Finally Getting Back on Track

At 12:30 pm today the countdown officially ended: sunny skies, high temp around 55, and a slow day at work. The stars aligned to allow me to bring out my new training tool...

That's right, I'm finally doing something I've always wanted to get into. And it came about on a whim.

My '07 Scattante has been having some frame issues so I've been shopping around for possible replacement options. This has taken me to Craigslist and eBay countless times in the past several months. As I was browsing frame after frame, I came across a listing for a track frame with a current bid of $30. After considering it for a few minutes, I put in a max bid of $70 and thought nothing of it. A couple days later I received an email from eBay notifying me that I won the auction at exactly $70. I was floored. 

You will notice that it is missing a few things, like wheels, a seat, and even a chain. With further searching on eBay I found a set of wheels that fit my needs: tough, somewhat aero (Deep-V rims), and around $200.

That left me with just a few other parts to purchase, which arrived from Amazon over the coming week: a chain, cogs of various sizes, a cog lockring, and a Park Tool Head-Gear lockring wrench.

I had other parts on-hand from previous replacements or stock-ups: Schwalbe Durano S tires, Specialized tubes, a Forte Pro SLX seat, and Shimano PD-R540 SPD-SL pedals.

And then I had to go to the bike store to buy some rim tape. Duh!

Now that I have a track bike assembled and ready to go... I became a hipster and started wearing weird clothes and drinking PBR, right?

Um... No.

Only 5 miles from my house is the track that hosted the cycling events for the 1990 Goodwill Games, many regional Olympic trials, and several National Championships, the Marymoor Velodrome. It is a fabulous outdoor, 400m concrete oval bicycle track with 25 degree banked turns. Most tracks are shorter, which means banking up to 45 degrees. 

Panorama of the Marymoor Velodrome, Redmond, WAThe key thing here is "outdoor". That 25 degree banking can be downright dangerous in the wet. With that in mind, the only thing I needed was a dry track. This requires a dry/sunny day. In late winter in the Seattle area. Suuuuuure. It only took about a week of waiting.

My new track bike at the Marymoor VelodromeI came down for a long lunch at the track and took in a few turns. There were only a couple people there, including Rob McD, a track racer I know from work. He had some very encouraging words but in the end I was just there to show everyone how slow and out of shape I have become in the last 18 months. 

The circus had indeed come to town. No, really. That big white tent behind me is for Cavalia. Think Cirque du Soleil but with horses. One of these days I'll actually go to one of their shows. Anyway...

I did an even 40 laps of interval training: sprint for 1-2 laps, rest for 2-3 laps, repeat. OK, I did have to stop a few times to adjust various things on my bike like stem position, handlebar height, etc., since this was my first time on this bike.

In the end I didn't kill myself. I didn't even embarrass myself, although I tried a few times. Note to self: FIXED GEAR BIKES do not have a freewheel. Trying to stop the pedals at 25 MPH is a BAD idea.

It was a great day. I can't say enough good things about this track. And I'll be back. My next opportunity appears to be Monday, only 3 days away!

On race night the atmosphere around the track is electric. The competition is fierce and the speeds are high.

Marymoor Velodrome during the 2012 FSA Grand Prix

One of our favorite track events is the "Marymoor Crawl" where they have everyone "race" from turn 4 to the start/finish line for up to 2-3 minutes, at which point they ring the bell and everyone does a 1-lap sprint for a $100 prize. The catch? If you put your foot down or cross the start/finish line before the bell, you are eliminated. It is crazy and looks a little something like this-

Getting Back On Track: T-Minus 4 Days

"What does a dyslexic owl say? How! How! How! He should get together with another owl and the werewolf then all they need to know is when." - Boy #3

That's how my day started. How about yours? }B^)

It ended like this...

Our town is on a plateau with rather steep sides all around. Once you ride off the plateau, getting back up can be a challenge. On the north side of the Sammamish Plateau, where we live, there are three choices, all of which have 1/4 mile sections that with a 10% average grade-

 

  1. Sahalee Way - 1 mile, average grade 8%, max grade 12%
  2. NE 42nd Way - 1.4 miles, average grade 6%, max grade 24%
  3. Inglewood Hill Rd - 1/2 mile, averge grade 9%, max grade 13%

 

There is also 244th NE but it is a little out of the way and very narrow, not my perfect combination. 

