Sunday, August 29, 2010

Product Review: Scape Athlete Sunblock

I don't like sunscreen.  I hate having to put it on.  I hate the greasy feeling.  I hate it running into my eyes.

But I wear sunscreen a lot.  In fact, I don't usually wear sunscreen, I wear sun armor—SPF 50.  So, when I read about a new sunblock made just for athletes, I decided to order some and give it a try.  Here is my review of Scape Athlete Sunblock.

The Products

Scape sunblock is targeted primarily at athletes.  It's active ingredient is avobenzone, which is a more advanced UV blocking agent than zinc oxide.  The benefit of something like avobenzone is that it bonds to your skin really well, and thus doesn't run into your eyes.  Or, at least that's the idea.  You can get it in a few different forms, including SPF30 and SPF50 lotions, foam, lip balm, a face stick, and a spray.  I got the SPF30 lotion and a face stick.  I tried both on my run yesterday, and had really positive results.  Both products block both UVA and UVB rays—a critical thing in any sunblock you buy.

SPF30 Lotion

The traditional lotion comes in a 4oz bottle.  I was surprised when I put it on that I didn't have the overwhelming desire to wash my hands afterwards.  I hate sunscreen on my hands, but this stuff could be wiped off pretty easily with just a towel.

I put the lotion on my arms and neck for my 20 mile run.  The big thing I noticed is that it didn't keep me from sweating.  This is very good.  I've been using Banana Boat Sport sunblock, and it causes me to overheat a bit because it blocks my sweat glands a bit.  Scape doesn't do this.

Another observation was that the sunblock was still there after my run.  I don't know how effective it was at blocking UV rays at that point, but it says something that I could still see the sunblock on my arms after running for over 3 hours while sweating and dousing myself with water.  I will say, though, that I didn't burn, so it was effective.

Face Stick

I tried the Face Stick (SPF50) on my face—duh.  I've never really thought of using a stick of sunscreen on my face, but it actually makes sense.  Furthermore, the product says it can be applied to wet or sweaty skin, so I could see myself taking this with me on a longer run or bike ride and applying a second coat even if I'm already drenched in sweat.

Like the lotion, I had no issues with it blocking my sweat glands.  I was able to sweat like a horse much like I usually do.  I also had no issues with it running into my eyes.

How effective is it blocking UV rays?  I can't offer any scientific opinion, but I didn't burn on my run, and I only applied it once.  On my long runs, I take a small rag with me and I'm constantly wiping the sweat off my face.  Even after doing all that, the sunblock still stayed on.  A big plus.

The Nitty Gritty
So, this sunblock is great stuff, right?  Well, it is, but it also has a major flaw: it's pricey.  The 4oz bottle of lotion was $14.95, and the face stick was $11.95.  Since the nearest store that sells the sunblock is in Sioux City, IA, I had to find an online dealer.  I ordered from, and had to pay $9.75 in shipping.  So, for 4oz of lotion and a face stick, my grand total was almost $40.

Note: I only ordered the face stick because I thought it would be silly to pay ten dollars in shipping for a fifteen dollar tube of lotion.  By adding the face stick, the shipping didn't change, so I at least got a bit more bang for my buck.

Funny Side Note: When I was checking out, asked me if I wanted them to use a "Tri Earth Green Box Re-Used Packing Box".  I said that was ok, and look what they sent me: 

So, by re-using a box, I get a huge box filled with packing paper for two small sunblock products.  Most of this packaging material could have been avoided by just sending the products in a small envelope.  Sometimes people go "green" without common sense.

The Verdict
Do I recommend this product?  Yes…but it's too expensive to become my sunblock of choice.  Sure, it works better than any sunblock I've used, but I can't justify paying $15 when I can get 8oz of another "sport" sunblock at Walgreens for $10.  If you have big problems with sunscreen running into your eyes, give Scape a try, but just remember you'll be paying for all the advanced technology.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Getting Better at Pace Control

Runners care mostly about 3 variables—distance, time, and pace.  Sure, you can monitor heart-rate too, but I think that's unnecessary so long as you've tuned into your own body.  Distance and time are easy to measure—just plot the run on a map and bring a stopwatch.  Pace isn't so easy to measure.  If you have GPS watch, it can tell you your pace, but I don't have a GPS watch (nor do I want one, and I'll explain why in this post).  You can also run on a measured course and calculate your pace, but that requires both a measured course and the ability to do arithmetic in your carbohydrate-deprived brain.

It's tough to set a goal pace and stick with it.  I think one of my biggest problems in training for last year's marathon was a poor grasp on pace.  Hal's plan would say to run slow on the long runs, but I didn't really know what that meant as a first-time marathoner.  So, my pace on those long runs would be all over the place.  I'd start with 10 min miles and finish barely able to maintain a walking pace.  When marathon day came, I faltered at mile 18 because my long training runs weren't done properly—they were too fast at the start and horribly inconsistent.

My 20 mile run this morning got me thinking a bit more about pace.  This was the 2nd 20 mile run of my training program.  For each of these 20 milers, Hal provides some guidance on how pace them.  Here is what he said for today's run regarding pace:
Two weeks ago, I suggested that you run conservatively: 90 seconds or more slower than race pace. Depending on how you feel, you might want to consider doing this long run slightly faster: 60 seconds or more slower than race pace. Or, finish the workout at a slightly faster pace than you began.
 My marathon goal pace is 8'36" per mile.  So, 90 seconds slower than that would be 10'06" per mile, and 60 seconds slower would be 9'36" per mile.  Here's how I ran these runs:

1st 20 mile run (8/14/2010): 9'50"/mile
2nd 20 mile run (8/28/2010): 9'34"/mile

Are the paces exactly where they should be?  No, but today's run was really close.  I consider the first one to be within the margin of error.  I ran each of these runs on the same route, and didn't have any distance measurements beyond the first mile.  This was all done with me being able to sense my pace and then modifying my speed accordingly.

