Thursday, September 30, 2010

3 Days to Go: What are YOU doing this weekend?

I'm running the Twin Cities Marathon this weekend.  But you probably knew that.  (If you didn't, then you must be new to the blog, so to catch you up—I'm running the Twin Cities Marathon this weekend.  If you're not new, but didn't know that, have you tried Gingko Biloba?)

Anyway, I know what I'll be doing Sunday morning, but do you?  Since you're not going to be able to drive anywhere in the Twin Cities on Sunday anyway, why not cheer on the runners in the marathon and the 10 mile?  It's really easy to do—first, find a location on the course (it's very important to be on the course because we don't run in places like Hudson, Wisconsin or Albuquerque, NM).  Need to know where the course goes?  Go to the Spectator's Guide and it has a course map and all kinds of other important information.  But, for those who are morally opposed to PDFs, here is the 11 Word Course Description: Metrodome, Hennepin, Douglas, Lakes, Minnehaha Parkway, River, St. Thomas, Summit, Capital.

They've even made it easy for you to plan your day if you know the texting.  You can go to this website, register your cellular telephone with your favorite runner(s), and they'll text you with location updates at the start, 5k, 10k, Pikermi, 30k, and the finish (I'm not sure what updates you get for the 10 mile, but it should be similar).  You can compare those updates to the course map and plan your cheering accordingly.  Katie has signed up already, and I've been assured that you don't need to know any of the hip texting lingo.  So, OMG*, if u** dont*** ndrstnd**** this sentence, no 1***** will LOL****** at u!

The second important part of cheering for the runners is the cheering.  Here are some helpful cheering tips:
  • Cowbells have been found to be an instrument of Satan and banned from the Planet Earth are fun ways to make noise, but realize I may give you an unhappy look.
  • In the scope of things, a few miles left in the race means we're almost there.  But don't tell us that.  It's only acceptable to say "you're almost there" if the finish line is in sight.
  • Halfway is 13.1 miles.  Do not say "you're halfway done" at mile 11.
  • It is acceptable to say: "Looking great with those pasty white legs!"
  • If you know people running, give them an idea where you'll be cheering from.  Sometimes, it's a whole lot easier for a runner to spot someone cheering than the other way around.
  • Runners love seeing signs with our names on it.  This applies even if the sign isn't meant for you.  So, go to one of those "Most Popular Baby Names" books from the 80s, pick some good ones, and make a sign that says: "Go Peter, Paul, and Mary!"
  • We love encouragement, but make sure you don't assist a runner.  Cheers are good, but giving a runner food, clothing, or other objects are against the spirit of competition.  Also, don't try and pace a runner.
  • We won't look pretty come the last few miles, so we know you're lying when you say: "You're looking great/strong/fast/super!"  BUT, we love hearing that anyway.
  • If you cheer near the Cathedral, it's all downhill from there, and you can tell us that.  If you're someplace else, it's not.
  • The more wacky you can be, the better.  Do something crazy, or wear a funny costume.  If you're going for the Most Wacky Award, you'll have some tough competition, though.
Those are my cheering tips.  And this is my plea—COME CHEER!  In all seriousness, it would be great to see you out there.  If you plan on coming, let me know where you'll be, and I'll make sure to keep an eye out for you!  I run the tangents on the course, so that should give you a clue as to which side of the road I'll be running on.


Can't make it on Sunday?  TCIM is putting on a bunch of other races on Saturday, and Katie is running the 10k!  This will be Katie's first road race that I'm not doing, so I'm super excited to cheer for her.  The fun starts at the State Capital at 7:30am on Saturday morning.

