Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Just to Be Clear

Things I hate:
  • Sunburns
  • Blowing 60 bags of insulation into the attic on a hot summer day
  • That infernal plastic packaging that one must mutilate to enter at the risk of dismembering oneself
Things I don't hate:
  • Triathletes
  • Duathletes
  • Cyclists
  • Iowans
Let me clear things up a bit.  On my Holly Tri Race Report, someone left an anonymous comment that went like this:
it looks like you need a tag for "hating on everyone who is not a *pure* runner from Michigan or Minnesota". So far, you can apply it to not liking triathletes, duathletes, cyclists, and Iowans! :-)
I get it.  It doesn't take much of a spine to leave an anonymous drive-by comment on a blog, particularly if you craft a smiley at the end to assuage any shame you may feel for the harsh tone.  But really, it doesn't bother me.  What bothers me is that people are getting the impression that I "hate" anyone.  Thus, let me make these points clear:

  1. I like Iowans.  As far as scenery goes, however, the state is lacking.  Can you maybe put up a few more billboards?  Another truck stop?  A giant ball of twine?
  2. I dislike it when someone is discourteous towards me.
    • Corollary: In this case, discourteous would mean not alerting someone that you are passing them (this includes triathletes, cyclists, duathletes, runners, beavers, and old ladies on Hoverounds).  
  3. I find it rude when I speak to you and you ignore me.  I don't expect much in the way of a response, but treating me like I don't exist is bothersome.
 On this blog, I offer my observations and opinions on training.  I'm always willing to discuss something, and I freely admit that I'm not always right (in fact, I'm probably right less than 50% of the time).  But if you want to accuse me of "hating" someone, then have the gumption to sign your name.

    Sunday, August 28, 2011

    Holly Tri Race Report

    There are a few ways I could sum up this race.  One would be: "Another hill? #&%."  Another would be: "Do I have any gears lower than 1?"  But, I think the best way to sum up the race is this:

    Overall Swim Placement: 110 / 134
    Overall Bike Placement: 115 / 134
    Overall Run Placement: 21 / 134

    The race was scheduled to start at 8am with packet pickup starting at 6am.  I aimed to get there at 6am, which meant leaving at 5am.  Just before leaving, I found a little blurb on the race website that says even though I already paid the registration fee, I have to pay an extra $10 (in cash or check) on race day for a license.  Let me just state that this is the dumbest thing ever.  If it costs ten more dollars, then make it part of the registration fee.  Don't try and slip it in under the radar and bamboozle well-meaning racers.

    It was dark when I arrived at Holly State Recreation Area, and after checking in I set up my little piece of tarmac:

    Pretty simple

    After some rearranging

    Next to me on the rack was a friendly German fellow who warned me about a "big hill" on the bike course.  Then the German fellow disappeared and I didn't see him again for the rest of the day.  It's possible that he was an apparition meant to give me course advice.  Or he was an oracle.

    I then took a gander at the course.  From the maps on the website, we were supposed to go around the swimming rectangle once.  To my eye, it seemed like a pretty big 500m, but I rationalized that the perspective was all off since the lines were at an oblique angle to the shore.  I then looked at the posted map, and as it turns out, sprint racers only needed to go as far as the pyramid buoys.  Much better.

    The beach was disarmingly moist.  Instead of a discrete line between beach and lake, it was more of a continuum.

    After chatting with no one (triathletes aren't very friendly, I guess), I got my wetsuit on and meandered to the beach for the pre-race meeting.  For the rest of the time on the beach, the sound system would cut out after about 5-7 seconds, thus needing a reset.  Even after this happened 50+ times, the announcer would always wander away from the reset button and then act surprised when it would cut out 4 seconds later.

    Aside: This is my first time racing at a "3 Disciplines" event.  If I were to rate "3 Disciplines" on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being orgs like Twin Cities in Motion and Final Stretch, and 1 being orgs like Randy Fulton races and Team Ortho, I'd give "3 Disciplines" a solid 5.5.

    Also, thanks to the kind fellow that helped me zip up my wetsuit.  I guess my struggling was pretty obvious.

    I was hesitant about a "time trial start".  I figured that it would make it less of a race, and more of an individual event against the clock.  And that was true.  Yet, I also feared that I would be the last person on the course because it required us to seed ourselves based on projected swim time.  I guessed I would be the slowest, but there was practically a brawl to see who could get the slowest projected time.  I settled for a spot in the 14-15 min range (about 2/3 of the way back in the line).  They told me to go, and then I went.  It was slow, but this being my first wetsuit race, I stayed pretty relaxed.  I found my way around the course, got lost in the weeds a bit, then ran up the beach.

    Swim Time (500m): 15'16" (I guess my estimate was pretty good)

    Holy Buckets.  This was the worst bike course I could imagine (well, except for something in Iowa, I suppose).  It was crazy hilly with a lot of sharp turns and broken pavement.  And to top it off, I had to do 2 loops.  On occasion, I would slow to less than a walking pace trying to get up the hill, mutter something like "I should have rode Roy", then start singing until I reached the top.  After that, I would fly down the downhill cursing at the stupid flappy paddle shifters that made me shift the wrong way and send my pedal flying into my shin.  Then repeat this about 50 times.

