Magnum PI Ironman - A Race Report

The other day I was watching Magnum P.I. on Netflix, something I used to do with my family when the show was in its original run in the early '80s. Yes, my Netflix queue is full of shows like MacGuyver, Knight Rider, Highlander, etc. What caught my eye is that in episode 18 of season one, the season finale, Magnum competes in the Ironman! 

OK, it's not exactly the Ironman Championship in Kona but it is close enough. 

SPOILER WARNING: KEY PLOT POINTS DIVULGED. If you haven't yet seen this episode (season 1, episode 18), I highly recommend trotting over to your streaming provider of choice and check it out. The entire series of Magnum P.I. is available on Netflix as of Nov. 1, 2014. 

Episode Details

Plot summary

Magnum is hired by Babs to find her missing fiance Roger. She cannot afford to pay for his services for more than one day. Her fiance is... blah blah blah... he needs to find a guy who is also being chased by some other shady characters and the best way to find/save him and the girl is to participate in a triathlon. Cool!

Race Summary

First off, the events are in the wrong order (swim/run/bike) but we'll overlook that and call it creative license. If they did put them in the right order, and called it the Ironman, the producers would have probably had a disagreement with the M-Dot guys (were they even enforcing the brand in 1981?). It fits better in the plot that way because a bicycle race is much more exciting than a foot race: they can do a quick montage of the swim and run while focusing more on the bike. 

Training

He runs and swims often, as shown in just about every episode of the TV show, including the opening credits. He frequently does sea-kayaking (surf-kayaking), snorkeling, and is seen playing basketball, softball, and, my favorite, running from the resident guard dogs at the Robin Masters Estate. Overall he is in good shape. 

Pre-race

They don't show packet pickup but they do show a Hawaiian band and hula dancers greeting the athletes. This scene also shows a banner with the name of the race, "The Iron Man Classic".

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

The racers do have their numbers written on their shoulders. Magnums's number is 62.

Rick and TC give him a thorough pre-race rubdown while Babs, acting as his "trainer" shoves a salt tablet in his mouth.

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

They line up for a mass start and are off!

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Swim

The first thing I noticed was that the swim was done VERY close to shore, within 75 feet (20-25 meters). The race distance was 5 miles?!?! (not 2.4) He swims without a wetsuit or swim cap, as do almost all the racers, which makes me wonder how much drag is created by his hairy chest and long hair. He does wear goggles with clear lenses.

His stroke isn't too bad and he breathes on every left stroke. His form is wonderful compared to some competitors who swim with their heads completely above the water.

From the start line, Rick, TC, Higgins, and Babs drive along the course in the Island Hopper van to meet Magnum at T1. Here the race team experiences a problem known to many triathlete spectators...

TC: "Which one is he?"

Rick: "He's right there! Can't you see?"

They then show a wide shot of the swimmers coming in to shore and it is not clear where Magnum actually is. The swim is typically the least exciting part of spectating at any triathlon. At least the band and hula dancers are there as well.

T1

The first transition area is a picnic table in the sand, with all his gear brought in by his transition team of Babs, HIggins, Rick and TC. The general public are in and around T1 area, which is not closed or marked in any way. Babs is in charge of his "4 ounces of glucose", TC is in charge of towel, tank top, and shorts, while Rick is handling socks, shoes, and foot powder (!). Rick and TC hold up a towel while Magnum changes his shorts. Higgins attempts to encourage Magnum by giving a rousing speech describing the Greek battle at Marathon as Rick and TC help Magnum on with his socks (with foot powder!) and shoes. 

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

As he sets out on the run Babs shouts, "Knees to chest!" A comment no doubt to remind him of his run technique.

Run

The run goes along beautiful roads and paths with views of the surf. The entire run in a short montage and moves directly into the bike. During the montage Magnum does a voice over to advance the plot. It is here where we get the title of the episode, where Magnum talks about how he had to try hard because "Beauty knows no pain."

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

T2

Not shown as the montage flows seamlessly from run to bike. Apparently T2 happens but we don't see it. I can only imagine it was like T1.

Bike

Earlier in the show Higgins announces that Magnum will be sponsored by Robin Masters, who will buy him an "Italian Racing Bike", which the internets say is a Bianchi with the decals removed. Magnum's helmet is a typical 80's minimal style (foam core with plastic). Most of the bike course is not closed, moving through "Austin Memorial Gardens" near Waimea Falls Park O'ahu. Inside the garden they have to dismount to walk over a bridge then ride across some packed dirt, not an ideal road bike course but perfect for Cyclocross.

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

At one point during the bike leg TC counts the riders in front of Magnum and determines he is in 14th place. At that exact point Magnum has figured out a major plot point, thanks to something Higgins says, he decides to turn around on the bike course to go back into the garden to save Roger. As such he never finishes the race. As he gets off the bike he is quite tired and can barely walk, as would be expected after such a ride.

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Copyright 1981, Universal Television, Glen A. Larson Productions

Post Race

After a scuffle involving Roger, Magnum, Babs, and a guy with a gun, Higgins points out that "you know you have no chance of winning." Magnum, now holding the gun, looks at Higgins, then at the pistol in his hand, and back at Higgins as we fade to black.

Magnum is then seen resting in the main house of the Robin Masters Estate with his feet on ice as they watch the news highlights of the "Iron Man Classic". They see footage of Magnum riding backwards on the course, much to TC's chagrin, until the news reporter compliments the rider on his resolve and repeated mentions Island Hoppers, TC's tour company, and shows the logo on Magnum's jersey.

Where might he have placed?

