out why I crashed near the end of the race -- I bonked. (I like that Wikipedia has an entry for bonk.) I had gotten up pretty early before the race and eaten commensurately early. I didn't top off with a Gu right before the race like I did at the Pumpkin Push. I'll have to avoid bonking again; it sucked. Of course, the real answer is to just get into better shape so that racing 5K doesn't kill me. Damn it. Why is hard work always the right answer?!

Posted November 10, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 6, 2005

Pace Race 5K

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Pace Race 5K through Kirkland. Image generated by SportTracks and my Garmin Forerunner 301
My esteemed colleage Rob and I ran in the Pace Race 5K this morning in Kirkland. This was a fundraiser and awareness builder for prostate cancer.

The weather was cold but clear, a welcome change from the heavy rain yesterday. Fortunately, Road Runner Sports was giving out hats and gloves, so I kept warm through the race (a little too warm after three miles.)

I had set my goal at 8:30 splits again, but according to my Forerunner, I ran 8:35s -- close but not quite. The race started out uphill (+111 ft on the Forerunner, so my first split was a little slower, 8:42. I made it up on the second mile, 8:10 (downhill -101). Then, the wheels came off. The third mile was level and should have been straightforward, but the combination of being too hot and getting tired seemed to have sapped my will to go on. I had to fight my way through the last mile, running a terrible 8:51. I finally picked up for the last tenth of a mile and sprinted in at 8:05 pace. My watch said 27:11; we'll see what the official time is.

Amazingly, I ran 96% of the race with my heartrate in the 92-109% of max region. My pulse was pretty even through the race without the high peaks or the slower regions. I guess that means I kept the effort pretty consistent for the race, which sounds good.

This race was remarkable in the amount of free stuff. In addition to the normal t-shirt (and this one isn't butt-ugly like the others), we got a workout with a water bottle, another t-shirt, gloves, water, pens, post-its, plus other booths handed out frisbees, hats, gloves, Gu Energy Gel. Ezell's, the world's best fried chicken restaurant, was a sponsor, so I was hopeful there would be a mess o' chicken after the race, but alas, I was disappointed.

Rob and I had our post-race brunch at the Waimea Brewing Company instead. There was nothing close to our traditional huevos rancheros (except the Loco Moco, but I wasn't ready for a 1/2 pound hamburger patty topped with a fried egg and covered in brown gravy). I fell back on one my favorites: kalua pork plate lunch. Rob and I also shared an SPAM musubi appetizer; this is essentially SPAM sushi -- rice, nori, and SPAM luncheon meat. Mmm. One of the best parts was having my mac (macaroni) salad with a dash of soy sauce. Fabulous. I really do love Hawaiian food, but I think I ate twice the calories I had just run off. Oh well, easy come, easy go. (How very Hawaiian...)

My shins are bugging me now (both sides), so I think I'll lay off running for a bit. I've been swimming, cycling (indoor and out), and lifting a little recently, so I'll have to rely on those until my legs feel better. I'll have to pick my next race far enough out to recover. Maybe the Toys for Tots Trot on 11/20.

Posted November 6, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 29, 2005

Beijing run

My run in Beijing
This is the map of a run I did in Beijing from the Grand Hyatt (lower right) to the Forbidden City (upper left) and around the hutongs (traditional neighborhoods) in the area. I just thought it was a cool shot; it's also amazing to see how big the Forbidden City is.

(This shot was generated by SportTracks.)

Posted October 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Garmin Forerunner 301 Coolness

Garmin Forerunner 301
I've alluded to my new running toy a few times in previous posts, but I haven't blogged about it yet. The Garmin Forerunner 301 is a GPS-based workout tool. It combines a GPS, heart rate monitor, and some other training software. It tracks my distance, pace, elevation change, and heart rate as I run or bike. It also automatically calculates mile split times, tells me if I'm running faster or slower than the pace I set, and can even handle interval training (once I get around to inputting some workouts.) The 301 has a rechargable battery with good life; it recharges and downloads data to the PC via a mini-USB port -- pretty convenient.