I've noticed this same thing for my speedwork too.  Hal wants be to run the 800s at 5k pace, and I can hit that pace almost exactly for each and every repeat.  So, it's clear that I've gotten better at controlling my pace, but how have I done that?

If you want to learn how to control your pace, you need to put away the GPS.  Not permanently, but pace control is all about learning the rhythms of your own body, and having a watch beep at you when you're going too fast or too slow isn't going to teach anything other than listening to beeps.  You want to be able to get to a point where you can look at your stride and your breathing and be able to say "this feels too fast/slow, I need to change my speed".  So much of this comes down to experience, but there are some strategic things one can do to improve their sense of pace.

  1. Run a "pace run".  This one seems like a no-brainer, and it is.  Learn to run at your target pace by running that pace mile after mile.  I do these as part of my training and they require a measured course.  This doesn't have to mean a track (but you can use a track)—I do mine on Summit Avenue.  There are stoplights every ½ mile, so it's very easy for me to check my pace at these intervals.  My first few pace runs were all over the place, but now I'm getting very good at running these at marathon pace.  In fact, I did a pace control test last week where I ran one mile slow on purpose (to simulate a water stop in a race, for instance), then brought myself back to marathon pace, and then did one mile slightly faster to make up for the lost time.
  2. Learn your limits.  It's tough to run a specified pace when all your plan says is "comfortable", or "easy", or "fast".  Incorporating speedwork can help you learn what your upper limit is, and conversely, doing some very slow recovery runs can help you figure out your lower limit.  When you figure out what these are, it's easier to pick something in-between, and fine-tune your pace from there.
  3. Race!  Learn your race pace.  If you're anything like me, you probably can't do your fastest times while training.  There's something about pinning a bib on and lining up with other runners that just pushes you to go faster than you would have thought you could.  Getting a 5k, 10k, or Pikermi time makes it much easier to understand what it means when you're told to run 800s at a 5k pace, or a tempo at 10k pace.
  4. Listen to your body.  When I run, I check myself by rating myself on a scale of 1 to 10.  A 5 would be an easy, conversational pace.  I should be able to hold a conversation with ease at a 5.  (Considering I generally run alone, I try to avoid actually having the conversation, but sometimes it's unavoidable…)  I would call a 10 my race pace at distances of 5k or shorter, and other paces fall somewhere in-between.  I do my long runs at a 6 or 7, and my marathon pace is a 7 or 8.
Those are my thoughts on pace control.  It's invaluable to have a good sense of pace when your racing, particularly if you want to negative split your race, or hold an even pace for a marathon.  GPS watches can break, but your own sense of pace is always working.

Monday, August 23, 2010

An Accidental Parade

I was in a parade this weekend.  It wasn't intentional.  But, you'll have to read on to get the details…

On Saturday, Katie and I ventured out to Hudson, Wisconsin.  Katie is doing the St. Croix Valley triathlon in 2 weeks, so she wanted to swim in the river a bit, then ride the bike course.  I offered to swim with her, and while she rode the bike course, I would get my 12 mile run in.

As we arrived at the park, we realized that we were at exchange #22 of the RAGNAR Relay*.  It seemed like the thing to do was to do the relay exchange, then walk down to the beach and look at the river.  We were actually going to swim in the river though.

The river was cold—surprisingly so since Katie said it was warm when she did Croixathlon in June just a mile downriver.  It was a good thing we had wetsuits, but we did warm up once we swam a bit.  The best way to describe the quality of the river is that it's like Root Beer, but without the fizz.

Katie swimming in the river.

Me swimming in the river.

I only did a little bit of swimming, and Katie did a bit more.  We decided to take a photo when we were done swimming:

Katie has a knack for getting unflattering photos of me.  Here are some examples from earlier events:

Swimming at Cleary Lake: "I can't hear you!"

Angry face while moving downward at the Red, White, and Boom!

Putting my wetsuit on at my first open water swim.

None of these compare to the one she got of me this weekend:

Yup, I look awful here.  Closed eyes and squinty face.

And, because that picture wasn't bad enough, she took one of me getting my wetsuit off:

Thanks Katie.

We changed out of our swimming gear, then got ready for the next activities:

I look like a dork cool person with my water belt.

Katie took off on the bike course.  I decided I would just run north on the main road through town for 6 miles, turn around, then come back.  (I don't use a GPS or anything, so I mapped it out beforehand and knew I had to turn around at a cemetery along the highway).  As I started running, I realized that I would be running along the RAGNAR course.  In some ways, this was cool—if I died along the course, I'm sure the RAGNAR people would have called the morgue or something.  But, it was also not cool because I was a little embarrassed when the water stop volunteers started cheering for me.  I told them I was just out for my morning run, and since they were just nice people, they still offered me water.

Heading up the road, I went through the town of North Hudson.  It looked like they were setting up for some street festival or something, and it was a little challenging to dodge the people.  I hoped this wouldn't be a problem on the way back...

When I got to the next RAGNAR exchange point, one girl (probably 14-15 years old), was excited to ask me how the run was.  I told her I wasn't in the relay, and she responded with a "Really??  Aw man…"  (Later, on my way back, this same girl would tell me with a smile to "have a great run!", so she was actually a really nice person.)