Today I was riding home with my eldest son, Patrick, who recently turned 12. He has always been an enthusiastic bike rider and takes every opportunity to ride with me, even when it means riding up big hills. Today we rode from my office to his swim practice via the East Lake Sammamish Trail and then home via Inglewood Hill Rd. I like to dangle carrots in front of him to see if he can push himself a little more.

Today's challenge was a big one: ride to the top of Inglewood Hill Road without stopping.

The reward: a trip to his favorite fast food place, Jack-in-the-Box.

I guess I already spoiled it, didn't I? The last time he rode up this hill, not more than a month ago, he was very proud of himself when he only stopped 3 times. This time he got into a groove and held it all the way up the hill, without stopping or putting a foot down until he reached the top. We consider the Inglewood Beach Club sign the "official" top of the hill, even though the grade isn't completely level for another 20 meters.

For me this represents 3 consecutive days of effective exercise. I cannot remember the last time I did this. Yes, it has been many, many months, probably April of last year, just before my injury.

Tomorrow promises to be a bit wet but we still plan to do some mountain biking at Tolt MacDonald Park at arguably the most last-minute campout ever planned by boy scouts. 2 days notice. Sheesh!

GETTING BACK ON TRACK: T-MINUS 5 DAYS Part II

"Hold on a second... Part II? Why aren't you counting down?"

Well, the Brown Santa decided that the final day is actually Monday, as opposed to Saturday, thanks to some big cold, wet thing called Vulcan dropping immense amounts of snow on a few people in the entirety of the eastern US. That's only a slight exaggeration. 

And now, I bring out the ever-popular Soapbox...

Yesterday afternoon I took advantage of the gorgeous weather here in the Seattle area to go for a jog. OK, it was more like a fast-paced amble. I went on a local trail (the 520 trail, for any curious locals) for a couple of miles, nothing big, and was passed by many cyclists of all shapes, sizes, and colors (Blue shorts with brown jersey? Seriously?)

To the cyclists who passed me, I have 1 word for you: LUBRICATION.

If I can hear your transmission from more than 50’ away, it is time to invest in some Tri-Flow. Or Finish Line. Or White Lightning. Or even the new WD-40 lube if you are too cheap.

The worst offenders? The 5 guys in matching kits that passed me near NE 40th. WOW. It sounded like a flock of birds squeaking up behind me.

Perhaps this is a new bicycle warning system for pedestrians on multi-use trails?

That is all. I now yield the soap box to the more capable voicing of others.

Anyway, back to the countdown. What is it? Well, it's a way to get my health back to where it should be: right back on track. Any other place would be uncivilized.

How many kids ask for this, along with 3 of their friends? Quite a few, actually. FSA seems to like it.

)

Getting back on track: T-minus 5 days

Where do I start? Let's start with the obvious.Boy #3, demonstrating the proper way to "soak in some rays" on a cold, sunny, January day.
I love my kids. I really do. But sometimes they are incredibly difficult to deal with, both academically and emotionally. One day we are tearing it up at Soaring Eagle Park on some wonderful single-track and the next we are having the biggest battle of whits/wills I ever imagined. I used to be an extrovert until I had kids, each with their unique learning disability that makes life VERY interesting. And I learned a level of humility and patience I never dreamed possible. That much is true.
I love my body. I really do. But in the past 12 months it has put me through hell. And back. And back again. OK, I'm over-exaggerating a bit because I don't have some incredibly bad/terminal illness. A major injury that required surgery. And more sicknesses, trips to the doctor, and even one to the hospital (not for me, BTW) than I care to talk about. Yep, I'm whining again. I think I should be allowed to whine about gaining 50 pounds over the past 5 years. Time to shed that weight. (Hint: things that you "lose" you might find again. I never intend to find this weight again.)
I hated 2013. There, I said it. No races. None! Not even a basic sprint tri. The biggest bike ride of the year I did with my kids. No tours, no centuries, no athletic events. 
But this all stops. NOW. Why?
Because eBay is evil and should always be avoided. Just like Craigslist. 
...and because the correct number is always N+1. 

Doing it on the cheap - Redeaux!

In looking at my website stats, my "Doing it on the cheap" post is #1. There is no other post that even comes close, even my Cycle Oregon page has less hits by a 10x margin. And now I present an updated and expanded version of...