The software Garmin provides is pretty bad, but fortunately, there's an awesome free application called SportTracks. This thing rocks. It's a good exercise log, provides tons of charts, and overlays my workouts over Google street maps and satellite maps. If you use a Forerunner, you simply must use SportTracks.

The device is reasonably easy to use to seems OK accurate (not sure if the weird paths on my maps are GPS errors, map errors, or software errors). The only downsides are that it's a bit big still (and dorky looking) and it takes a while to acquire the GPS signal each morning when I go out to run (although it's forced me to take longer stretching, albeit in the cold and rain.) Also, like all GPS units, it needs line-of-sight to the satellites in order to keep the signal. The Garmin does simple extrapolation of your path once it finds the signal again, but invariably, the path shorter than I really ran. Running under tree cover obviously poses problems (this is especially bad for me in my neighborhood.)

As many trainers advise, keeping a log is a good motivational tool as well as a good way to track your progress. The Garmin takes this to the next level and is fun, fun, fun for geeks like me.

Posted October 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 22, 2005

Pumpkin Push

Categories: Exercise and Racing

I ran my second 5K this morning (really my first since the last one was so messed up.) This was the Pumpkin Push, an annual race to benefit the 45th Street Clinic. Once again, a group of my colleagues from work ran the race, making it a lot more fun. Here you can see me with Scott and Bruce (Rob also ran but missed the photo op.)

Scott, Tony, and Bruce after the Pumpkin Push

It was a perfect fall day -- sunny and warm. The race was at Seward Park in Seattle; it was full of lovely fall colors and is right on Lake Washington, so there were great views throughout the race. Since it's so close to Halloween, many runners were in costume. As you can see above, we're pretending to be runners.

I had hoped to run 8:30 splits today (I ran ~8:40s last time) and started out a bit ahead of pace. Then, I reached The Hill. Forward progress ground to a halt while my heart rate raced skyward and legs burned. While tempted to slow to a walk, I was determined to keep pretending to run. I managed to haul my fat butt up the hill and back down it to finish the race just under 29 minutes (we didn't stick around for official results). According to my watch (I did buy the Garmin Forerunner 301 -- more on that later), I ran splits of 8:27, 9:34, and 8:30, so aside from The Hill, my splits were right on target.

Here's my GPS track for the race over a satellite photo, courtesy of SportTracks, a very cool (and free!) GPS-enabled logbook program. (The finish time is wrong because I started my watch late.)
Pumpkin Push GPS track over a satellite photo

After the race, we went to the Bluwater Bistro in Leschi for our now traditional post-race brunch of huevos rancheros (or the closest thing we could find. In this case, a yummy "Texas Toast" -- poached eggs, cornbread, beans, rice, and salsa).

I was worried about this race since I haven't run much since the last one and wanted to run a faster pace. While the hill ultimately screwed my plans, I'm happy to have completed the race pretty quickly and to have run the whole race. Time to pick the next race (the Dawg Dash next week is too soon, I think. No reason to help or patronize the Huskies anyway. Go Stanford!)

One thing I learned today (after looking at the photo) -- I need to pin my number lower. This one looks like it's hanging from my nipples. Not sure I'm ready for Bruce's loincloth number look, but even that's better.

[results update: My official time was 28:51.3, meaning 9:18 splits (not sure about the difference between my calculated times and the official times). I placed 63rd of 102 of men 30-39 and 167th out of 266 overall. It surprises me that there were more women than men in th race today: 385.]

Posted October 22, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 10, 2005

Race mess-up

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Well, I should have known it was too good to be true. The race I ran yesterday had some problems.

As the Woodinville Country Slough Run rganizers stated on their website:

The big question of the day was:
What was up with the 5k course?

Answer: A couple overzealous volunteers had the 5k participants turn at the 10k 5 Mile marker instead of the 5k turn around. We measured the difference and concluded that the 5k course everyone ran was about 0.5 k or 0.3 miles short. We apologize for this and will make sure the volunteers are well informed next year.