Swim: As far as swimming goes his stroke is slow, short, but not terribly inefficient. Hmmm, sounds like me? His pace would easily put him in the rear 2/3 of the pack. The footage gives no visual perspective of where he might be.

Run: Magnum claims he can "run 8 miles a day in under an hour". That puts him at a 7:30 mile pace, which is moderate but not in contention to win the race. If he could hold that pace for a marathon (doubtful) he would have a 3:16 split, which would have been faster than the real 1981 winner John Howard by about 6 minutes, and only 9 minutes slower than the Men's run best in 2013, Joe Kashbohm at 2:59:48. What is more likely is that he was doing 8:30-9 pace, which would make his run split 3:45-3:55, squarely in the middle of the pack.

Bike: As stated previously, he was 14th up until the point that he turned around. We aren't shown at what point he did turn around so we cannot gauge how much he had left at this point. Based on his swim and run pace as well as his 14th place observation he was no doubt moving up the field. If this is the case he may have finished in the top 10 or just outside it.

Conclusion/Lessons learned:

  1. An Ironman can be a great place to get away from it all and solve an attempted murder case.
  2. Even guys with shaggy hair and a big 80s mustache can get a top-20 finish at Ironman.
  3. Sometimes the most boring person in your life (i.e. Higgins) can give you the inspiration you need when you least expect it. 
  4. In the end, saving the life of a petty thief is more important than finishing an Ironman. Wait... what?

}B^)

Race Report: Federal Escape Olympic Triathlon 2012

Date: 28 July 2012

 

Location: Five Mile Lake Park, Federal Way, WA

Photo GalleryFlickr.com set

  First off, let me say that I really enjoy the Federal Escape. This was my second Sprint distance race back in '08 and my first Olympic distance in '10 so I was very glad to see this race fit into my race/vacation schedule. This race was to serve as my "ramp up" to the half-iron distance in September, the Grand Columbian Super Tri.

Race Morning

Race time was set for 6:30 am with a pre-race meeting at 6:20 am. That means I had pick up my packet, set up my transition area, do a warm up swim, and be ready to race by 6:20. Did I mention Five Mile Lake Park is 45 minutes from my house? That put my departure time at 4:30. Ugg. So I was up at 4am (not my favorite hour of the day). One of my wife's favorite sayings came to mind: "Just because the time exists doesn't mean I have to witness it." I woke up my son (Boy #1, who asked to do the kids tri), cooked up some sausage, eggs, and toast, and off we went.

A note about breakfast: I usuall only eat oatmeal and yogurt with applesauce for breakfast but with a 45-minute drive ahead of us I needed some extra food to tide me over until the start, hence the bigger than normal breakfast.

We arrived with at the park plenty of time, even getting one of the prime parking sports in the park. The weather was perfect for tri racing: overcast and cool. For some reason this swim course always seems bigger than it actually is. When you look at my swim times I pretty much nailed my 1500m time.

 

 

Pre-race

The water was pretty warm, somewhere in the neighborhood of 70F. It was so comfortable that I almost took off my wet suit for the race. Boy #1, always the scientist, asked me why I would still wear my wet suit if the water temp was warm. I then demonstrated the buoyancy enhancements provided by my suit: I am at almost zero-buoyancy when wearing my suit.

So, after setting up my transition area, it was off to the lake!

 

Lee headed toward the water for a warm-up swim before the Federal Escape Olympic Tri.

The reddish-brown water color of Five Mile Lake always amazes me. You can barely see 4 feet. When you come up on a swimmer in front of you it is really hard to see them, especially if they are wearing a black wet suit. Imagine seeing a pair of disembodied feet flailing about in front of you: it can be quite disturbing.

As I walked into the swim area I saw what appeared to be something floating just under the surface of the water. It looked like a small, delicate piece of lace. As I touched it it became obvious what I really was: a piece of galvanized steel pole securely anchored in the lake bed. It had been cut off just below the water line. A guy next to me got the attention of the race director and he put a big buoy on top of it. Apparently the King County Parks folks were supposed to remove it before the race but it didn't happen. To give you an idea of the strength of this pole, this is the same kind of steel pole used in chain link fences.

 

I found a steel pole as I was wading into the water.


The Goal

For this race I set quite a lofty goal for myself: to finish the swim in 45 minutes and the entire race in under 3 hours. It worked out like this:

Swim: 45:00, T1: 2:30, Bike: 1:10:00, T2: 1:00, Run: 54:00, Total: 2:52:30

 

The Swim

The swim start was a water start (up to our waists) with 2 waves, self-selected. I opted for the second wave. The swim was 2-laps around Five Mile Lake, which encompassed almost the entire lake.

One of my favorite pictures from the race, courtesy of Boy #1-

Start of the Olympic Distance Race.

About 8 strokes into the swim something was off. "Why are my eyes so wet? Oh, it helps to put down my goggles." Yes, I started off the swim with my goggles UP on my forehead. Oops. Luckily I was in the back of the pack and was able to easily tread water and put them on the right way.

You know it's going to be a rough day when you get leg cramps in the first 200m of a 1500m swim. That was 1/4 of the way into the first lap. I use a freestyle method where you do a minimal flutter-kick to save your legs for the bike/run so getting leg cramps this early in the race was disconcerting.

The leader of the swim was going at a pretty fast pace, especially compared to me. He and several others passed me about 100m before the end of lap #1.

 

At the end of the first lap (750m) we had to get out of the water, go around a sign, and back in for another lap. At this point the cramps were gone and I was "in the groove."

 

About 200m into the second lap, the same place I had cramps earlier, I started getting some serious heartburn and nauseousness. I was able to control it but that really slowed me down for a few minutes. A few more people from my wave passed me. At this point I was swimming essentially alone.