Triathlons: Hot to be a Triathlete on a budget.


Triathlons are not for the faint of heart and, apparently, not for the thin of wallet. 

"So Triathlon is the new golf?" I was so flabbergasted that I didn't quite know what to say. This could not possibly be true but there was the data in black and white-

"According to a study initiated by USA Triathlon, the average triathlete is a married 38-year-old with an income of $126,000. Forty-four percent have kids living at home; 60% are male. They spend in excess of $4,000 annually on bike gear, athletic footwear, race fees and nutritional supplements. Nearly half have traveled more than 500 miles for a race."

-Natalie Zmuda, Advertising Age

$4000 a year on gear, race fees, and food? PER YEAR? Seriously? If it doesn't turn out to be a fad then there is significant money to be made marketing/selling gear to triathletes in the coming years. 

...Unless that triatlete is me. I may be squarely in the demographic quoted above but I spend NO WHERE NEAR that amount of money on my craft.

Is it possible to be a triathlete and do it on a shoe-string budget? My answer: ABSOLUTELY!

Let's break it down into the main categories mentioned in the article above and see how you can do it without breaking the bank. To be fair to all you lady triathletes out there I called upon an old friend, Valerie, who finished her rookie race in 2011 and did it for just-over $200!

Finding the Best Deals

TIMING IS EVERYTHING: Best advice I can give you - plan what you need NOW and start researching and window shopping. Notice I didn't say buying? That comes later. If you wait until the last minute to find what you need you will either spend WAY too much (i.e. list price) or find yourself loaded down with worthless gear that doesn't fit or meet your needs.

Once you know what you are looking for, you can take your time and wait for the right sale.

The best time of year to buy gear is the last month of the season and the 2 months following (August-October in North America). That's when shops are clearing out the current year's merchandise, prepping for Inter-bike, and getting ready to stock up on the latest products. If you can settle for the previous year's clothing or gear you can save some serious dough.

Deal Websites: My favorite site lately has been Chainlove but you can also find great deals on Amazon and many others. Also look for "deal of the day" on sites like Western Bike WorksREI, and Competitive Cyclist. These sites are great but if you don't know what you are looking for they are useless. Do your footwork first and they are much more valuable. 

Clearance Sales: The REI seasonal clearance sales, the clearance section of just about any shopping website, and even Performance Bike and Bike Nashbar are a great place to find hidden gems. Case in point: My bike commute shoes are a pair of size 49 Canondale Roam shoes. I found them on a fluke on Bike Nashbar for nearly 75% off (less than $30). 

The Clearance Rack: When I go shopping at any store (clothes, electronics, and especially sporting goods) the first place I go is the clearance rack/section. Some of my best finds have been at REI, the Nike Factory store, and, yes, Target (amazing low prices on basic workout clothes such as base layers for running). Go to ALL of your local bike stores (LBS) and check out their clearance rack/table. You will be surprised what you can find marked down by 80% (like every set of gloves or glasses I have ever worn). 

Race/Training Clothing

I put this category first because it crosses boundaries with the different disciplines on race day and, most of the time, while training as well. 

Tri shorts: A good pair of tri shorts will serve you well on the bike and still be comfortable on the run. I prefer the Pearl Izumi Tri Shorts, men's model of course. List price: $55. If you are going to skimp on something, for heaven's sake don't skimp on your shorts. Do it on the...

Tri top: This is where there is the most flexibility. For short races a normal bike jersey will do but for the longer races you need something that won't chafe your armpits or other sensitive upper-body areas. Once again, Pearl Izumi Tri Top (Sleeveless) is a good choice. List price: $55.

Tri Suit: The even cheaper way to go is to combine the jersey and shorts into a tri suit. The Pearl Izumi Tri Suitlists for $99, $10 cheaper than the shorts and top combination. 

I hate to sound like a broken record for Pearl Izumi but they seem to have a lot of clothes that fit me (size XXL). There are other options out there but they are harder to find and often more expensive. 

That about covers race day clothing but race day itself is less than 1% of the total time you will spend all year in your sport. The rest is spent training. While training, especially on single-sport days, you can wear something a little more tailored for the current sport. If I'm going to spend 120 minutes on the bike doing a long ride I would much rather be wearing bike-specific shorts. There is a lot of flexibility there. I will cover each individually below.

