Owning clubs doesn't make you a golfer

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.

Post Race Report

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.)

Mercer Island Half Marathon: Done

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...

Tomorrow is the Big Day!

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.

Two Hour Run

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.

Half-Marathon Looming

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.

Time to Get Serious Again: Mercer Island Half-Marathon

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?

Exercise Ball from Hell

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...

Paceline riding secrets

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.