I reached the turnaround (it was a little early because I mistook a family graveyard for the cemetery I was supposed to turn around at, but alas…).  When I got back to North Hudson, a parade was in full swing.  Not just any parade, though.  It was the

North Hudson Pepper Festival Parade!!

Oh boy.  I successfully weaved through the millions thousands hundreds lining the sidewalks.  All was going well, and I though I was near the end of the parade, and all of a sudden…

I was IN the parade.

The parade route turned, and I ended up right in the middle of the parade.  I just wanted to cross the street, but the curb was lined with people, and there just wasn't a gap.  So, I ran in the parade for about 50 meters until I could find some lawn chairs to squeeze in-between.  At this point, I ended up in someone's backyard, and quickly got out of there to find my way back to the road.  Let's just say that I'm going to avoid the Pepper Festival in the future…

*The RAGNAR Relay is a 193 mile relay race from Winona, MN to Minneapolis.  Teams of 12 complete the legs over a period of about 2 days.  It looks like a blast, and I may consider doing it next year.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Celebrating 100 Posts

According to Blogger, this post will be the 100th on my blog.  It's been a little while since my first post, in which I wrote mainly a training log entry about an easy 20 minute run.  My, how things have changed.

Well, in order to celebrate the Big 100, here is 100 things you probably won't read facts about yours truly:
  1. My original due date was the 4th of July, but I was born 2 weeks early.
  2. I won a "Most Beautiful Baby" contest at KMart.  I think I got a $20 savings bond for the win.
  3. I don't eat oatmeal because it already looks digested.
  4. Similar reasoning as #3 as to why I won't eat cream of wheat, farina, or grits.
  5. I hate coconut more than oatmeal.
  6. I got a real coconut from a tree in Florida, then opened it to see and drink the milk inside.
  7. I spilled the coconut milk on my way to show it to my Grandma.
  8. One of my biggest pet peeves is nervous tapping/shaking/rocking and the like.
  9. My first dog was a Doberman named Ernie.
  10. He had a brother named Bert.
  11. I like things to be straight and even.
  12. Not coincidentally, my favorite television show is Monk.
  13. I'm the type of person who will straighten pictures and stacks of magazines in places other than my own home.
  14. I can accept that my ears are uneven so long as I don't look in the mirror for too long.
  15. More often than not, I communicate with Katie using words like "Whatzit", "Doodad", and "Thingamabob".
  16. Katie and I rarely have trouble communicating.
  17. I'd rather have all 4 windows down in the car than having the A/C on.
  18. When I spent a summer in Georgia with a car that had broken A/C, I wished my car had more than 2 windows that could open.
  19. I'm left-handed and proud of it.
  20. I golf right handed because those were the clubs I learned on.
  21. I used to consider myself a far-right-wing Republican, and supported Pat Buchanan in the 1996 presidential primaries.
  22. Yes, I cared about national politics as a 10 year old.
  23. I eventually grew up, and realized that being a moderate is much better than being to either extreme politically.
  24. I still hold a grudge against Nike for not making a version of their Triax running watch for lefties (such that it would go on the right wrist).
  25. I did track in 5th grade, and my event was the shotput.
  26. I didn't have a long career in shotput.
  27. I think the true measure of a friend is whether they are willing to stand up for you when it brings bad things for them.
  28. I wanted to be a car designer when I grew up.
  29. In high school, I accepted the fact that I wasn't an artist, and decided to become an engineer.
  30. I played a British womanizer who wore a cape in a dinner theater my sophomore year of high school.
  31. If the "alcohol" I drank during that dinner theater wasn't actually sparkling grape juice, I probably would have died of alcohol poisoning.
  32. Half of one of my front teeth is fake because someone pushed me from behind in gym class in 7th grade and my tooth broke my fall.
  33. My fall also broke my arm.
  34. When I was a kid, I was usually the last person awake on Christmas morning, and sometimes my parents would have to wake me up so that it was still morning.
  35. My normal wake-up time is now 5:30am, and my body won't let me sleep later than 6am.
  36. I believe that if you're on time, you're late, and being 5 minutes early is on time.
  37. Another pet peeve of mine is when, after I made sacrifices such that I could arrive to a meeting on time, the other person is late.  I'll be gracious about it and say it's no big deal, but it really does bother me.
  38. I hate buying bottles of water because I just can't help but think of all the waste they cause.
  39. Ever since Mrs. Hanyok bought us Nalgenes in Colorado, I'm rarely without polycarb water bottle somewhere close by.
  40. Canada was due south from where I grew up.
  41. I think there is no better state than Michigan, even if it's had a tough decade.
  42. I may say that Ohio is one level above Hell, but it can't be that bad of a place if it gave us Katie.
  43. My preferred method of eating muffins is with a spoon.