In the last 200m I was able to increase my pace significantly but as I exited the water I still felt a bit nauseous with some lingering leg cramps.

Swim result: 1:00:03, OA: 90/90, AG: 14/14 (M30-39)

 

T1 

It was easy/boring, just the way I like it. Boy #1 was there to take a few pictures and cheer me on.

T1 Result: 3:44, OA: 76/90, AG: 14/14 (M30-39) 

 

The Bike

My nutrition plan for the bike leg was simple: drink 24oz of Accelerade, my race drink of choice, before the end of the bike. This was easily accomplished throughout the bike leg.

The bike course is 4 laps around a 6-mile loop of rolling hills that go around Five Mile Lake. The rollers are interesting: you climb up one hill (max grade on one hill was 8%, according to my Garmin) and then zip down the other side. I was able to stay in my aero position for most of the bike course.

The first lap was very strong/fast. I even played tag with a couple of people. These opportunities waned as the race went on. Due to my slow swim the 3rd and 4th laps were a bit lonely. 

On the 3rd lap I was feeling a little slower and by the 4th lap I felt like I was out of gas. I seriously considered calling it after 3 laps but I sucked it up and finished.

  

Bike Result: 1:23:15, OA: 68/90, AG: 12/14 (M30-39)

 

T2 

I felt a little slow in T2 but kept moving.

T2 Result: 1:25, OA: 68/90, AG: 12/14 (M30-39)

The Run

The run course was 2 x 5K loops around the outside of the lake with rolling hills just like the bike course.

As I exited the park I realized I forgot my gels. There went my nutrition plan (what little I had) for the run.

"Run" is such a strong word: what I did was more like a speed-shuffle. This run ended up being one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life.

I did a lot of walking in each mile. My typical pace of 9:30 miles was very optimistic and my goal of 9:00 miles was a pipe dream.

At random points throughout the run I had leg cramps, back spasms, stomach cramps, headaches, a stiff neck, nausea, bicep spasms... I was a wreck!

*Who has bicep spasms during a run?*

One my wife's favorite lines from 101 Dalmatians kept going through my head- "And my nose is cold, and my feet are cold, and my tail is cold..." Yeah, I was complaining a lot to myself.

The first (and only) aid station on the run was at mile 1.5. I picked up some electrolytes and a  Hammer Gels. Talk about a life saver...

Almost called it again after the first lap of the run. Somehow I kept moving and did the second lap.

I eagerly found the aid station again and gulped down 2 cups of electrolytes and another gel.

I finally was able to raise Boy #1 on the radio with 1/2 mile to go and he was there to get my picture as I finished.

 

Run Result: 1:11:44, OA: 86/90, AG: 13/14 (M30-39)

Total Time: 3:40:09, OA: 88/90, AG: 14/14 (M30-39)

 

Post Race

I am not sure I have EVER been this tired after a race. I was absolutely wiped out. My post-race recovery involved a lot of sitting while we waited for the the kids tri to start. I wasn't that sore so much as physically and mentally drained.

Lessons learned:

  1. Yet another Rerun: TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN. I need to pick up my training to 4-5x per week for at least 1 hour at a shot. I am well below that right now.
  2. Warm up swim was very beneficial but remember to put on your goggles at the start.
  3. Speaking of goggles, wear the non-tinted goggles next time.
  4. T1 continues to be too slow. Longest time suckers: putting on bike jersey and bike shoes/socks. Might be able to shorten it by buying a tri suit or shirt and finally using those tri shoes I have in the garage.
  5. Need to find a pair of shoes I can run in without socks.

Kids Triathlon


Earlier this year I made a deal with Boy #1: if he did a race with a real swim (i.e. in deep water) i would help him train for a real triathlon next year such as the Issaquah Sprint Triathlon. That would be a big step up to 400m from the splash-n-dash type races he has been doing. His first one was around 70m in Ocean Shores 2 weeks before but this one was supposed to be 100m.

The kids swim turned out to be more like 75m but only half of it was in deep water. So what did Boy #1 do? He waded out until the water was up to him shoulders and then swam the rest of the way and then did the opposite on the way back.

 

 

The rest of this is easy for him: a 1 bike and 1/4 mile run, which he did without really breaking a sweat.

 

The Run

The post-race food was his absolute favorite...

 

 

Recovery

With a low heart rate and very slow times my muscles really didn't put in the workout I anticipated. Without the workout muscle recovery was very fast: I never really developed muscle soreness. The real problem was the mental and physical fatigue which lasted throughout the day on Saturday. I even went to bed early.

The day after the race was a Sunday. I was so wiped out that day that i almost didn't go to church. With the extreme fatigue and moderate nausea I'm not sure I got much out of church at all.

Now here's the weird part: by Monday morning I was fine but my wife had similar symptoms.

My family doctor said that my difficulties were probably a food-borne bacteria but we were unable to pin-point something that would have been eaten only by me and the wife but not the kids.

 

What's next?

This race made me seriously reconsider my plans for the rest of the season. My only other race this year is a biggie: the Grand Columbian half-iron distance tri. Will I be ready? Not a chance. I need a good 3 months of solid training with 12-15 hours per week in order to be ready for such a distance. i think I can be ready for another Olympic distance event but that would also require me to step up my training a bit. I'll post again in a couple of weeks with my decision.

}B^)

Race Report: Ocean Shores Sprint Triathlon 2012

Date: 14 July 2012

Location: North Bay Park, Ocean Shores, WA

Photo GalleryFlickr.com set

My goal was to do 4 races this year but finding a way to fit in that many races into a 3-month timeframe was looking to be nearly impossible.