Swim exit to T1, Beaver Lake Tri 2010Swim Gear

Race Swim Suit: See Tri shorts/suits above. For race day there really is no substitute. In big races (i.e. Ironman events) there is an enclosed changing area where you can change into a tri-suit if you desire but not so in shorter/local races. I actually saw a couple of women changing in the transition area of T1 during a race. One would hold up a big towel around the other while she changed, then they would switch. Their T1 times must have been somewhere around 10 minutes.

Training Swim Suit: This is where you can get ultra-cheap. Any suit that fits for swimming, and allows for freedom of movement, should do the trick. I use a cheap pair of swim trunks while Val uses a womens model Speedo suit that she has had for years. 

Goggles: Talk about cheap! You can get goggles for as little as $5. I use the Speedo Baja Goggle which I picked up from a local sport retailer for $10. Just as with any equipment it has to fit. 

Swim Cap: Since these are provided with your race this is one of the few no-cost items on the list (well, almost no-cost, since race entries aren't exactly free). I didn't think much about using a swim cap during training swims until I took a lifeguard class. Those bright-colored swim caps make it MUCH easier to find a lost swimmer underwater, especially when visibility is limited.

Beaver Lake Tri 2010 Swim StartWet suit: This is by far the highest priced item in the swim section. For race day wet suits can be rented in most major cities for anywhere from $40-70, depending on type and length of rental. If you live in an area where you must train using a wet suit (like I do) then purchasing one may be a better deal. These can cost anywhere from $100 to as much as you want to spend. Second hand wetsuits are plentiful around the end of the season via Ebay, Craigslist, or even your favorite retailer (think rentals models clearance). I bought my wetsuit for $150 from Chainlove.com, a 2XU SC:1 sleeveless wetsuit. 

 

Bikes and Bike Equipment

The Bike: There are no other pieces of equipment in your list that will meet the cost of the bike. You can use an existing bike (like Val did), buy a used bike for under $100, or spend as much money as you want (the sky is the limit in some cases). Now, before you run out and spend more than the value of your car on a real tri-bike, remember that even Chrissy Wellington won her first Ironman Kona on a Drop Bars with clip-on aero bars. Of course that bike was a Cervelo P2C tricked out with full Dura-ace groupo and an HED wheelset. Even Lance said, "It's not about the bike." The best place to start is a bike that fits your budget and your body.

A word about bike sizing: Any good LBS should be able to size your bike to you. If you are going to spend hundreds of hours training, commuting, and/or racing on a bike in an aero position a fit is more important than you may realize: as with other repetitive strain injuries, the right positioning and posture can prevent countless hours of pain and thousands of dollars. A post-purchase bike fit is covered by most insurance companies to make sure your bike is adjusted to fit your specific body needs. 

Bike Accessories: After you buy a helmet (required at all races in the US) the basic item you need is some type of hydration (i.e. water bottle and mount). The cheapest are only a few dollars. Other essential items are bike shoes, with compatible pedals, and perhaps a bike computer. My friend Val went old-school with a set of clip-pedals for under $20, which is what I would consider the bare minimum for any race. Without clips or a clipless pedal/shoe combination you cannot capture the energy of upward/backward pedal strokes and will waste precious muscle energy on the down-stroke, which is the same primary muscle group you use when you run. 

Bike Computer: There are a TON of toys you add to your bike, including GPS devices with mapping and directions (I use an old Garmin Edge 705 or Forerunner 310XT), but why not just use your smartphone? If you have an iPhone, Andriod, or Windows Phone then you have all that functionality already. Go download a free fitness app and you will have speed and GPS data. You can even add on a heart-rate monitor to your iPhone for under $100.

Repair Kit: Some racers, especially in the elite class, really go light on their repair kits or even skip it completely. If you, like me, are one those "finish at all costs" type of athletes then a good repair kit is essential but it doesn't have to cost much at all. A basic flat kit, an extra tube, and a CO2 pump will weigh only a pound or 2 and can cost less than $20. 

Bike-specific Clothing (Training): Jerseys and shorts can be a very personal item in terms of fit, use, and style but one thing is for sure: a good pair of bike shorts goes a long way. Or at least it can help you go a long way with lower body impact than a cheaper pair of shorts. Best advice I heard early on: buy a really cheap jersey and use the money you saved to buy the best shorts you can afford. Your nether-regions will thank you later (as opposed to screaming).