*OMG—abbreviation for "Oh My God!", which saves space.
**u—abbreviation for "you", which saves space.
***dont—It's ok to get rid of punctuation, which saves space.  But remember that I'll and ill can mean very different things.
****ndrstnd—It's ok to remove vowels from words, which saves space.
*****1—It's also ok to replace words with numerals, which saves space.
******LOL—abbreviation for "Laughing Out Loud", which save space.  It is unknown whether this also applies when laughing to oneself.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

4 Days to Go: Racing Strategy

Continuing the theme from yesterday, I'll go into my racing strategy for Sunday.  If there's one thing I learned last year is that it's the smart runner who succeeds in the marathon.  Even the best trained runner can crash and burn if they go out too fast or attack hills like a dog and a laser beam.  A while back, I came across a post on the Runner's World forums where some guy went through a fairly detailed explanation of "How to Have a Great Twin Cities Marathon".  It's actually quite a great piece to read if you're running on Sunday—you'll need to scroll down a bit to get to the post.  In reading this post, I've internalized some of the tips and strategies and they will hopefully make things go much more smoothly this year.

  • Don't go out too fast.  I know, I know, I know.  This caused me problems last year, and this may be the single most important thing I need to do on Sunday.  My goal time is 3:45, so, I'm going to start at the 4:00 pace group.  Putting myself there will help remove the temptation to keep up with faster pace groups, and because even the pace groups go out too fast, going with the 4 hour people will help me keep my first mile pace near 8'50".  I will also make sure that I'm not passing people and weaving through the crowd.  Bottom line—Mile 1 should feel SLOW.  Really slow.  If I feel ok, I'm going too fast.  Even if Mile 1 ends up at 9'15", that's ok because I'll be able to make it up later.
  • Pacing.  I'm going to make a pace band for myself based on the ones available on the TCIM Website.  They don't have one for 3:45, so I'll modify the 3:40 one.  Basically, these pace charts are designed for the course and take the hills into account.  I probably won't follow it to the letter, but it can help me pick an overall pace trend even if my judgment is a bit cloudy.
  • Early Miles—Take it Easy.  Continuing the theme from Mile 1, I need to keep the slow pace.  I can't worry about passing people until at least Lake Calhoun because it's just so crowded until then.  I'm not going to expend any extra energy at this point just to pass people.
  • Middle Miles—Settle Into My Pace.  I'll probably be somewhere near target pace along Minnehaha Parkway.
  • Run the Tangents.  This becomes very important once the crowds thin out near Lake Harriet/Minnehaha Parkway.  A marathon course is 26.2 IF you follow the shortest path—running the tangents.  Sticking to the center of the road can mean you run 26.5 miles, which can be the difference between 3:44:59 and 3:45:59.  So, I'll be swerving a lot to make sure I hit as many tangents as possible.
  • Take the Hills EASY.  I love hills.  I love attacking hills in a cross country race because it usually leaves my opponents in the dust.  But I can't do that this Sunday.  Lately, I've been focusing on keeping my effort constant going up hills and letting my speed drop.  I'll continue that, and not overcook the hills.  When I get to the big hill near St. Thomas, I'll be fine because that's MY hill.  I do all my hill repeats there, so I own that hill.
  • Summit is a 5 Mile RACE.  Another place that I own is Summit Avenue.  I didn't get to take advantage of this fact last year because of my quad, but since I'll be racing better this year, I get to conquer Summit with all my might.  My focus will be on reeling people in and passing them one at a time.  I know that the course is net downhill beyond Snelling, so I can gain some extra speed there.  This part of the course is ALL mental, so if I trust my training, and want that 3:45 bad enough, I'll do well here.
  • Roll Down the Last Hill.  It's a very downhill finish, and I've always said that one could stop at the cathedral, lay down, roll, and cross the finish line.  Ok, I won't actually do this, but it will look pretty tempting on Sunday…
  • Finish Strong.  Last year, I had a strange walk/run/limp going on in the last 800 meters.  This year, if you're in front of me beyond the Cathedral, expect to get passed.
I'm not really assigning specific numbers/paces to the miles because that can hinder me more than help me.  I've made a lot of progress this year on being able to listen to my body and pacing myself accurately, so I think I'll be able to do most of the race by feel as long as I keep the above points in mind.  I'll still have a pace band with me because I won't be able to do the math on the fly, so it helps to have a reminder.

Come back tomorrow for all the information you need to know about being a spectator on Sunday.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

5 Days to Go: Nutrition Strategy

I'm going to divide my marathon strategy into two posts.  The first regards nutrition, the second about pacing and general strategy.  I think this is important because nutrition is just as important as pacing, and requires just as much fretting (maybe even more).