Then one day my sister-in-law calls up to talk about their planned trip from the Mid-West out to see us in Washington. In going down the list of things to do in our area (which in and of itself turned into a fun brainstorming activity for my boys) her teenage son Sam asked if it were possible to do a triathlon with me during their visit. I was intrigued and went to searching and found the Ocean Shores Tri & Foot Fest which fit neatly into their planned visit.

My nephew Sam (my wife's, actually...) is a tall, slender, natural born athlete, as opposed to me, a tall, not-so-slender, works-really-hard-just-to-finish athlete. I knew right away he would take this sport just like he has just about every other sport he has tried out.

So we did some email-based planning, borrowed a bike from a friend of mine (THANKS Lauren!), and packed up the family for a trip to the beach.

For those of you that have never been to the Washington coast it isn't typically "shorts and sandals" weather. Indeed the most common apparel worn at the beach in Washington is long pants and a parka. Perhaps even a rain slicker but don't bother with an umbrella because the wind will destroy it in a matter of minutes.

...but do bring your kites!

Pre-race

There would be 3 of us racing, Sam, myself, and my oldest son (Boy #1).

We arrived at Ocean Shores the night before and immediately drove to the park to check out the race venue. As expected the park was a very small park at the north end of a inland lake (i.e. we wouldn't be swimming in the ocean or Gray's Harbor). The water temperature was cool but tolerable (low 60's?). With nothing really set up for the race we spent some time on the playground and watched a few people doing practice swims in the lake.

After playing on the local state beach we checked into our hotel and picked up some dinner from Alec's By the Sea, a fabulous little seafood joint not a mile from our hotel. It was at this point that I realized we had almost missed packet pick-up! So off we went to pick up our race packets.

The Goal

This race has a slightly longer swim than my previous sprints (800m as opposed to 400m) so this one would be a bit different. My training this year has not been what I had hoped: consistency remains my biggest weakness. With this in mind I set a somewhat conservative goal for this race-

Swim: 20:00, T1: 2:00, Bike: 35:00, T2: 2:00, Run: 27:00, Total: 1:26:00

Race Morning

The morning of the race Sam and I set out early from the hotel on our bikes and rode the short distance to the race venue (about 1.5 miles). We arrived with plenty of time to setup our transition areas and get ready for the race but just as we were about to go "review the course maps one more time" the first wave for the sprint tri went off. Whoops, time to race!

Sam's transition area for the Ocean Shores Sprint Tri.

The Swim

Sam and I were fortunate that there was a second wave. }B^)

We waded out into the water and got set for the start. We didn't have to wait very long. When they sounded the starting horn I turned to Sam and said, "Good luck!" It turns out that I didn't see him again until after I finished.

The water was colder than I expected. When we arrived at the park the air temp was pretty warm and I almost didn't wear wet suit. Boy, was I glad that I did. After a few minutes I was into my swim rhythm and off to the races! As I did so, I passed a few people, a rare occurrence!

Here's something else you don't see during a triathlon: a woman doing the back stroke. Not just for a few yards but for the ENTIRE race. With the sky completely cloudy/overcast there were no overhead methods for sighting. Every few minutes she would turn her head sideways to sight off the shoreline of the narrow lake. In the last 50m she turned over and did the crawl stroke. How do I know all this? Because she paced me almost the entire race.

I came out of the water feeling really strong with only a little dizziness.

My Swim result: 23:04, OA: 61/93, AG: 11/12 (30-39)

Sam's Swim Result: 14:43, OA: 7/93, AG: 2/4 (<18)

T1 

T1 was uneventful and relatively easy. I looked around but there was no Sam. He was long gone. I told him not to wait for me in T1. Good thing too, because he would have been waiting around for 8+ minutes.

My T1 Result: 3:48, OA: 66/93, AG: 11/12 (30-39)

Sam's T1 Result: 3:26, OA: 56/93, AG: 3/4 (<18)

Transition Area Exit to the bike course.

The Bike

This was the FLATTEST bike/run course EVER, as evident by the GPS elevation profile-

Total elevation gain: fifty (50) feet. That's not an exaggeration or estimation, that is what my GPS recorded. The only "hills," if you can call them that, were a couple of little bridges over the canals. Once I found the right gear I didn't shift for the first half of the race.

Course difficulties for me started around mile 1 where I almost missed a turn. The sign was on the inside of the turn and I missed it completely. If the woman just in front of me had not turned I would have taken a bit of a detour. I passed her shortly thereafter and kept up enough of a pace to pass a lot of other riders along the way.

The ride was nice but very disoriented with no real landmarks to key off. The weather was overcast, so there no sun or clouds overhead. Even the shore was not visible so I really had no idea where I was on the peninsula.

As I headed south and then west there was a slight headwind which shifted to a tailwind on the way back. This helped me keep the last 5 miles right around 20 MPH (3 minute miles).

As the course entered a new-looking subdivision I saw a sign announcing "100' to turnaround" with a guy who said something to me that I couldn't hear. A little further was another sign,"50' to turnaround," and then nothing. With no other riders in front of me as far as I could see I had a decision to make. Where was the turn around? Do I turn around now or ride to the next turn and hope for another sign? There was no turn around sign, no chalk-paint in the middle of the road, no sign marking the exact turnaround point. I decided to turn around about 100 yards past the 50' sign.

I looked for Sam during the entire bike ride, expected to see him as he came back on the out-and-back course, but I never did. Perhaps he was fast enough that I missed him along the way? He did beat me by quite a bit on the swim.

Total distance advertised as 12.4 miles, GPS clocked 12.92.

Felt great coming off the bike and my speed/splits combined with HR show it: negative splits in the last five miles and a downward trending HR through the entire ride.