Beaver Lake Tri 2010Running Gear

Running Shoes: Along with tri shorts, running footwear is another area where you should be careful about getting overly cheap. Properly fit footwear is the first requirement but it must also fit your running style. A quick visit to a podiatrist or running store for a gait analysis (i.e. how do you run?) will help determine the best type of shoe. I have been wearing Asics Gel Kayano shoes for the past several years and LOVE the feel, although I have been experimenting with minimalist footwear with some success. 

Once you know what works best for you there is nothing to stop you from buying online. My favorite source for shoes has been Ebay. Search for your specific make/model/size of shoe and you can find screaming deals for as much as 50-70% off, especially if it is "last year's model". 

Run-specific Clothing (Training): This is where I get super cheap. My running shorts, shirts, and base layers come from either the clearance rack at Target or my local sporting good store. Total cost: $15 per set. 

 

Race Fees

This one can get a little ridiculous if you are not careful. In 2009 I completed 3 races, 2 sprints and an Olympic distance. My total race fees for the year: $222 ($72, 75, and 75 respectively). 

I prefer smaller, more local events than the larger M-Dot events (i.e. World Triathlon Corporation, or WTC, owners of the Ironman brand). While very well run the M-Dot events support upwards of several thousand racers and cost a lot more than the local non-profit events I usually participate in- 

  • Ironman 70.3 (US prices): $250-300 (depends on registration date)
  • Ironman 140.6 (US prices): $600-700

 

Nutrition

Gels, Protein Shakes, jelly beans, etc: This one is like arguing religion or pizza toppings (very contentious in some cases). No matter your preference in this category you can find numerous vendors our there and, if you shop smart, you can find good deals. Watch the clearance sales and bulk buy web sites for the best deals. I usually spend less than $50/year on nutrition. 

A warning about clearance "nutrition": Watch the expiration date. I bought some Honey Stinger Waffles recently (my new favorite food for distance riding) and found they expired in 6 months after purchase (hence the low cost). Don't stock up big if they won't last.

 

Summary

How much did I spend in 2011? (my last big race year prior to 2014)

Race day gear (per year, as spent in 2011)

  • Race clothing: $0 (bought my Tri-shorts in 2010 for $30, no new jerseys in 2010)
  • Swim gear: $15 (new goggles, wetsuit was purchased in 2010 for $150)
  • Bike gear: $150 (new chain, rear cassette, and front/rear tires)
  • Run gear: $65 (new shoes)
  • Nutrition: $50 (new gels)
  • Race fees: $75 (only 1 race in 2011)

My 2011 total: $355 (i.e. nowhere near the $4000 number above).

How much did Valerie spend on her first tri in 2011? (An off-road Tri in eastern WA state)

  • Race clothing: $0 (borrowed Tri-shorts for the race, but have since purchased a Tri-suit at TJ Maxx)
  • Swim gear: $0 (used existing goggles, no wetsuit)
  • Bike gear: $20 (new toe-clip pedals)
  • Run gear: $80 (new shoes)
  • Nutrition: $50 (new gels, should last into 2012)
  • Race fees: $60 (only 1 race in 2011)

2011 Total: $210

Was this a typical race year for me? Well, almost. My race fees would have been about $150 higher (i.e. 2 races) if I was able to better coordinate my schedule. My typical race schedule is for at least 3 races, 1 of them a half-iron distance (i.e. 70.3 but it's not an M-dot event). My race fees should be closer to $300.

The Race Rookie Year

What if you are new to triathlon and looking to complete your rookie race? Let's assume you are starting from absolute zero and do a little math...

  • Race clothing: $100 (Tri-suit)
  • Swim gear: $20 (cheap swim suit and googles)
  • Bike gear: $600 (bike, clipless pedals, shoes, shorts, jersey)
  • Run gear: $100 (running shoes, shorts, shirt, base layer)
  • Nutrition: $50
  • Electronics: $50 (basic heart rate monitor)
  • Race fees: $100 (typical for a local Sprint/Olympic-distance race, not an M-Dot event)
  • Total: $1020

This assumes you have no gear whatsoever, which is not true for most athletes. 