    Bike Time (12ish miles): 57'05", 12.6 mi/hr

    As you can imagine from the start of the post, I had a good run.  Or, more accurately, I'm a runner, thus I sucked at the other parts and did ok on the run.  These were my thoughts along the run:


    "Damn.  That's a big hill."

    But, I only passed people on the run, so that was good.  What was bad was that we weren't competing with each other because they could have started minutes before or after me!

    Run Time (5kish): 21'10", 6'49"/mile pace

    Total Time: 1:37:59, 100 / 134 overall, 76 / 93 men. (There were no age groups.)

    I had low expectations going into the race.  I met them.  It was fun, I suppose, but being so terrible on the swim and bike means there aren't any people my speed to run with.  I really should just stick to running.

    Right Now

    One of two things is happening right now:

    1. I'm swimming
    2. I'm standing around awkwardly on a beach waiting for them to let the 300 people before me enter the water.

    Race report from Holly, MI to come later.  :)

    Thursday, August 25, 2011

    I'm Racing This Weekend...Yikes!

    Fact: I've been slacking on running.
    Fact: I've been really slacking on running.
    Conclusion: It's best not to race.

    Not being one for conventional wisdom, I've signed up to race this weekend.  It's not a normal race, though, it's a triathlon.  Actually, it's the Tri Triathlon, which may be the most unimaginative name for something since the Renault The Car.  I didn't name the race, though, and even though it's extremely confusing (and much worse than the original name for the event—The Autumn Colors Triathlon) I've cursed under my breath as Active.com weaseled me out of a "processing fee" and signed up for the race.  After doing such a thing, and because I find myself with extra time on my hands, I've made a tentative—but rather firm—pledge to myself to use the most complex sentence structures imaginable.  So far: winning.

    Why the Tri Tri?  Because I couldn't find any good Run Runs?  (Insert joke about Mexican food here)  Not exactly.  First, I have a new bike.  Mr. Trek 1.5 would like to have a fun weekend, and what better way than careening on twisty roads through a park?

    Second: My $10 contribution to Michigan State Parks has given me a discreet letter "P" on my license plate which not only allows me into any Michigan State Park or Recreation Area (like Holly Recreation area for the Tri Tri), but it also lets me say "I've got P on my car".  I find this mildly amusing.

    Third: We had an earthquake on Tuesday.  If the end of the world is near, then I might as well do something crazy.

    Fourth: I just want to race.  Period.  (I'd race Apostrophes too, but they're just so possessive.)

    With a race on Sunday, I have a few things working in my favor:
    • I have a new bike.  Since I've spent money buying new gear, I should do better than if I didn't spend money (ahh, the problem with triathlons—money buys victory/speed.  But this might be a post for later).
    • I don't take triathlons as seriously as runs, so my expectations are low.  It is likely that I will meet or beat my expectations.

    And these things are working against me:
    • I've swam once since May.
    • I've run less than I should have been.
    • I know nothing about the course.
    There's also something very strange about this race—it's a "time trial" start.  Instead of actually racing against other people, you only race against the clock.  There's not a single person on the course who started at the same time as you, so any incentive to pass or out-kick someone goes away.

    Oh well, at least it's a good excuse to get out of the house all day Sunday.

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    Riding Impressions of my New Two-Wheeled Conveyance

    Picking up from last time, I've actually used my new bicycle.  One week after purchase, the new bike has about 50 miles on the odometer (it doesn't actually have an odometer, but that would be pretty cool).  I gone on 3 rides on the Metro Parkway bike path (boring, but convenient), and today I took it up to Stony Creek and did some riding there.  This is what I've done so far:

    • Sunday, August 14: 12.5 miles in a spotty rain to Metro Beach and back.
    • Monday, August 15: 8 miles to freedom hill and back.
    • Thursday, August 18: 12.5 miles to Metro Beach and back.
    • Today: 15.5 miles around Stony Creek.