Last year, my nutrition plan was as follows:
  • Carb load starting 2-3 days before the race.
  • At each water stop, drink 1 cup of water and 1 cup of Powerade.
  • I ate drank ingested a Gu at miles 5, 9, 15, 21, and 23.  Instead of water and Powerade at these rest stops, I did 2 cups of water to help me digest the Gu.
  • A salt packet at 11 and 24, but this failed miserably because the salt got all wet from my sweat (ironic, eh?) at mile 11 so it was tough to eat, and I dropped the second one at 24.
It seemed to work fairly well, but I'm modifying it a bit this year to ensure that I stay fueled.
  • I'm already carb loading.  I've started increasing the proportion of carbs in my diet by eating more fruit, veggies, rice, and pasta.  I've also cut out sugary snack foods (sad face), and tried to keep my protein and fat content about constant.
  • About 45 minutes before the race, I plan to have 1 salt packet.  With about 15-20 minutes to go, I'll eat drink consume a Gu.
  • I plan on drinking only Powerade at the rest stops.  This is the way I trained all summer, and I was really pleased at how much Powerade keeps my energy up.  It's almost a Gu-like effect, but spread out over a longer period of time.  Depending on how full the cups are, I'll take 1 or 2 cups, aiming for about 4oz at each aid station.
  • I'll consume Gu at miles 7, 11, 15, and 19.  I was thinking about shifting these forward to (5, 9, 13, 17, and 21), but I wanted to reduce the amount of Gu I was carrying.  Also, on one of my runs I had a Gu at Franklin and E. River (the mile 19 water stop on the course), and I was REALLY pleased with my energy level on the hill near St. Thomas.  I may take an extra Gu with me in case I want it on Summit, but I'll probably stick with Powerade there.  Oh, and at these aid stations I'll only drink water, about 6-8oz.
  • I'm going to do a 2nd salt packet near the halfway point.
  • With about 20 minutes left in the race (about 2-3 miles), I'm not going to stop for anything.  20 minutes isn't enough time for the calories to make themselves useful, and I don't want any excuses to stop moving.  Walking is ok, but once I do, the temptation to keep doing it gets greater and greater.  The one exception to this rule is that if it's hot out (it probably won't be), I'll grab water at the last couple aid stations and dump it on my head to cool off.  I don't see this happening though.
So that's my liquid diet for the race.  One sad part is that they've discontinued Orange Burst Gu, so I'll be using my second favorite flavor—Tri-Berry.  It's ok, but it's just not the same as Orange Burst.

Monday, September 27, 2010

6 Days To Go: What Went Wrong Last Time

The next few posts will detail how I'm going to approach this marathon, but before I do that, I wanted to take a step back and review my performance from last year and see how it will help me strategize for October 3rd.

My first marathon was a great experience.  I enjoyed the training, and I enjoyed the race.  I remember most of the race in vivid detail, and count it as one of the most exciting moments in my life.  That being said, the quality of the running was mostly disastrous.  Here's why:

  • Unrealistic Expectations.  I didn't have a firm time goal in mind for my first marathon—I merely wanted to finish.  But, I did have a secondary goal of 4.5 hours.  My issue was that I based this entirely on my training paces, which is a horrible way to predict race performance.  Doing a 20-mile training run and saying "yeah, I can go faster than that on race day" is very, very different than doing a half marathon and saying "what can I learn from this about my fitness?"  So, I went into race day thinking I could average 10'18" per mile when that was very optimistic.
  • Starting Too Fast.  This is the big problem that everyone has on their first marathon, and I was no different.  Not only did I have a pace goal of 10'18" per mile, but I did my first mile in 10'18".  I tried not to get caught up in the excitement, but I did.  I had a few other miles in there that were sub-10, and I charged up the hills early in the race.  All my energy was expended far too early, and I paid the price when my quad went crazy 18 miles in.  Ironically, my quad cramping up made the effects of "hitting the wall" much less severe because I had to slow down tremendously.
  • Training Errors.  Hal's Novice 1 plan did exactly what it said it would do—get me to the finish line.  I have no doubt that I could have finished the marathon faster and in better shape by following this plan had I not made these mistakes.  I missed/cut back some training as part of a trip back home and then I got sick.  While missing 1 or 2 workouts aren't the end of the world, my progression upward in miles moved backwards.  I missed one of the  16+ mile runs and a number of its supporting runs, so things like this contributed to me being a bit undertrained.  This wasn't a huge problem, but it's something I keep in mind.
  • Improper Distance.  I relied on my Nike+ gizmo last year to tell me my distance.  For my 20 miler, I left home, followed a route, and when the gizmo said that I hit 10 miles, I turned around and went home.  I didn't have the greatest relationship with my Nike+ gizmo, though, and it may have caused me some problems.  Even after calibration, the distance ended up being off by a significant amount—I figure that my 20 mile run was closer to 19 miles than 20.  Not a major discrepancy, but over the course of many miles, it adds up to a lot of miles that I should have ran that I didn't.
  • Nutrition Issues.  For the most part, my nutrition in the race went well.  One problem I had was that I wasn't used to Powerade straight-up.  In training, I would mix it 50/50 with water so it would taste better.  On the course, I had to take 1 cup of Powerade and 1 cup of water and drink them separately (no, I didn't have the mental capacity to make mixed drinks after 20 or so miles).  When I reached Summit Avenue, it was tough to drink the Powerade because it just didn't taste great, so I went for water almost exclusively, and my caloric intake suffered accordingly.
Those are the places where I saw problems with last year's performance.  Stay tuned for how I'll take these problems and fix them for this year's race.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

7 Days to Go: A Short(s) Problem

With the marathon now only 1 week away, I'll be posting each day as part of my marathon countdown.  Today's topic is choosing my attire for the race.  Barring any crazy weather (rain, snow, etc.), I've got most of my running outfit set:

Singlet, sunglasses, Adrenalines, and socks

Clearly, there is something missing from that photograph—shorts!  I'm vacillating between two pairs:

On the left are my trusty gray, Target brand shorts that I do most of my training in.  On the right are my red racing shorts.  I had originally planned on wearing the gray shorts, but now I really can't decide.  So, yes, I'm involving you in my decision about what shorts to wear.

Gray Shorts

  • Trained in them, so I know I won't have any issues on a long run (say, 26.2 miles).
  • They're a bit more substantial, and since I'll be pinning 4 or 5 Gu packets to them, I'm sure they can handle it.
  • They're boring.
  • Katie sometimes has issues spotting me in the marathon crowd, so a blue shirt and gray shorts don't exactly make me stand out.

Red Shorts

  • They're visible, so Katie will be happy.
  • They're my racing shorts, so I'll just feel faster.
  • Haven't used them for a distance longer than a Pikermi, so I can't be sure there won't be any long distance issues.
  • I don't know that they can support 5 Gu packets.

So, clearly this is a dilemma between the practical and the sentimental.  I know the red shorts won't make me any faster, but wearing the short, racing shorts puts me in the racing mindset.  It helps me transition from training to racing, and the biggest hurdle of the marathon is the mental one.

I don't have too many worries about chafing and whatnot because I'll most likely have a pair of compression shorts on underneath whichever pair of shorts I choose.  Still, new things on race day make me nervous.

What ends up being the greatest mental advantage?  Is it knowing that you have everything planned out perfectly, and that there won't be surprises?  Or is it having that mental boost from a seemingly silly thing like red shorts?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cross Country

Apple picking, pumpkin carving, and cross country.  That's what fall is.  It's strange, even after all these years, being a spectator at one of these meets.  Not having to worry about warming up, or getting the team cheer in before the gun.

D2 Men warming up for the 8k

For those who never did cross country, it may be hard to see the difference between one of these races and a standard road race or trail race.  But, oh, they are different.  The only thing a cross country meet has in common with your community 5k is that people run in both.  The atmosphere is infectious.  The solidarity of each team contagious.

D2 Men lined up to start.  The driving range dividers formed the "boxes".

Each person is out there to win—even if they know they'll come in last.  The dead silence before the gun is eerie—the tension apparent to even the most casual of observers.