The moral of the story: you can EASILY spend less than $1000/year on triathlon gear and race fees if you are careful. I will grant that my goals are not as lofty as some. If you are shooting for 1 or more Ironman races this year (140.6) then your budget may be a bit larger. Spending that much time in training puts a lot of stress on your body and clothing which wears it out faster and sometimes requires you to buy the more expensive clothes in the first place.

But for "normal guys" like me (hence the website name) it is very easy to be a tight-wad and a cheap-skate. Just don't tell my wife or she may cut my gear budget even further. }B^)

2012 Year in Review

And you thought 2011 was bad? Straight to the stats... 

Biking info (2011 results in parenthesis to compare)

Number of rides: 74 (down from 125)

Miles biked: 734.32 (down from 1690.30)

Elevation gained: 45,902' (down from 108,485')

Total Saddle Time:  57:54:19 (hh:mm:ss) (down from 138:08:35)

Run info

Number of runs: 17 (down from 24)

Miles: 58.34 (down from 91.91)

Elevation gained: 3,574 (down from 8,274')

Total Run Time: 10:11:19 (hh:mm:ss) (down from 17:31:48)

 

Starting weight: 288.4

Ending weight: 299.6 (net change: +11.2 pounds)

 

Races/Events finished:

Issaquah Triathlon (Sprint)

Ocean Shores Sprint Triathlon (Sprint)

Federal Escape Triathlon (Olympic)

 

Overview: (see the race reports for details)

My own advice to myself from last year still rings true: "Be a man! Take some Pepto Bismol and ________!" (Fill in the blank with every event I missed last year)

Wow broken record time? Another quote from last year: "No more excuses. This year was lame. Next year will be better." I say that every year. How will this year be different, considering I am already way behind last year, which I said was a bad year?

Last year started out strong but ended poorly. My poor performance in the Federal Escape Olympic forced me to rethink everything. I spent most of August with family trips and other non-training activities to regroup. Then in early September I had a minor setback: I broke my toe just before going on a long ride into Seattle (more to come on that later). Breaking my toe (only a minor break) was just the wind up. When the pitch was actually delivered I struck out big time. That strike out was our back-to-school schedule, which I am still trying to figure out. 

In the last 3 months of 2012 I rode my bike a grand total of 10 times. No so impressive when you consider that in the same period in 2011 I did 33 and in 2010 I did 25. 

This year I'm starting out slow and just now beginning to see how to coordinate my ride/training schedule with all the personal appointments (i.e. pickups/drop-offs for the kids' classes, swim, sports, etc). The next few months will really tell the tail. It really scares me that I am less than 90 days from the Issaquah Tri (my traditional first race of the year) and my training is horrible. 

But I have an ace up my sleeve...

Patrick at the start of the Federal Escape Kids' Tri...Or rather a young man. My son decided that he wanted to do the FULL Issaquah Sprint Tri this year! I promised him that if he trained hard enough he could do it and, not only that, I would stay with him to make sure he finished the race. A sprint tri is a big jump up from the little kids races he has been doing. In 2012 he finished 3 such races and barely broke a sweat. So far this year he has significantly improved his swimming and can do 250 yards in the pool without stopping (a personal best for him). He has a long way to go but is well on his way. 

So what happened to the Grand Columbian? I decided top drop this race in July after the Federal Escape and good thing I did! The broken toe incident (ride report coming later) happened less than a week from when I would have been racing in my first half-iron distance race.

Did I do Cycle Oregon 2012? Short version: no, I didn't get off the wait list. My strategy of waiting until it sold out backfired. I was so far down the wait list that there was no chance of getting into the real ride. Too bad, since 2013 appears to be not nearly as exciting (i.e. I most likely will not do it).

Lessons learned:

  1. Broken toes suck. Must join the "protect our toes" society.
  2. I need to find a new way to deal with illnesses and still train. More to come...
  3. Focus earlier in the year on distance running and cardio volume.
  4. My best and more consistent results are still from bike commuting, which I try to do 3-5x per week during the spring/summer and early fall months.
  5. Commuting home on foot on Fridays are a great way to get in an 8+ mile run once a week. That will start in April.

 

Rubber side down...

Hitting the Reset Button...

We used to call it the "3 finger salute" in my programming classes: when your code was so bad that you crashed your computer and had to hit ctrl-alt-delete and start over. 