My Bike Result: 42:32, OA: 29/93, AG: 8/12 (30-39)

 

T2 

As I entered T2 I immediately looked for Sam's bike but it wasn't in his spot. I guess I didn't miss him on the bike. I changed my shoes and went out on the run.

My T2 Result: 1:58, OA: 70/93, AG: 12/12 (30-39)

The Run

I felt strong as I left T2 on the run (running is never easy for me) but it was obvious that I was doing well.

And the stats hold up that assumption: I negative split each mile. I even passed several people on the run, something I rarely do.

The run turn around was WELL marked with a volunteer right there. Why wasn't the bike course similarly marked/manned?

I came back to the finish feeling great! I tried something new this year and purchased a "finish line video" from the race organizers. Was it worth $10? I guess so, since my family missed seeing me at the finish line by only a few seconds. }B^)

 

My Run Result: 29:25, OA: 43/93, AG: 11/12 (30-39)

My Total Time: 1:40:45, OA: 41/93, AG: 11/12 (30-39)

Finish line!

Post Race

After crossing the finish line I immediately went to the transition area to look for Sam: still no bike. that meant he was still somewhere out on the bike course? I grabbed some food and waited. After about 15 minutes he finally came into T2, big smile and all-

Sam finally arrives in T2 after a LONG bike ride.

It turns out that Sam and 4 others missed the bike turnaround completely and went all the way to the well-marked Olympic Distance turn around point, doubling their bike distance unnecessarily. Whoops. That took Sam out of the running for his AG podium. He would have no doubt picked up at least a 3rd place spot, perhaps even 2nd.

He went out on the run in high spirits and came back barely breathing hard (at least by my standards; I'm usually gasping for breath at the finish line).

Sam getting de-chipped at the finish area.

Sam's Bike Result: 1:34:43, OA: 90/93, AG: 4/4 (<18)

Sam's T2 Result: 2:12, OA: 79/93, AG: 4/4 (<18)

Sam's Run Result: 26:33, OA: 25/93, AG: 3/4 (<18)

Sam's Total Time: 2:21:35, OA: 81/93, AG: 4/4 (<18)

Lessons learned:

  1. Rerun: TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN. At least in a more consistent manner. Will I ever learn?
  2. No warm-up swim, should have arrived earlier to allow for this. I avoided a disaster by wearing my wet suit.
  3. Arrive earlier to allow for a course review. May have helped Sam avoid his bike mess.
  4. T1 continues to be too slow.

Kids Triathlon

Boy #1 decided to try the Kids Tri but this one was not your average splash-and-dash: the swim was at least 50 yards through deep water.

Boy #1 listening to the pre-race instructions and getting set to get wet.

As they got into the water for the start it was obvious that the kids didn't like the cold water. Boy #1 kept saying "It's cold!" but eventually he started swimming. 

The kids were supposed to swim across the channel, touch the kayak, and return to shore. More than half the kids turned back at some point without touching the kayak. Boy #1 was slow but he eventually made it, swimming on his back for part of it.

He eventually got a pretty good stroke going and made it back to shore.

According to Boy #1 the bike and run courses were "quite short and easy." He finished strong and in good spirits.



Me, Boy #1, and Sam after our races.

Interesting things seen at Ocean Shores

I have never seen an Ellipticycle until this race (ElliptiGo?). Apparently the race officials let him ride it.

The best place to buy touristy type stuff: SHARKY'S! (That's our hotel in the background)

Recovery

There's nothing better for race recovery than sitting in a car for several hours. *cough* *cough*

We stopped off overnight in Tacoma to visit the Grandparents and took a nice trip around the Chambers Bay Golf Course. The ride up the hills really helped burn off the lactic acid and kept me from getting overly sore.

Overall recovery was quick and easy due to the relatively easy nature of this race: it was fast and flat which means I could have pushed harder. If I do a race like this again I'll know that I can push harder than I do on other courses.

What's next?

For me: The Federal Escape Olympic is coming up in 2 weeks followed by the Grand Columbian Half-Iron Tri in mid-September. 

For Boy #1: He wants to do yet another kids tri at the Federal Escape. This will help judge if he is ready to start training for a real race next year.

For Sam: Not sure yet. I asked him to write up a race report and I'll post it when I can. I think he did exceptionally well and would excel at other races in his home state of Minnesota.

}B^)

RACE REPORT: ISSAQUAH TRIATHLON 2012

Boy #1 at the finish of the Issaquah Triathlon, his 3rd kids tri.Date: 2 June 2012

Location: Lake Sammamish State Park, Issaquah, WA

Photo GalleryFlickr.com set

The Issaquah Triathlon remains one of my favorite races and, no, it's not because it was my first (which it was). It gives me a great barometer of my training during the off-season (or lack thereof) and is a very well run and fun race. It's even more fun when the water is warm but that hasn't happened in years.

Beginning with the 2009 race my oldest son (i.e. Boy #1) decided to do the kids triathlon. He did it again in 2010 but we both had to miss the race last year due to family scheduling conflicts. This year we were both "all-in" as it were, not missing it for anything!

Packet pickup was at a hotel virtually across the street from the race venue, Lake Sammamish State Park. When we arrived, all 3 boys in tow, Boy #3 informed me that he wanted to race. I said, "That's nice. Let's talk about it later," as I grabbed my packet and got my race number. At every step along the way Boy #3 reminded me again that he wanted to race. As I finished getting my number marked on my leg/arm he once again asked me if he could get a number. Did I mentioned he was excited about this race? We had a little talk about trying hard things and doing our best and he was very excited. As I filled out the form he kept asking me to hurry up, thinking they might run out of shirts or something. In the end he got his race packet, race number markings, and exited with a HUGE grin on his face.