    I'm getting some use out of the bike, and, for the most part, I like it.  Here are my observations after 50 miles.
    • Road Bikes are Weird.  I expected this to be the case after riding a mountain bike for 15 years, but I'm a bit surprised as to how unnatural the riding position feels.  I'm leaning so far forward that I can't look behind myself without swerving wildly, and sometimes it feels like I'll knee myself in the stomach.  It's also a lot tougher on my hands because the pressure is concentrated between my thumb and index finger instead of over the whole hand.  I could move my hands to other places, but that puts the shifters and brakes out of reach.
    • This Bike is Light.  A very, very nice characteristic.  I like being able to put the bike in my car on my own, and gravity is less of a problem when going uphill.
    • I Feel Like the Bike is Fragile.  This may be a mental thing, but since the bike is so light and the tires so thin, I feel like the bike will shatter every time I hit a bump.  Should I really be worrying this much about the bike?
    • Shifters are Still Dumb.  This is the one thing I hate about the bike.  It's impossible to ride without either pausing to think of what flappy paddle to hit, or hitting the wrong one and muttering an unkind word under your breath.
    • My Feet Hurt.  On the first ride, I developed a terrible cramp in the bottom of my right foot.  Bad enough that I had to stop for a minute and make awkward facial expressions.  I blame it on the pedal cages since they kept my foot in one place and prevented me from moving my foot around to distribute the pressure at will.  I had the bike shop take the cages off on Thursday, and there were no foot problems today, so I'll consider this a problem solved.
    • But, the pedals have developed another problem.  After taking the cages off, I realized that the pedals are one-sided!  So even though I've got more freedom of movement, I have to make sure the pedal is flipped to the correct side.  This may be one of the first things I replace, and get some good, 2-sided pedals (maybe I could swap the pedals with Roy's?).
    • Other Cyclists Make Me Ashamed to Be Riding a Bicycle.  I really don't like cyclists.  I'm fine with your average cyclist, but the "serious" ones with the expensive bikes are jerks.  They never return a "hello" or a wave, and they'll fly right by you with very little clearance at high speeds and never, ever announce that they are passing.  It's almost like there's some unwritten code that they have to try and run every other person off the road.  Count me out of that club.
    As I put more miles on the bike, I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on it, but I'll reiterate that I like the bike, but it's pretty awkward right now.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    A New Family Member

    I've ranted about bicycles.  I've ranted about shifters.  I've professed my attachment to my beloved bicycle, Roy.  But I'm not completely detached from reality, either.  Last week I got Roy back from the bicycle shop with a brand new wheel and we went for a ride.  I was glad they called me when they did because if Roy had been ready a day later, I would have had to bring him home in Luigi:

    Katie and I popping our heads out of Luigi.

    Luigi is a Fiat 500C.  The 'C' stands for "Cabrio", which is Italian for "Bike no fit here".

    An aside: In a previous post, I mentioned that I was a fan of Fraser Bicycle.  After going back for service, I'm less than thrilled with them.  I asked a mechanic and a saleswoman some questions and was treated like I was an idiot.  Admittedly, my questions were very noob-ish, but you would think that they would treat the guy with a 15 year old mountain bike like a king because he's most likely to buy a new bicycle.  Anyway, Fraser Bicycle is a good shop if you're a bicycle expert, but if you're an average person, steer clear.

    The first ride with Roy was bittersweet.  The good was that it felt wonderful to ride my trusty bicycle after a few months' hiatus.  The bad was that his new wheel exacerbated all of his other problems (including a nasty clunking noise in the bottom bracket).  When I got home, I summed up the costs of all the parts and labor to get Roy into a trustworthy condition, and that total was north of $400.  For a bike worth about $40.

    I needed to get out of the house on Sunday, so I searched for the nearest open bike store and found in Shelby Township.  Upon entering, the place was a madhouse, and after discovering why, I reminded myself of one of the fundamental laws of the universe:

    There's no resisting a good deal.

    Yup, there was a sale, and I caved.

    Meet my new bicycle.  Its given name is Trek 1.5C.  I'm not sure how to make a nickname from that; Rek? 0.5?  Cee apostrophe D?  But I'll work on that one later.

    The super sale meant 20% off bicycles and accessories, so the final total for the bicycle, a new pump, a water bottle cage (why don't bikes come with water bottle cages anymore????), and the state of Michigan's share came in at less than the original list price for the bicycle.  Furthermore, I got all of it for much less than the Specialized I was considering at Fraser Bicycle (which was a lower level bicycle than the Trek).  So, I got a great deal on a seemingly good bicycle.  Here are the details of what I got:
    • Trek 1.5C: The 'C' means 'Cabrio' like in the Fiat.
    • It has the "better" gearing system.  I didn't quite understand this until the salesman started talking about material properties.  Shimano Whatever makes no sense to me, but bending moments and tensile strength do.
    • It has the awful shifters.  Yes, they suck.
    • It has clipless pedals.  I can't figure out how to remove the plastic cages, so when I take the bike in on Thursday I'll have them take them off.
    • It's made of aluminum with a carbon fiber fork and seat post.  This means that this bicycle weighs about a tenth of what portly Roy weighs.
    • It has thick handlebars, which prevents me from attaching my headlight.
    • It has indicators on the gear shifters.  From what I can gather, the orange pointers move in the opposite direction that the chain moves, further complicating the shifting.
    • It has a fancy new type of inflation valve.  It's so fancy that it requires 15 minutes, Google, and Wikihow to inflate the tires.

    Those are the important specs.  I'll post some riding impressions in another post, but until then I'm getting used to riding a very, very different bike.  I'm hoping to take it up to Stony Creek on Saturday and ride someplace more interesting than Clinton Township.

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