Well, I'm doing it already for 2013. But I didn't crash this time...

The Federal Escape Olympic last year really rocked my world. I did so poorly that it forced me to reconsider my plans for the entire year and finally drop my race schedule completely.  

And then life happened. And it happened again... and again...

Even though it was 7 months ago I am just now adjusting to our "new" family schedule of school, sports, and other activities which has forced me to limit me to only 17 rides since last Labor Day. 

And so I am starting afresh with my goals. In the coming week I will post several new things and something. Expect to see...

  • 2012 Year in review
  • 2013 Ride/race schedule
  • My weight loss progess in the right side bar (totally ripping off Fatty)
  • Training with/during/despite Illnesses
  • Bike commuting: When?
  • Bike commuting: Rain, Rain, Go Away!
  • The True cost of commuting
  • Bike Thefts and Recovery (i.e. how to get your bike back WITHOUT getting shot)
  • A new site layout and design

Sounds like a lot, eh? I actually have more than that in store. Even though I haven't updated my site since BEFORE Lance confessed to the big "O" my site is getting more hits than ever.

Triathlon is a great sport. I hope I can contribute even more to it.

And so on I merrily stagger... }B^)

 

2012 Race/Ride Calendar

Note: Race Calendar and Race Results pages are now live. Check them out!

There is never a derth of events to coordinate each year. My Tri goals for this year are quite simple-

  1. Finish more than 1 race.
  2. Finish a half-iron distance (70.3 or similar)

Here is how it is shaping up at this point-

June 2 - Issaquah Tri (Sprint)

June 23 - Pacific Crest Long Course Tri (Half-iron distance, ~70.3 miles)

July 28 - Federal Escape Olympic

Aug. 18 - Beaver Lake Tri

Sept. 15 - Grand Columbian Olympic (unless I do Cycle Oregon again)

Training: For this year I am going with the same training regimine that I didn't follow last year, although I meant to do so, the 20 week, run-focused, Olympic plan from beginnertriathlete.com. Once I complete that program in late May I intend to extend my cycling/running mileage but maintain my swimming. This will be a first for me, if I can pull it off. Schedules and illnesses always seem to throw me off course. We'll see how this pans out.

Rubber side down folks!

 

Spring Swim Anyone?

Pine Lake Swimming/Fishing docksIt's that time of year when those of us that are in training all-year yearn to leave the pool and venture out into the open water. In the Seattle area the time frame available for outdoor swimming is limited due to... any guesses? (Should be obvious) And while that rain is melting the glaciers and snow pack the lakes remain cold well into June. How cold? Are the lakes in any condition for swimming? I took my kids on a field expedition to a couple of local lakes to find out.

“Is the lake sick Dad? Why do we need to take it’s temperature?”

“Because I’m not jumping into water that’s under 55 degrees.”

 “Why would you want to jump into cold water?”

“That’s a very good question, son.”

The last time I experienced a cold water swim was the 2010 Issaquah Tri where the water temp was about 57F (see race report for full details). It was a weird experience where I could not get my arms working and ended up doing the breast stroke for 400m. U-G-L-Y.

King County is nice enough to provide detailed lake conditions on their website which includes water temperature as well as bacteria and algae levels. In other words: data heaven. (Nerds rejoice!) 

I used an Acu-Rite Wireless Digital Cooking and Barbeque Thermometer purchased from Woot.com a few years back. OK, so it's not exactly a scientific instrument. The last time I used it was to check the temperature on a pot roast. It may not be scientific but it does give a relatively accurate reading.

Thermometer Reading at Pine LakeAfter letting the sensor sink down as far as possible we waited. It refused to exactly straighten out thanks to the metal cable on the sensor which is typically wrapped tightly around the base. The temperature settled at 56F at a depth of about 2 feet.

To verify we took another reading close to the shore which would be slightly warmer due to the minimal depth. The ducks were very interested in our little sensor sitting in the water which delighted my kids. After heroicly fighting them off (with a camera flash as I took their pictures) we were able to read a temp of 57F, just as expected.

The short answer: the lake is almost ready for swimming! At least this lake is almost ready. Lake Sammamish, where I did most of my summer training last year, is another story completely. That lake is almost entirely glacier-fed and much colder. Snow melt holds the temp anywhere from 5-15 degrees colder than Pine Lake which is entirely rain-fed. According to the King County buoy site the temp today is 49F. I would say that makes it 8 degrees colder but that wouldn't be entirely accurate. In order to get a firm comparison I took the thermometer to Lake Sammamish and to do a similar test.