Boy #3 at packet pickup, getting his first tri number!

Pre-race

The night before the race I was surprisingly calm and slept very well even though my wife was quite sick and unable to do much of anything that weekend. Once again Grandma and Grandpa came to the rescue to transport the boys to the kids Tri so they didn't have to sit unsupervised in the park while I did my race. That would not have ended well.

At the start I found someone else with the Super Grover jersey! The woman on my transition rack said she found it several years ago on eBay and had to have it. I agree, that is one of my favorite jerseys and I wear it to all my races, even though it is a pain to put on in T1.

The Goal

On every race I set a goal time and this one was no different. Several years ago I set a lofty goal to finish this race in under 75 minutes and for some reason I thought this was doable this time around.

2010 goal

Swim: 8:00, T1: 2:30, Bike: 40:00, T2: 1:30, Run: 23:00, Total: 1:15:00

The Swim

For the two weeks leading up to the race Boy #1 was kind enough to give me daily updates on the water temperature at Lake Sammamish, even though I knew it was going to suck.

Water temp on race morning: 62F, 6 degrees warmer than the 2010 race but still quite cold. A quick warm-up swim before the race really helped to acclimate my body to the shockingly cold water. I can't imagine having to start without a warmup.

After the obligatory "mandatory race meeting" I only had to wait for about 15 minutes for my wave to be called. At around 7:15 am they called us into the starting pen but there were too many of us and they split us into 2 packs. I was 2 people short of being in the back of pack #1, where I wanted to be, so there I was standing at the FRONT of the second group. My traditional strategy of "wait for everyone else to go first" kind of went out the window. I'm not exactly sure why but as the horn sounded I positioned myself in the middle of the pack where I stayed for the entire swim. A group of 5 of us stayed together until the last 50m where they pulled away from me. The water temp didn't affect me as bad as I thought it would. What did throw me off was the sand bar near the end. Here I was in deep water swimming away when all of a sudden, in one of my arm down strokes, I come up with a handful of sand. I pushed away from it and was able to swim to the finish. In the end I was able to stay in my crawl stroke for nearly the entire race except for a short time after the second buoy where I did the breaststroke for a few yards to catch my breath.

Did I mentioned the sharp rocks? The swim this year, as well as last year, were at the smaller beach on the south end of the lake. Despite having a sandy beach the lake bottom is strewn about with very sharp little rocks that REALLY HURT. This slowed me down considerably coming out of the water.

Swim result: 12:46, OA: 439/527, AG: 50/61 (35-39)

T1 

I am glad I hit my "lap" button on my Garmin as I exited the water because I was curious just how long it was from the swim back to transition. Wow. A quarter mile from the lake shore to the exit to T1? They recorded the time as you entered transition so my swim time includes a that 1/4 mile jog, which added about 90 seconds to my swim time. I need to find a quicker way to complete T1. I should have been in and out in under 2 minutes, not 4:25.

 T1 Result: 4:25, OA: 453/527, AG: 55/61 (35-39)

The Bike

As I began the ride, after blowing my swim time by almost 4 minutes, it was obvious that I was not going to make my bike goal: I was tired, my legs already hurt, and my attitude was somewhere around "meh?". Overall the ride went well and with little to no issues. After the first decent down the small hill on East Lake Sammamish Parkway my attitude improved dramatically. There is no substitute for a long, sustained push over 30 MPH (max speed of 38.6 MPH). I hit the turn around, climbed the hill again, and did the same push on the other side. As I looked at my watch it was obvious that I wouldn't hit my 40 minute goal but maybe I could do 45? Nope, not this time. By the time I got into T2 it was obvious my legs were cooked. Hey, at least I beat 50 minutes!

One missing thing: there is usually someone who plays leap-frog with my after we settle into the bike. Not this time. I passed a couple of people but it was amazing how many VERY fast riders passed me.

Bike Result: 49:48, OA: 356/527, AG: 47/61 (35-39)

T2 T2 Result: 2:11, OA: 433/527, AG: 55/61 (35-39)

The Run

...and then the pain set in. Not cramps, per se, just pretty intense muscle soreness. I didn't push it that hard on the bike, did I? Apparently I did and I had to walk several times just to maintain forward momentum.  By the time I hit the finish line I was DONE. Boy, was I done.

Sprint factor: Was I able to sprint at the end? Not a chance, even though my watch recorded me on a 7:29 pace for the last 20 seconds of the race.

Run Result: 31:24, OA: 461/527, AG: 59/61 (35-39)

Total time: 1:40:32, OA: 428/527, AG: 53/61 (35-39)

Post Race

This race illustrated very well my lack of consistent off-season training. I did a lot of rides and runs, just not strung together into a pattern that would lead to increased fitness or at the intensity I wanted/needed. In the end I can't ask for much more: I finished without incident, and overall I'm happy that my finish time represents the effort I did (or didn't) put into training. Now it does concern me that a little over 3 months away I want to be finishing my first half-iron distance tri, which will require extensive training in July and August, typically my worst months for training.

Lessons learned:

  1. TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN. At least in a more consistent manner. Will I ever learn?
  2. A warm-up swim DOES help! Boy, am I glad I did!
  3. Need to improve T1 time considerably.

Kids Triathlon

My kids arrived just as I was walking over to the transition area after my race. We had to hustle to get them to their race on time, which means I had to skip the brauts for now. We did make it, thanks to the help of the Grandparents!

 Getting ready for the start of the kids tri

See how excited they are? Really, they are excited about the race, just not too thrilled about the cold water temps and sharp rocks. Oh, and that the rain was really starting to come down.