D2 Men starting

You don't train all summer for one race.  You don't have an "A Race" basket into which all your marbles go.  You train for the season.  You race on Tuesday, then race on Saturday.  You race twice a week for two months.  Each race pushes you to your limits.

Leaders of the D2 Men's race

No one wears a costume at a cross country race.  iPods aren't allowed, and neither are watches.  It's you, your team, and everyone else.  Sometimes you know the course, sometimes you just run.

The main pack of the D2 men's race

As you run, you know that each place counts.  You aren't running for yourself—it's for your team.  Those that say running is an individual sport need only to come to one of these meets to see how wrong they are.  Your team provides you the motivation to keep pushing.  Your team counts on you getting the best place you can—for that can be the difference between winning, or going home empty-handed.

This was a HUGE meet with live video up on the screen

You run on golf courses, in parks, around schools, and any place with a soft surface underfoot.  Spikes are the mark of the serious runner, but even those without cannot be underestimated.  You worry about how many times you need to cross a hard surface.  You worry about how muddy the course is—not because you fret getting dirty, but so you can choose what length of spikes to use.

The D2 winner.  He was Canadian—from Regina.

In many ways, you are defined by your number.  Mine was 20'03".  Many were better, some were worse.  You attack each race knowing that the true test—regionals—were coming soon.  That your performance had better improve if you wanted a chance to qualify for the state meet.

An unattached runner, and, considering what he wore, probably rightly so

The weather would cool.  While the first few meets were blazing hot, you considered wearing your tights by the time mid-October rolled around.  

The leaders of the D1 race with the pack not far behind

There are no finisher's medals, no shirts just for competing.  If you wanted a shirt, you bought one.  If you wanted a medal, you won it.  But you don't race for the hardware.  You race for yourself, and for your team.  And you knew that at that finisher's chute, after you've left everything you had out on that course, that they would be there.  The moms (and the dads too).  So you ran—to your mom, and beyond.

The photos in this post are from the 2010 Roy Griak Invitational, hosted by the University of Minnesota.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Funeral For Summer—Flash Run!

Yes friends, today is the day.  Autumn starts today.  In Minnesota, that can only mean one thing—snow.  Yes, snow.  It will come soon.  Runners everywhere are weeping.  Oh sure, autumn looks nice with it's colorful leaves and cooler temperatures, but that's just a facade for the impending doom that is icy sidewalks, frostbite, and frozen facial hair.

This summer was a toasty one, but I'm not ready to let it go.  There are others, apparently, that are not happy with the end of summer.  So we gathered.  In black.  To mourn.  And run.

The good people at Twin Cities in Motion (TCIM) are creating a new phenomenon known as a "Flash Run".  What is a flash run?  Well, it's like a flash mob*, but where one runs instead of…mobs?

*A flash mob is a spontaneous gathering of people who do something silly, then depart as if nothing happened, all organized by word-of-mouth (Facebook and the Twitter).  An example would be people showing up at a coffee shop, singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" once at a specified time, then leaving.

On Monday, TCIM posted this on their Facebook page:
Flash Run Clue 1: It's the last day of summer tomorrow! Find a black shirt & begin to prepare for the mourning (and running) to follow.
Ok, not a problem, I've got plenty of black shirts.  Wait—it's supposed to be how warm on September 21?  70 degrees?  Uh oh, all my black running shirts are meant for winter temps.  I'll need to get creative with this one.

Later in the day, we got the next clue:
Flash Run Clue 2: We have such great summer memories around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. Mourners, plan to meet at the Bandshell.
On the other side of town, but maybe I can swing that.

The final clue was yesterday morning:
Flash Run Clue 3: Let's bid the summer season adieu by chasing the sun. Be there at 7pm.
Not the most convenient time (have you ever tried driving down Hennepin Ave during rush hour?  Don't.), but I'm going to do my darndest to make it.

Well, I showed up and there were 300 3 other people.  Not huge, but it's quality, not quantity, right?  Hannah, who is in charge of all communications at TCIM and thus organized this, was there, along with her mom, and a guy named Tony.