 

Thermometer reading at Idylwood ParkThe location of choice is Idylwood Park where the City of Redmond has setup a 100 yard buoy line during the summer months where their lifeguards can supervise. The City of Bellevue has a similar setup at Meydenbauer Beach Park. Idylwood is a favorite training area for local triathletes with its close proximity to Microsoft and other local tech companies in Redmond and Bellevue. It also has a dock that goes out into the water. This allows me to take a reading away from the shore similarly to what I did at Pine Lake.

The results: 52F. Brrrr!

I think I'll be waiting a bit before I don the wetsuit and swim a few lap s at Idylwood. Pine Lake and the other rain-fed lakes are just about ready for some limited open water swimming.

Conclusion: Almost, but not quite. With a few more warm days the temps should be tolerable with a full sleeve wet suit. If we get a warm day this week maybe I'll take a long lunch and try out Pine Lake.

 

Cross Training - Winter Edition

Cold Creek Trail, Snoqualmie Pass, WAThis past weekend I took "cross training" to the next level:  cross-country skiing!  The kids were at a birthday party all morning so I had some time to myself. With all the cold temps and rain/snow falling in the area a trip to the mountains seemed a better alternative to biking/riding.

I used to enjoy nordic skiing several years ago. As I drove up to the pass I kept having to go back further and further in my memory to find the last time I actually strapped on a pair of skis and hit the trails. Turns out it was 1996, a little further back than I anticipated, and it showed (more on that in a minute).

The drive up was uneventful except that the sun I was expecting turned out to be overcast skies. That turned to light snow flurries near the pass and moderate snowfall within a few hours.

The Nordic Center at Snoqualmie Pass is a great place to try out cross-country skiing. Within 10 minutes of arriving I was strapping on my rented skis and off on the beginner/training loops next the lodge. What a great place to "get my legs under me" and remember my technique. It took me close to an hour to be comfortable enough to venture out on the trails. As it turns out I should have spent that hour on the trail. The Cold Creek Trail (AKA USFS Road 9070), which starts just west of the Summit East lodge, is very much a "green" beginners trail or, as I'm sure the more experience skiers call it, a warm up trail. I could have easily gone straight to the trail and started there instead of the green loops.

Once I did make my way up there on the Cold Creek trail Self-portrait on the Cold Creek TrailI was greeted by wonderful views of Snoqualmie Pass and Keechelus Lake. The snow conditions were perfect for skate-style skiing and the temps were tolerable (20-25F). I was in seventh-heaven. The groomed trail made it so easy to move along even with my sloppy strides. The other people on the trail greeted me at every turn with smiles and a cheerful hello, expecially the long line of young kids out for a XC class.

...except for the fact that my lack of off-season training really started to show after the first 90 minutes. Looking at my GPS profile for the day the data doesn't lie: within just a few minutes on the flat course my heart rate was up above 170 BPM and stayed between 150-165 for most of the day. After only 2 miles on the trail it was obvious that I needed to turn around. The entire loop around Mt. Catherine is 15.5K/9.6 miles. I did need to be home by early afternoon so I turned around for an early return. Wow, am I glad I did. The last mile back to the lodge turned out to be the hardest/slowest time of the day. After only about 3 hours of actual skiing I was DONE. I was at the point where no amount of resting would allow me to continue for the day.

Recovery: Amazingly I was only moderately sore during day 1 and 2 of recovery. Here I am on day 3 and I'm ready to go back.

This was an incredible experience for me, reminding me of days long past when I would camp at Lake of the Woods in southern Oregon with my Boy Scout troop. The memories came flooding back time and time again: how we used to have races down the snow-covered trails, sword fights with our ski poles, and my all-time favorite, tree tackling! Tree tackling, you say? That's where you run up to a snow-laden tree, hopefully no more than 24" in diameter, and try to tackle it so that the snow falls off the tree all around you. Trust me, it's a hoot!

Anyway, now I'm trying to figure out a way to get back up to the mountain again this Friday/Saturday for a repeat performance. If I can only fit it in to my frenetic schedule... }B^)