So it turns out I ran less than I thought. My GPS said the same thing, but I figured it was wrong. My adjusted time (assuming I could have run another .3 miles at that pace) was 27:40 -- still not bad and well within my goals, but not as cool as 25:10.

I'm already planning on running another 5K in two weeks -- the Pumpkin Push. Hopefully, this one will be run correctly so I can get a real 5K time.

Posted October 10, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 9, 2005

I did it!

Categories: Exercise and Racing

My race results
About a month ago, I blogged that I would be doing the 5K race at the Woodinville Country Slough Run. Well, I did it today.

I had set some reasonable goals: Finish in under thirty minutes and don't walk. I had privately hoped to run 9:30/mile splits, but I was worried I wouldn't be able to do it, since I hadn't run at this pace in my training yet.

I shouldn't have worried. I finished in 25:10, which works to be 8:07 splits or so, and I did run the whole race. I finished 162nd; I'm not sure how big the field was, but I seemed about mid pack. The results should be up on the site soon, so it'll be fun to see where it all shook out. (And, no, I'm not too embarassed that the person who finished just ahead of me was an under-13 girl. I think I saw her taking steroids before the race.)

Team IE after the race

The race was especially fun because we had nine people from the IE team running together. Bruce and Rob finished first (with Bruce, a hard core runner with a marathon under his belt, finishing with a new personal best). Everyone finished under thirty minutes, so it was a good race for us all. More important, the motivation of having a goal and a group of people to complete it with kept me working out through the last month.

While my legs recover, I'm already looking for my next race. Any ideas?

Posted October 9, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (2)

September 13, 2005

30 min

Categories: Exercise and Racing

This morning, I ran thirty minutes continuously for the first time since college (probably ever, frankly). I think I ran about three miles, but I don't have my distances worked out well yet. In any case, I'm pretty happy about it. I've been doing two mile/twenty minute runs up until this morning, so this was a huge increase. My legs were a bit wobbly today. I don't normally feel the effects of my two mile runs so I know I'm closer to my limits now. I'll run at this time/distance for a while until I get stronger.

Since this is pretty close to the 5K distance I'll be running next month, I'm now confident I'll be able to finish the race and hopefully even do it reasonably fast.

(I've been eyeing the Garmin Forerunner 301, a GPS unit/heart monitor that attaches to your wrist. This would give me reasonably reliable time and distance info in addition to scratching my geek itch.)

Posted September 13, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 12, 2005

Getting off my fat ass

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Like many middle aged men, I've gained a bunch of weight over the years. I'm not obese or anything, but I'm definitely a little chunkier than I'd like.

As my waist size hit 38, I decided to draw the line and start on both. Over the summer, I started watching my diet, using the guidelines suggested by the Abs Diet which seemed pretty reasonable (cut simple carbs, avoid extra fats, eat more smaller meals, etc.) and lost about ten pounds right off the bat. Good start.

My weight loss stopped there, so I figured I needed to add working out. I started running and biking on and off, but I knew I needed some more motivation and accountability to get me to stick to it. As a result, I've roped a few of my colleagues into running a road race in a few weeks. I'm hopeful that the combination of peer pressure and a date will help keep me exercising where willpower alone might falter. (This public blog post to the entire world helps too.)

So, we've picked the Woodinville Country Slough Run on October 9. It's a flat 5K, so it shouldn't been too hard. I'm running two mile stints pretty well now and am reasonably confident I can get to 5K (3 miles) without much ado if I stick to it. The only risk for me is that I'll be travelling for almost two weeks between now and then so I need to keep exercising on the road. We'll see how that goes.

Anyway, wish me luck!

(BTW, if you're from the Woodinville Country Slough organization committee, fix your damn site. The link to the signup form is broken. Besides, who doesn't have web signup anymore? It's 2005 for Pete's sake!)

Update: the site is fixed. You can download the PDF signup form now.

Posted September 12, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)