  44. I also eat cake with a spoon.  It creates a nice well of frosting as a treat for later.
  45. I generally don't use vulgar language—mainly because I think the English language is a rich and vast language, and to resort to using the same words all the time to express anger is just boring.
  46. I'm pretty sure that I have iced tea in my veins instead of blood.
  47. I judge a restaurant based on the quality of their iced tea.
  48. I'm very good at talking myself out of buying things.
  49. I learned to drive a stick when I worked for a summer at a car dealership.  I haven't driven one since.
  50. In college, I gave blood regularly (every 56 days).  Since then, I haven't been so good.
  51. Epcot is my favorite Disney park--mainly because of the Test Track ride.
  52. The Waffle House at I-4 and US-27 is one of my favorite restaurants.
  53. I used to be scared of roller coasters.
  54. I've now ridden all the big coasters at Cedar Point--with the exception of the Dragster.
  55. I played Euchre with my best friends from high school every day at lunch during junior and senior years.
  56. I'm offended if no one does the "milk the cow" at the end of a Euchre game.
  57. I hate having to wear glasses or contacts, but don't think I would get laser eye surgery.
  58. I came dead last in a number of cross country races my first year on the team.
  59. My first time coming in second-to-last was one of the best running experiences I've ever had.
  60. I would have qualified for the state cross-country meet had I been more willing to run through mud puddles.
  61. I always double-knot my shoes.
  62. Every time I race, I still say "Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, let's go Eagles, it's cross country time!" to myself.
  63. I move the mouse to the left side of the keyboard when I use a public computer.
  64. I don't feel the least bit guilty for not putting it back.
  65. I successfully completed "Book-It", and got the free personal pan pizza coupon from Pizza Hut every month.
  66. Most of the coupons came during the time in my life when I wouldn't eat pizza.
  67. When the school supplies list would come out each year in grade school, I couldn't wait until I got to 8th grade because it required an X-acto knife.
  68. When I got the X-acto knife, it wasn't nearly exciting as I had hoped.
  69. I enjoyed the Belgian waffles at Berg, but preferred Jester's brunch because it was less crowded and they had whole milk.
  70. I think that any milk less than whole is just cloudy water.
  71. I have an impeccable sense of direction.
  72. I made my first friend at Valpo during orientation because we both brought our graphing calculators for the placement exams.
  73. I wouldn't have joined Christ College if Dean Franson didn't notice me turning in my forms during FOCUS and persuade me to reconsider.
  74. One of the most exciting things for me as a kid was when my dad would take me to the car lot to look at all the cars.  Not to buy--just to look.
  75. I get semi-emotional when I or my family gets rid of a car.
  76. I don't like getting messy while eating, but have no problem getting dirty while gardening or doing other household chores.
  77. I get the burrito bowl at Chipotle because of #76.
  78. I wrote 90% of my undergraduate honor's thesis at the Valpo Panera.  I spent 3-4 hours there every evening for 3 weeks.
  79. My grandma was my best friend growing up, and I spent every morning at her house when I wasn't at school until my mom got home from work.
  80. I loved going "bumming" (aka, garage sales) with my grandma because that meant there was a chance we'd go to Sveden House for lunch.
  81. When I first started eating pierogis, I ate half of one.
  82. Now, I can down 15-20 pierogis without much effort.
  83. I hated having a last name that started with "M" because when we switched the order we lined up in to go to lunch in grade school, Z-A was no better than A-Z.
  84. I'm proud that I can parallel park very skillfully.
  85. After reading Michael Pollan's books, I find myself regularly checking labels in the grocery store.
  86. I shopped at a Publix 20 minutes from my apartment in Georgia instead of the Kroger 3 minutes away for the sole reason that Publix carried Vernors.
  87. I haven't been to a Wal-mart in over 2 years.
  88. I was eating solid food within 6 hours of getting my wisdom teeth removed. 
  89. I once "modeled" an orange knit hat at a community center where our NHS chapter was serving Christmas dinner to senior citizens.
  90. At one point I was getting 8 car magazines per month.
  91. Now, I only subscribe to Automobile because Ezra Dyer's columns and features are a hoot.
  92. I have neither given or received, nor have I tolerated others' use of unauthorized aid.
  93. I prefer the window seat on an airplane.
  94. My favorite thing to get from the ice cream truck was the chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.
  95. I put 2 spaces between sentences while typing.
  96. Top Gear is my second favorite TV show, and James "Captain Slow" May is my favorite presenter.
  97. I enjoy wearing sweater vests.
  98. Advent is my favorite liturgical season.
  99. I spent 1 year as a polliwog, two years as a guppy, and never made it to minnow in the YMCA swim classes I took as a kid.
  100. I was born and raised in Detroit.  Not a suburb of Detroit.  Detroit proper.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One Year Gu-iversary