Boy #1 said he was going to try to swim the short little course but in the end he waded through it.

Boy #1 coming out of the water after his "swim".

By the time he got to T1 the rain was POURING. I helped him clean off his feet and put his shoes on and he was off.

It was at this point that I heard the crying. Boy #3 was having a terrible race. He went to run into the water and the rocks stopped him cold. He came out of the water very upset and didn't know what to do next. A very kind woman helped him along the shore to the transition area where I found him. I consoled him, helped him dry off, put his coat on him to help warm back up, and he actually continued on the bike, albeit in a bad mood.

Boy #3 recovering in T1 in the pouring rain.

As Boy #3 left on the bike, Boy #1 was coming in, like a rocket. He quickly ditched his bike, helmet, and gloves, and off he went on the run. We was so fast that he beat Grandma and Grandpa to the finish line so we don't actually have a picture of him finishing. He clearly needs to step up to the next level in triathlons after proving that the kids tri was not a challenge to him at all.

Boy #3 eventually made his way around the bike course and was still pretty upset when he came back into transition.

I decided that Boy #3 needed my help on the run so I ran along with him. He calmed down and was able to do pretty well all the way to the finish line. By the time he finished he was actually somewhat happy.

Boy #3 finishing his first kids tri!

To improve attitudes we made sure that both boys found the chocolate milk and bratwurst in the finish line food. By the time we left happy attitudes did in fact abound.

Post race food! Enjoying some bratwursts after the Issaquah Triathlon.

Recovery

My recovery over the next few days started out pretty good but had a weird side effect: my neck was incredibly sore for the next 3 weeks. So much so that I had to make 2 trips to the Chiropractor and apply ice and stretch every night for a month.

What's next?

For me: I need to seriously step up my training, particularly running and swimming, if I want to do the Federal Escape Olympic in late July and the Grand Columbian half-iron in September.

For Boy #1: There are 2 more opportunities this summer for him to actually swimthe swim leg of the kids tri. The Federal Escape has a longer tri for older kids which includes a 100m swim. I told him that if he completes this race I will help him train to compete in the FULL sprint triathlon next year at the Issaquah Tri. I will even race with him, sacrificing my race time to stay with him to make sure he finishes. At this point he is not quite sure this is what he wants but time will tell. He is making great strides in his swimming lessons so we have high hopes.

For Boy #3: He is also taking swim lessons and wants to do the kids tri again next year. This time with water shoes.

}B^)

Cycle Oregon 2011 Summary

Cycle Oregon Week Route MapI will be posting full reports for each day of Cycle Oregon later (yes, all 7 days). Why 7 reports? Because my father would kill me if I don't, that's why. }B^)

My special Cycle Oregon page is not up!

Summary

Wow, what a ride! While not as scenic as CO2009, where we climbed 4 mountain passes, it's hard to beat the Oregon Coast. Day 1 was short while Day 2 was long and actually pretty difficult. Days 2-5 were very scenic while Day 6 was a leg-burner. Day 7 was a nice wrap-up through areas around Roseburg where I lived during my High School days. In terms of effort I was surprised at the level of effort required on days that I thought would be quite easy.

Daily Ride Details

Here are the official online maps and my Garmin GPS details for each day:

Rural views along Elkhead Road

Day 1: Route map GPS Track Ride Report

 

 

 

 

 

Smith RiverDay 2:

Route map

GPS Track

Ride Report

 

 

Cape Arago State ParkDay 3:

Route map

GPS Track

Ride Report

 

 

Capa Blanco LighthouseDay 4:

Route map

GPS Track

Ride Report

 

 

 

  Wigwam burner, Myrtle Point OR

Day 5:

Route map

GPS Track

Ride Report

 

 

 

Stairway to Heaven!Day 6:

Route map

GPS Track

Ride Report

 

 

Covered Bridge, Riddle, ORDay 7:

Route map

GPS Track

Ride Report

 

 

Pictures/Videos

As of October 1st all pictures from the ride are on my Flickr website.

Ride Highlights

  1. No mechanical issues! No flats, no broken spokes, nothing! Can't ask for anything more in that category.
  2. No health issues or injuries.
  3. Great scenery: wonderful views of rural Oregon, the Oregon coast, and coastal mountain ranges.
  4. Great people: can't say enough about the fun, friendly riders and volunteers on this ride. They continue to be one of the best parts of the trip.
  5. Wonderful weather - only had 1 morning on the coast that was cool with heavy mist (i.e. not quite rain). The rest of the time was warm and sunny, which is unusual for the coast.

Ride Lowlights

  1. Lack of training - Just as in CO2009 I did not train nearly enough: not enough miles and not enough seat-time. Will I ever learn my lesson?
  2. My Camera - once again my Sony DSC-S730 camera has fallen below my performance expectations. I plan to make a purchase before my next major tour/ride/campout to avoid these issues. Several key shots that I wanted did not come out as expected.
  3. Shoe issues - I need new in-soles in my bike shoes. The current ones did not provide enough cushioning on the vast amounts of chip-seal we experienced.

Recovery

I am now Cycle Oregon +15 days and recovery is now complete, even though my bag is still not 100% unpacked. I was hobbling around only for 1 day with most soreness completely gone by day 3. On the Friday after returning I took a ride into Seattle for a work event(aka the annual stress test of the cell towers around Safeco Field) and ended up doing just about 50 miles. Wow, my legs were rebelling. If they could speak they would be saying, "I thought we were done with this?"

Next year?

Will I be doing Cycle Oregon in the future? Absolutely, but perhaps not next year. Taking 8 days away from my family is a hard sell initially and then hard on everyone involved (i.e. my wife).