What was cool was that there was a cameraman there from KARE11, so we were going to be on TV!  We conned recruited some unsuspecting bystanders who happened to be wearing black to increase our numbers, and they filmed us doing a bit of running.  I don't have a fancy Tivo or even a VCR, so what you see here is me filming the clips with my digital camera while sitting in front of my TV.  (Note: there are 2 separate clips here—the first was a "promo" clip, and the second is the actual clip/lead-in to the weather report).

First up, I have to say that I'm NOT as narcissistic as my shirt may portray me as.  If you look closely, there are 2 huge periods between the M and the E.  So, in reality, my shirt says: "It's All About M.E."  This was the only short-sleeve black shirt that I had, and it's in reference to Mechanical Engineering.

Another cool thing is that two of the people we recruited had a dog, so even a dog is upset that summer is gone.

After the video shoot, 3 of us left for a run around Lake Harriet.  I run by myself so much that I had forgotten how enjoyable it was to run in a group.  We had a nice pace going and talked about things running and marathoning.  

Hannah left for home after one loop of the lake, and Tony headed off partway through a second loop.  So, I ended up doing 2 loops of Lake Harriet to get my 6ish miles in.  It got dark really fast, so it was very tough to see.  It didn't help that I was dressed as a ninja runner, and that the car headlights going the opposite direction kept me pretty much blind.

So, moral of the story—FLASH RUNS ARE COOL.  Seriously, pay attention to TCIM's Facebook page and come join the next flash run.  Cool things could happen—like being on the evening news.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bostonians Talk Funny

This week, I got to spend 3 days in Cambridge/Boston for a conference.  It was the Dynamic Systems and Control Conference (aka Nerd Conference), and I presented some of my research.  An exciting thing about this was that I got to run in Boston.  After my trip to Baltimore in June, I've realized that the best way to see a new place is to run through it.  I got to run by MIT, Harvard, the Charles River, and Boston Common.  This was also the first time I've ran with my camera, so you'll get to see some photos from my run.

First off, here was the route I took:

As you can see, I started in Cambridge, ran along the Charles River, ran by BU, did a loop of Boston Common, then worked my way back to Cambridge.

I tried to take a shot while I was running:

The rest of the photos involved me standing still (thankfully).

As I started my run, a large group of triathletes turned around just in front of me, and I ran just behind them for about a ½ mile.  As it turns out, they were the Boston University Triathlon Team.  Yes, the acronym for that is BUTT.  I knew who they were because one of the triathletes conveniently had the acronym on the appropriate part of the human anatomy (if you catch my drift).

The BUTT (hehe) stopped at this boathouse to do some jazzercise stretching.  I snapped this photo from the other side of the river.

The Cambridge skyline

This is the Harvard/Massachusetts Ave. Bridge.  It's measured in smoots.

I couldn't make a long enough route just going along the river, so I diverted over to Boston Common and did one lap of the park.  Here is the State House:

After going through Boston Common, I went back to the river, and went up to cross the river near the Science Museum.  There was some construction at the intersection, so two Boston cops were directing traffic.  They waved a woman who was running maybe 10 feet in front of me through the intersection, so I just assumed they would let me go through.  The cop was pointing at traffic, and said: "Gaw awhed, doh".  Since I don't speak Boston, I assumed he said something like "Go ahead, kiddo."  Well, what he actually said was "Stop in the middle."  I didn't and he yelled at me: "Traffic is coming!"  I darted across the street, yelled back "Sorry!", and hoped I didn't put myself on the wrong side of the law.  Whoops.

In addition to all the people running (there were lots), the Charles River is popular for rowing:

Apparently, there's a big running event that happens in Boston every year.  Not many people know about it, but for those who do, here's an important landmark:

And finally, here's a shot of me towards the end of my run.  I look worse than I feel.