On Saturday, I had my first 20 mile training run of this marathon season.  I'll be doing 2 more, so finishing 1 isn't a whole lot to get excited about.  BUT, I did enjoy the run, and based on a suggestion from Katie, my route was new and very exciting.  Here's a map of where I went:

It was a fairly simple route that had me head west to the Greenway, then hop on the marathon course once I got to Lake Calhoun.  I then went down the west side of Calhoun, the east side of Harriet, then I hopped on Minnehaha Parkway.  I skipped the loop around Lake Nokomis, then went north up the river until I got to Marshall, then went back home.  It ended up being about 20.2 miles.

What made this run very manageable, though, is that it was divided up into an 8 mile run followed by a 12 mile run.  The people at Twin Cities in Motion (aka, The Marathon People) set up a tent at Lake Calhoun (8 miles into my run) where they had free water, Powerade, and Gu from 7am to 10am.  It's tough to fit more than 2 Gu packets in my fuel belt, so this was a very welcome thing.  I arrived at Calhoun just after 7am (yes, I left early), and ran into Hannah, who I had only known "from the internet" (through blogging and Dailymile).  We chatted about upcoming races and training, and then I grabbed a Tri-Berry Gu from the available options.

I ripped the top off the Gu, downed it quickly, grabbed some water, chatted some more, then I was off running again.  Only now do I realize how strange that was, mainly because it was one day shy of being one year since I had my first Gu—and that was at a Twin Cities in Motion water stop too.  In fact, I even wrote about it:
I have also concluded that energy gels are weird. The texture is rather unexpected, and the taste isn't that great. The flavors they had were chocolate, espresso, strawberry banana, and vanilla bean. Vanilla bean looked like the least objectionable, so that's what I tried. I picked up some other flavors from the store today, so I can see if any of them turn out to be better. All in all, I did notice a boost in my energy, even if it was short-lived.
From what I remember about the day I first tried Gu, I pondered all the flavors they had for a good 5 minutes.  After selecting vanilla bean, I read the directions, looked at the nutrition facts, and tried to figure out what other people were doing with their Gu.  I massaged the packet for a while (it's supposed to make it easier to eat consume), then I ripped the top off.  I cautiously started to drink consume the Gu, gagged a bit, and drank a lot of water to wash it down.  All told, it took me 10-15 minutes to eat one Gu.

This Saturday, I nonchalantly grabbed a Gu, then I ate drank consumed it quickly and was off.  My, how far I have come.  Instead of hesitating over food a substance that may be its own state of matter, I just accept it.

Happy one year Gu-iversary to me!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Photos From the Triathlon

In my race report from the triathlon, the photos stopped about 20 minutes before the race.  Now, I have photos from both the official race photographer and David, who, along with his girlfriend, stood out in the rain all morning.  Thanks David!

One thing about the official race photographers is that there really wasn't any rhyme or reason to the photos they took.  There's just a random smattering of photographs.  So, they didn't get everyone swimming, biking, or running.  There is some proof though that I swam:

Waiting on the beach for the swim to start.  There's only half of me visible here—I'm in the red, white, and black tri-suit.

Please note the 2 guys in the center of the photo.  They are wearing jean shorts.  I was right behind them, and told myself: "MUST BEAT JEAN SHORTS".

Katie, Katie S., and Ariel's wave starting.  Ariel is on the far left, Katie is second from left.  In this photo, Katie is saying "I hate weeds, I hate weeds, ew, ew, I hate weeds…"

Me exiting the water in my royal blue* attractively gold swim cap.  (Photo by David)

I'm on the left side of the photo here.  More interesting though is the girl in the green shorts who looks like she is going to vomit on her shoes (if she were wearing shoes).

Interesting side note about the girl in green shorts.  With about 10 minutes to go before we had to be out of transition, she, along with another girl and guy show up to set their transition areas up.  They were each doing their first tri, and were a bit rushed.  We made some room for them on our rack, and answered questions like "how do we put the swim cap on?".  After the race, the guy came over to his friends and asked: "Can you help me find my bike?  I put it on a different rack, but I'm not sure where it is…"  The girl in the green shorts beat me out of the water even though I had a 3 minute head start (but I did pass her on the bike).

Katie coming out of the water shooting David a blurry glance.  (Photo by David)

Ariel (on the left) coming out of the water.  (Photo by David)

Another friend of ours, Mike (as in Katie S. and Mike), getting up to speed on the bike.  I thought this was just a fantastic photo.

Katie is REALLY happy here for some reason.  It could be that she was hoping her winning smile would keep the guy from passing her.

Ariel with the always helpful "eyes closed" bike riding method.  I did that for most of the ride too.

Katie says I have a look of anger on my face here that says: "Stupid Matt, why didn't you wear your sunglasses?"  Really, it was more a look of confusion coming into transition, but the inner dialogue Katie got spot on.

Much happier here.  Most likely because I knew I would start running in a minute.  (Photo by David)

The Fred Flintstone stop is extremely useful.  (Photo by David)

Apparently, my look of confusion passed on to Ariel.  (Photo by David)

Then she found her look of joy too!  (Photo by David)

Katie S. in this awesomely fantastic finishing photo.  Seriously, this final sprint was epic.

So hooray for photos!  There is no photographic evidence that either Katie, Ariel, or I ran, but I assure you that we did.  I promise.

*At packet pick-up, the sheet with the swim wave assignments said I should have a royal blue swim cap. But, there was a gold swim cap in my bag.  I looked at the sheet, and it said that men 45 & up should have a bronze swim cap, so I figured that "gold" was really "bronze".  I asked the volunteer running packet pick-up if I could get a royal blue cap, and after contacting the race director, we discovered that royal blue became gold.  So I kept my attractively gold swim cap.  She also offered me a light blue swim cap, which would have made me a woman, 45 & up.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What Now?

It's now been a week since the triathlon, although it seems like ages ago.  I've got some more pictures from the event that I'll be posting soon.

The question now is what am I going to do for the rest of the year.  I'm certainly no triathlete, so no more triathlons for the rest of this year.  (I'll admit that it was fun, though, and next year I'll do a few more.  My plans for next year, though, are the subject of another post entirely.  A post that I probably won't write until December.  Or January.  But I digress.)

My racing schedule for the rest of 2010 is lighter compared to the year up to this point.  Here's what I've got planned:

  • My main focus: Twin Cities Marathon.  I don't want to give the impression that I'm only focusing on this now.  This has been my big goal and main focus for months now.  The triathlon was a healthy diversion, and it was set up such that it would support my marathon training.  I think looking at my results from the triathlon, you'll see that my running didn't suffer by adding the biking and swimming.  Refreshingly, though, with the triathlon being done, I can go to running almost exclusively.  Sure, I may get a swim in every now and then, and I think Roy deserves to get his wheels spinning every so often, but the mantra is going to be "run.  Run.  RUN."  In fact, I did the first of 3 twenty mile runs today, and it went really well.
  • Beyond the marathon, I've got a few ideas for what I could do.  I'll certainly take the needed recovery time, but I'm looking at a few races in Oct/Nov.  The first is the Monster Dash.  Katie and I did the 5k last year, but since it's so crowded, I don't want to do the 5k this year.  I'm leaning towards the 10 mile race, but I'm not going to make any decisions about this until after Twin Cities.  I want to see how the recovery is going before committing myself to that distance.
  • I'm 99% sure about the next race: the Tesfa 5k.  Once again, Katie and I did this last year, and we both had a fantastic time.  I LOVE small races, and Ft. Snelling is a fantastic place to run, so we'll most likely be there again.  And, this year we have the annual state parks pass.
  • I don't have anything specific for after the Tesfa 5k, but I'm considering an indoor triathlon sometime this winter.  That may happen in 2010 or 2011, depending on the schedules.
  • Not related to racing, but I'm really looking forward to Dome Running this year.  Strange, isn't it? I love running outdoors, but there's just something about spending your evening with the whole Twin Cities running community.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Lakefront Days Triathlon Race Report

Or, "It's All About the Run.  Mostly"

I did it.  I finished the triathlon.  And, I'm happy with how it went.  I won't go into my expectations again, but if you need a refresher, check the previous post.  I will say that the weather was unexpected—I was assuming warm and humid, but we got cool and rainy.  That's fine by me, but I could have gone faster had I not been unnecessarily weighed down by sunscreen.  :)

Running is a simple sport.  You need shoes, shirt, shorts, socks, maybe a watch, maybe some Gu if it's a longer race, and a race number.  Then you're good to go.  Triathlon is not a simple sport.  Exhibit A:

That's all my race gear on my living room floor the night before the race.  Not included, of course, is my trusty bicycle, Roy.

We loaded up the car…early…and left.  How early?  Well, the following photo was taken outdoors:

Katie is wondering why we're loading up before dawn

We arrived at Cleary Lake as transition opened at 6am, and grabbed some spots on the end of the rack.  Ariel (doing her first triathlon too), showed up not too long after we did, and brought a bright orange towel to tie on the rack to help us spot it when running through transition later.  I set my transition area up using an old pink bath mat that my mom gave me when I moved to MN.  I figured that if it works in a bathroom with wet feet, why won't it work outdoors with wet feet?

Katie's transition spot on the left, mine on the right.

The racks look pretty roomy there, but we would compress later when more people needed to rack their bikes.  Here's my little spot:

Pretty gold swimcap, eh?

We got bodymarked, then checked out the swim course now that the buoys were there:

We started at the close buoy, then swam out to the far one, then came back the other side

I'll admit that seeing the swim course actually made it less intimidating than I was expecting.  Getting an idea for how far apart the buoys were made it seem like a pretty doable distance.  They were also out "mowing" the weeds in the lake.  A welcome sight, but it still ended up being pretty weedy.

I warmed up with a little bike ride, some running, then some swimming.  Before heading to the beach, Katie and I snapped a photo:

I'm apparently REALLY excited

I swam for a bout 5-10 minutes to get warmed up and to try swimming in just the tri suit for the first time.  As it turned out, the water temperature was 80°F, so it was not a wetsuit-legal race.  I could have still worn my wetsuit, but then my results wouldn't count.  I was ok with being slower, and knew that I could safely complete the distance, and thus went sans wetsuit.

The Swim
I started with "Men: 29 and Under"3 minutes after the first wave (the elites) started.  While waiting for the gun, I noticed two people standing in front of me wearing blue jeans.  Yes, blue jeans (they were jean shorts).  I made a mental note that I considered them costumed runners and knew I had to beat them.

The gun went off and we started.  I hung back a bit to let the others get a head and give myself a bit of room.  I knew it was important to take the swim EASY, and Steve reminded me of this.  The first 50 meters were a little tough because I wasn't thinking about my swimming form.  Once I realized that "hey, I don't need to lift my head all the way out of the water to breathe", things became much easier.  I didn't swim exactly straight, and there were two guys in front of me for most of the swim.  One of them was doing sidestroke, the other backstroke.  It was tough to get by them, and they moved all over the place.  I will admit though that at one point I looked where I was going, "corrected" my path, but ended up cutting laterally all the way to the rope diving the course.  Whoops.

For the most part, there wasn't much physical contact between me and others.  After I reached the turnaround, I could start to see the hot pink swim caps of the next wave heading out to the turnaround.  For some reason, I just assumed that whenever I saw a pink swim cap, they'd be on the other side of the rope.  At one point, I turned and saw a pink cap REALLY close to me.  I thought I had drifted across the rope somehow into oncoming traffic, and I was a bit shocked.  I think the woman thought she had hit me or noticed that I jumped a bit, and she actually apologized right there.  (She didn't do anything wrong—it was all me).

When my hand hit the bottom, I knew I had made it, so I stood up and ran out of the water and up to transition.

Swim Time: 12'29"

It started to rain during the swim, so I was surprised by the rain when I got out of the water.  I made 2 split second decisions in transition.  The first was to put my bath mat on top of my bag.  This was a good decision because it kept my clothes dry for after the race.  The second decision was not so good.  I waffled over taking my sunglasses because it was so cloudy, and ended up leaving them behind.  This would be severely problematic later.

T1 Time: 2'09"

The Bike
Roy and I headed out on the bike course, and I knew right away that not having sunglasses was a mistake.  The water coming off my front tire was going right into my eyes, so I kinda had to quint for most of the bike ride.  Not terrible, but not ideal either.