I also went for another run of about 5 miles.  I was trying to figure out where to go, and thought I could run to Copley Square.  Copley Square is the finish of that big running event in Boston.  But, I decided against going there.  Why?  The only time I want to run in Copley Square is when I've earned the right to run there.  That time was not this trip.  Someday, though, I'll run through Copley Square.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Tuesday In September

I was running.  East on Huntington Avenue.  I was alone.  I don't know how far I ran, but I remember looking up.  The sky was blue.  Too blue.  And across that blue sky flew an F16.  Just an F16—nothing else.  I was confused.  I was scared.  I was angry.

It was only my second week of running.  I had joined the cross country team just one week prior, so whatever I was running that day, it was probably pretty slow.  Maybe we just ran to the freeway and back. That's most likely what it was.

I remember many things from September 11, 2001.  I remember when a classmate asked me what a pentagon was.  It being geometry class, I replied by telling him it was a five-sided figure.  I paid no attention to the fact that he probably asked what The Pentagon was.

I remember that Mr. Sprow had an old TV in his classroom that we remained glued to it for the duration of study hall, algebra 2, and chemistry.

The image I remember most, though, was that blue, blue sky.  I remember hearing an airplane, and, knowing that all commercial flights were grounded, I was scared.  When I saw that F16, I didn't know whether I should still be scared, or be comforted by its presence.

I was running.  East on Huntington Avenue.  Today, I still run, and that fighter jet against that blue sky will never leave my memory.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

I Should Get An Emmy For This

In my continuing coverage of the St. Croix Valley International Distance Triathlon, you're in for a treat with this post.  I thought it would be cool to take a video of Katie as she came up from the swim exit, then post it to Facebook so that all her adoring fans could get a live update of her progress.  Well, I failed on the "upload to Facebook" post because my phone will upload photos to Facebook, but not videos.  Strange.

Minor technical difficulties aside, readers of this blog will be treated to the world premiere of the video.  Feast your eyes on this gem, and I suggest watching it using the play-by-play I provide below the video.

0:00 − 0:07  With the fantastic lighting, here is Katie running up from the beach.  You even get to see her turn around to look for her wallet.

0:08 − 0:12  Instead of me doing the expected thing of hitting the "stop recording" button, we've started looking down at my sweatshirt and the sand below my feet as I begin to run up to watch Katie in transition.

0:12 − 0:20  Here's a close-up of my hand.  I'd say my skin is in pretty good shape, but I should probably moisturize.

0:20 − 0:30  Now, you're taking a journey inside the pocket of my "Bi-Peninsular and Proud" hoodie.  Get your own at Michigan Awesome and show off your Great Lakes State pride.

0:30 − 0:45  I've added some cool visual effects here.  There is a fence surrounding the transition area, and you can see its silhouette from the sun shining through it.

0:45 − 0:53  I then tell Katie's dad that I would head up to where the bike course starts, and then I start moving in that direction.

0:53 − 0:59  Oh wait, this thing is still recording?  Well, here are my fingers again.  Sadly, I end the video here.

If you need someone to videotape your special event, I do birthday parties, weddings, Polka shows, bar mitzvahs, and liturgical dances.  I expect to be fed (buffets are a good choice), and I don't work with animals.

I can already envision my speech.  "I'd like to thank the Academy…"

Sunday, September 05, 2010

St. Croix Valley International Distance Triathlon

Call me Ishmael.

Wrong story, maybe.  But more than a few people had a whale of time this morning at the St. Croix Valley International Distance Triathlon.  I did not race this, but Katie did.  I was moral support, chauffeur, and photographer.  Maybe Katie will tell you her story about the race—about both the best of times, and the worst of times.  I will tell you my story about spectating, and avoid references to classic literature as much as possible.

The big story this morning was the weather.  Minnesota has been having a HOT summer, so waking up to an air temperature of 45°F was a bit jarring.  Arriving in Hudson, Wisconsin, we knew that the cold would be an issue, particularly after coming out of the water.  The water temperature (it was between 60 and 90 degrees), was warmer than the air temperature, and the St. Croix is not a very warm river.  A few weekends ago when Katie and I swam it the St. Croix, it was chilly.  I don't believe that it got any warmer. I suppose it was a good thing the race was not only wetsuit legal, but also that most people wore wetsuits.  (A few brave souls did not, however.)

Here is the swim course being constructed.  Note that the buoys were not in the straightest of lines

Just upriver of the swim course.  What?  You don't see the river?

Katie is apparently confused by her transition spot.

After Katie got set up, I was mostly on my own as she did her warm-up.  I noticed this one older dude, who, I kid you not, wore his wetsuit to the race.  Under the wetsuit, he had on a long-sleeve cotton shirt, and he was wearing socks and sneakers.  I'm sure that he probably suited up at home, then drove in his wetsuit.  Probably kept him warm though…

There he is on the left.  By this point he had removed the cotton shirt and put a jacket on.  The sneakers remain.

The race was getting close to starting, so Katie suited up in her wetsuit.

Since Katie likes to take awkward photos of me, I decided to exact my revenge.

The athletes listening to the ever-engaging Mark Bongers of Final Stretch

More of the pre-race meeting

Then they were off to the the swim start.

A look of trepidation.  At least the fog cleared.

Funny side story.  As the athletes gathered on the beach, I noticed this woman:

Yes, she is wearing Ugg Boots.  She said she would leave them on until the last possible second.  Interesting fashion statement—wetsuit and Uggs.

It was then time to race!

The first wave starting

The leaders rounding the buoy to start their second lap on the 2-lap swim course

The swim was particularly difficult because of the sun.  On the swim back towards shore, the sun was in the swimmers' eyes, so it made it impossible to see.  Many, many athletes went waaaay off course, and very few started running up the beach in the correct direction.

First person out of the water

Matt Payne was the second person out of the water.  He would end up being the overall winner.

Interesting side story.  Katie and I volunteered at the YWCA Women's Triathlon last month.  We were "Noodle Swimmers".  (We had swim noodles, and offered it to women who needed a little break during the swim).  There was one guy who was a noodle swimmer, and he remarked that since he thought the water would be warm, he just wore a Speedo.  Well, as it turns out, that guy was Matt Payne.  I didn't know he was a rockstar triathlete, so it was a surprise to see him come out of the water second, then win the whole event.

Speaking of Speedos...

Yeah, he was probably pretty cold

First female out of the water

Second female out of the water

Here comes Katie!

I think she dropped her wallet somewhere out there

Forget the wallet, it's time to bike!

Katie transitions while the person next to her is attacked by a large red bat

Bicycle, go!

After Katie left on the bike, I went with her folks up to a coffee shop in town for a warm beverage.  Her folks were in for the weekend, and this was the first time they got to see her race.  Anyway, all I wanted was a hot chocolate, and the owner/cashier/barista asked what type of milk.  I responded: do you have whole milk?  She answered in the affirmative, and I was overjoyed!  Yay whole milk!

The lead biker (Matt Payne), coming into T2

And then he starts the 10k run

This kid was part of a team.  He is only 10 years old.  He was actually pretty speedy for being 10.

This guy did the whole run barefooted.  I know that barefoot running is catching on in the running community, but I didn't know that triathletes did it.

Matt Payne heading in with about 200m to go

Here is an older couple.  They were out for a stroll.  They were just flabbergasted by what was going on.  They also didn't understand when people told them to get off the course.  Doh.

Katie starting her 10k

After Katie started her run, I walked about ½ mile up the course.  I like to cheer for athletes at quieter places along the course because it's easy to lose motivation there.  It's amazing how much a random stranger telling you that "you're looking great!" can keep you going.

Here is Katie with about ½ mile to go

At this point, I ran back to the start so that I could see Katie finish.

Jerry MacNeil was having a great time announcing Katie's finish

Here she is, just meters from the end of her first international distance triathlon!

A photo of Katie with her folks and dog, Lily

Katie and Lily.  Lily is very photogenic.  Katie is too, but dogs tend to steal the show.

Afterwards, there was a Luau, and, as always, Final Stretch puts on a great party.  Katie won some socks.  Then we went home.

I then noticed this:

Yes, there are 4—FOUR—water bottles there

Katie wasn't sure if they would need to bring their own swim course, so she brought extra water—just in case.

Katie seemed to have a fantastic time, and I enjoyed watching everybody come and go.  I like small races, and this race seemed like just the perfect size.
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