I passed a few people, but mostly got passed by people.  Katie and Katie (another friend of ours doing the tri), passed me only a couple miles into the ride.  I had some mechanical issues where my chain wouldn't go on the big cog up front, so I was stuck on the middle one for a while.  Once I got it up on the big cog, I was worried I wouldn't be able to get it back up there, so I left it on the big one for a while.  This made some of the uphills tougher than they needed to be.  I eventually tried going down to the middle one, then back up to the big one, and all was good.

Little Rant: When I pass people, I find it is courteous to announce that I'm doing so.  A simple phrase like "On the left" or "Left" works fine.  On the course, only 1 other person announced they were passing me.  He was on a road bike with fenders and a back rack, but still had the decency to announce his passing.  No one on the fancy bikes announced anything, and they mostly passed too closely.  Not cool.

I felt good for the ride, and didn't go too hard.  I may also have been humming to the tune of Cwm Rhondda for most of the ride...  I finished refreshed and ready to go on the run.

Bike Time: 51'07"  (15.85 mph—surprised me too!)

I was very quick with this.  Drop Roy off, pick up my race number, then go.

T2 Time: 0'31"

The Run
Here's where the racing started for me.  I went out at a pace a little harder than I thought I could, but wanted to keep it up for as long as possible.  One guy passed me toward the beginning, but other than that I only passed people.  1.5 miles in, I came across Katie and Katie, and greeted them.  They were pushing each other on the run.

I kept my pace going, and was doing great without my watch.  About 200m from the finish, I saw one of the guys in jean shorts!  All of a sudden my inner dialogue went to "Don't get beat by costumed runners, don't get beat by costumed runners…"  I started my kick then and there.  I thought it may have been too early, but I held him off easily and crossed the line.

Run Time: 22'43"

Total Time: 1:28:57

Post Race
I waited with Ariel's fiancé Brian, David, and David's girlfriend Cia who all were great spectators out in the cool rain.  Just a few minutes after I finished, Katie came by, then my Katie came by right after he. My Katie looked like she had a tough run, but she had a good race.  We grabbed some food (including fantastic hot dogs), and waited for Ariel.  She came by just a little while later, and finished strong AND beat her goal time of 2 hours by a couple minutes.  Great job Ariel!

Some Analysis
Overall: 128 out of 293
Men: 80 out of 145
Men 20-24: 6 out of 10

So, I was for the most part middle of the pack.  I'm pleased with how the race went, and considering I had the 2nd slowest swim and bike in my age group, middle of the pack is ok with me.

However, the run was something else entirely.  Over the 3.3 mile course, I finished in 22'43".  That's a pace of 6'54" per mile.  6'54" per mile!  My 5k PR was at a pace of 7'06' per mile, so that means that in a longer race, and after doing a 400m swim and a 13.5 mile bike ride, I ran at a faster pace than my 5k PR!  This is exciting, and it means my running training is on the right track.  I can't wait to break that 20 minute 5k next year!

Also very interesting was how I placed on the run segment:

Overall: 24 out of 293
Men: 19 out of 145
Men 20-24: 1 out of 10

Holy Cow!  I had the 24th fastest run out of everyone, and my time was faster than many of the elites.  I also had the fastest run in my age group.

Ok, ok, ok, I know that this means that you can't be good at one sport to do well in a triathlon—you need to be balanced in order to do well.  But, I knew going into this that I couldn't focus too much on swimming and biking, and that running would be my strongest segment.  I'm super happy with how it ended up.

David took some photos, and there was a race photographer (who may have gotten a less than flattering one of me on the bike), so I'll post some photos of me racing when I get my hands on some more photos.  I had a good time, but now it's time to worry about the marathon and focus exclusively on running now.

Friday, August 06, 2010

My First Triathlon Is...Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the day.  We're going tonight to pick up race packets down at the race site, and the plan is to get there tomorrow when transition opens at 6am.  It's been an interesting few months mixing in some swimming and biking to my running, and we'll see if any of it has paid off.  I'm feeling good about the race, but it hasn't been my main focus.  I've actually slacked off the biking and swimming a bit in the last few weeks because of an uptick in running.  Anyway, here's how I'm going to approach the race:

My swimming expectations are pretty low.  I'll be starting in the second wave, so there will be the majority of 300 competitors starting after me, and thus I'll probably get passed pretty often.  Since I've got a 3 minute head start on the next wave of swimmers, I figure that I'll be overwhelmed by them before I even get to the turnaround.

I'm confident in my ability to swim the full distance.  Even if wetsuits are disallowed, I know I can make the full swim--it will just be considerably slower.  In practice, I was able to go 450 yards in about 11 minutes.  I figure that might be a good time goal for the race, but I won't be wearing my watch, and I'll be happy just to get out of the water.

Well, you saw how well my T1 practice went.  I hope to just be as quick as possible without forgetting anything.  I will say to myself all during the swim: "double knot your shoes, double knot your shoes..."

This is where everybody who didn't pass me in the swim will end up passing me.  That's ok too, because I'm going to take the bike easy to leave something in me for the run.  Energy spent on the run will allow me to do better than energy spent on the bike.  I'm going to be a slow biker--I can be a moderately fast runner as long as I don't overdo it on the bike.  I'm also going to be bringing along a bag of Gu Chomps and I'll energize myself a bit over the course of the bike segment.

Not actually worried about this as long as I don't forget anything.  I don't have the silly clipless that have clips fancy bike shoes, so all the I'll do is rack my bike, take my helmet off, and grab my race number.

This will be the only part where it will look like I'm racing.  Even though it's a 3.3 mile run, I'm going to pace myself like a 5k and try and gain back as many places as I can.  I'm guessing most people (particularly in my age group) will be far enough ahead so that I can't pass them, but I can at least try.  If I can do the run in 23-24 minutes I'll be very happy, and as long as I'm under 25 minutes, all will be peachy.

I'm going to do the whole race sans watch, so it will be a good experiment to run without any indication of pace.  I'm going to go totally on perceived effort, and I hope this will let me run a bit faster.  I haven't raced sans watch since high school, so I hope I don't crash and burn here.

I have some secondary goals too:
  • Don't drown
  • Avoid sharks
  • Don't get lost
  • Beat any and all costumed competitors (no one wants to get beat by Elmo)
  • Put left shoe on left foot and right shoe on right foot
  • Helmet on forwards
  • Discover a better way to go to the bathroom in my tri suit
  • Get an intense and/or hovering race photo
  • Avoid seizures 
Alrighty then, I'll have an update on how things went sometime tomorrow!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Getting Prepared for the Race

This whole experiment of trying a triathlon is about to come to an end.  The race is Saturday, and I don't have any more workouts planned until then.  This past week has been about preparing for the race, and it started back on Saturday with a trip down to Cleary Lake.  Katie, Ariel, David, and I met down there with the intent of swimming the swim course and biking the bike course.  (David isn't doing the triathlon, but he joined us for a number of workouts and he's coming to be a spectator on Saturday).

Here we are before swimming:

Ok, well, David is a little tall.  Let's try that again:

Doh!  Now I've cut off his chin.  Here's my solution:

A little photo editing, and voila! 100% of everybody's faces are in the picture…more or less… (Sorry David)

We started with the swimming.  A problem we encountered (like the last time we were there) was the "beach curtain".  It's a floating curtain that separates the swimming area from the rest of the lake.  You can't swim under it either because it goes to the lakebed.  We weren't going to let it stop us though, and after some less than graceful flops (David and Ariel chose the see-saw method and I did the horse mount method—I don't remember what Katie did*) we made it into the lake.

*It's not that I didn't pay attention to Katie, it's just that her focus was not on the flops as much as it was on the weeds.

Speaking of weeds…Cleary Lake is full of them!  Katie wasn't happy with this.  At one point, I hit a patch of weeds so thick that it just stopped me in my tracks.  It just wasn't possible to swim through that patch of weeds, so we had to go around.  We ended up swimming most of the course (the buoys weren't out, so we guessed on how far to swim).

We then did a bit of transition practice, and there I realized that I'm not so efficient with the transitions.  I dropped my swim cap and goggles, my wetsuit got stuck a bit, and I didn't double-tie my shoes.  This is something I needed to practice more (ominous foreshadowing…).

Then we hopped on our bikes to ride the course.  I borrowed Katie's slicks and put them on my bike, an WOW, what a difference!  I can really notice a big difference in the amount of rolling resistance.

The ride itself was mostly uneventful (Ariel warned us of some roadkill, but it turned out to be a banana).  David even had a chance to take a photo (I'm stealing your photo for this blog, David).

David taking the photo—just in case you couldn't tell.  Ariel is very visible.

Truthfully, I had no idea David was taking photos.  I didn't know he did that until I was tagged in this on Facebook.  I think I was concerned with the rumble strips more than anything else.

Well, that was all fine and dandy.  We had fun, and I even had the adventure of trying to go to the bathroom in my tri suit.  Since it's a one piece suit, it's pretty much impossible to go to the bathroom while wearing it.  But, I still love the tri suit, and it's worked great so far.

Remember the ominous foreshadowing?  It's true—I needed to practice transitions, and I did just that.  Well, kinda.  I did a brick workout on Wednesday with a 25 minute bike ride followed by a run.  I could practice T2 pretty easily, and I was quick at it.  If the actual transition in the race includes opening and closing a garage door, I'm all set.

T1 is where I had my problems.  Wednesday night I decided I would look ridiculous in front of my neighbors practice T1 a few times out in the parking lot.  I suited up in my tri suit and wetsuit and went out to my garage.  There I set up a little transition spot:

Yes, that's a folding chair.  No, I don't plan on bringing it to the race—it was so I could put my wetsuit on.

I don't have a lake at my apartment complex.  So, I'll admit that someone wearing a wetsuit, swim cap, and goggles may look a bit out of place in the parking lot:

Here was my thinking: it's tough to take a wetsuit off when it's dry, but tough to put it on while wet.  If I could successfully take it off while dry, then I should have no trouble in the race when I'm wet.  And, since I was dry, I could practice this a few times.  It didn't work out that way, though.  I made a bit of a video to show you why:

Yup, it started raining.  So, I got wet enough where I couldn't get the suit back on, but it wasn't wet enough to help me in getting it off.  So, I fumbled through one T1 practice, and called it a night.  I'm hoping I'll have better luck on Saturday.

I'll post tomorrow with my thoughts on race strategy.

Monday, August 02, 2010

A New Gu Storage Place

They say that all you need for running is a good pair of shoes.  Well, that's true.  But, when you train for a marathon, you have all kinds of other stuff—Gu, fuel belts, a gazillion water bottles, etc.  I haven't really had a place for my Gu in my apartment, so it's been living in my grill wok.  When we use the grill wok, the Gu moves to the table.  Then repeat this process every time we use the grill wok.

But, I have a new solution!  Behold:

Gu and salt packets.  (Yes, I really need to restock my Gu)

The coolest part, though, is what is on the outside of the box:

Yes, it is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lunchbox.  Coolest.  Lunchbox.  Ever.

In truth, I don't think I ever used this as a lunchbox.  For a long time, I stored some modular toy cars in this at my Grandma's house.  Those cars, though, have found a new and much better location—on display in my living room:

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