On the night of Day 6 every year they give a hint about the next year's ride. This is what I wrote down on my phone as Jonathan Nicholas was speaking to the crowd. Accuracy is not 100%, so take that into account-

"Seed of a clue: That hill we climbed yesterday was too short. One day next year we are going to climb higher, longer, without backtracking, than we ever have."

2012 will be the 25th anniversary of the Cycle Oregon week ride. I'm sure they have an EPIC ride planned. I'm just not sure my family is ready for me to do it again.

}B^)

Race Report: Beaver Lake Sprint Tri 2011

Date: Aug. 20, 2011

Location:Beaver Lake Park, Sammamish, WA

Photo Gallery: Flickr.com set

The Beaver Lake Tri is one of my favorite races: it is small and intimate (under 300 participants this year), the location is gorgeous, and it is in my back yard. OK, not literally in my back yard but I only have to drive a couple miles. Last year was almost a colossal failure. I was intent on NOT repeating the same mistakes from last year. This would also be the first race in which I actually used the multi-sport functionality of my Forerunner 310XT. I wanted to use it last year but neglected to actually bring it to the race. It sat comfortably on my desk charging its battery that year. This time I not only remembered to bring it, but I was able to get the splits to match the official splits to within 2 seconds! That may not seem like much to most of you but for a first-time use I was pretty amazed.

Pre-race

The night before I slept really well, which is unusual for me. I am the kind of person who gets major butterflies in the stomach before highly anticipated events, including triathlons. This time was no different. As I laid awake in bed I went over my pre-race checklist, walked through my morning routine, and visualized the entire race from beginning to end.

I had a wheel issue last month that required me to replace both the wheels on my road bike (more on this in a later post). As I approached race day (and even as I write this post 10 days later) my new road wheels had not arrived. A friend at work graciously offered to loan me his Mavic Ksryium rear wheel for the race (I have a spare front wheel). If you look closely in the pic below you can see that it is not my usual wheel. This required quite a bit of tuning to fit properly and to get the derailleur to reach all the gears. In the end it worked flawlessly and allowed me to focus on other race-day issues.

I woke up 5 minutes before my alarm went off at 5:30 am, another unusual happening. It typically takes the sound of a dump truck or blasting rock and roll to get me out of bed in the morning but not today. Even the kids were up early and ready to roll right on time.

Packed up and ready to race!

The transition area was already packed when I got there at 6:30 am. With such a small race it doesn't take long to find your transition area which is nice during the race. It's easy for a slow person like me to have sub-90 second transition times.

Setting up my transition areaThe weather was sunny and somewhat warm but the water was even warmer (somewhere around 75F). Once again the entire family came along to volunteer at the race. If you were at the race and saw a tall woman in the food area, that's my wife.

 

Boy #1 was my official race photog and found the continuous shutter mode. Now if I can only get him to hold the camera still and let it focus between shots...

 Boy #1, my race photog for the dayThe Swim

After the obligatory "mandatory race meeting" I had the opportunity to be a spectator for nearly 45 minutes as wave after wave of people started in front of my group. Around 8:15 am they finally called us into the starting pen and away we went. My traditional strategy of "wait for everyone else to go first" kind of went out the window. I'm not exactly sure why but as the horn sounded I positioned myself in the middle of the pack where I stayed for the entire race. I'm not sure how I did it but I actually passed a couple of people! Not a single person passed me after the initial "wash tub" start, not even the next wave, which started 3 minutes after us. This is unusual for me since my "freight barge" racing style makes me a prime confidence booster for the faster swimmers. This year I felt unusually fast and even turned up the speed in the last 50 meters. I came out of the water feeling great with lots of energy.

Swim result: 8:29, OA: 204/283, AG: 11/20 (Clydesdale)

Exiting the swim with a new PR!

T1 T1 Result: 3:41, AG: 15/20 (Clydesdale)

Exiting transition to head out on the bike

The Bike

Notice the guy in front me as I exited T1? Number 295 and I played tag on most of the bike. We are very similar in size although I think he may be a few pounds heavier than me. He is also 13 years older. About two-thirds of the way up the big climb on Issaquah-Fall City Road he passed me for the final time and didn't see him again until the finish line food area. He beat me by just over a minute overall.

I downed a Gu Roctane gel within the first 2 miles. It's amazing how fast you can open/eat one of those gel packs without taking your arms off the aerobars. The bike felt REALLY good through the flat section and down the big descent on Duthie Hill Road. I even felt good climbing although I couldn't quite keep up the climbing pace I had hoped for. As I crested the longest climbing section I cautiously approached my nemesis, a 90-degree left hand turn near 287th Ave SE where I crashed the previous year. This time I did it perfectly: I came into it in the right position and at the perfect speed to hold a fast turn through the apex and out the other side. At least that's how it went in my dream the night before. The reality is that I slowed down a little more than I should and a faster cyclist behind me caught up and tried to pass on the inside of that heinous curve. I could hear him approaching from behind by the sound of his freewheel and yelled at him to watch his speed in the turn. He slowed down and waited to pass until after the turn, for which I shouted my approval with a HUGE "Thank you!" and the hardest part of the race was over.

...or so I thought. After a mile of downhill and that nasty curve we were met with another half mile of moderate climbing. This is where the cramping began. My left calf muscle locked up tight with very little warning. With only 2 miles to go my left leg was essentially useless: I could continue to flex my left knee only if I pedaled with my right leg, which I did all the way back into transition. This slowed me down quite a bit. My goal time was 40 minutes and I missed it by a whopping 10 minutes. Throughout the bike I was steadily draining my Nuun-water which I was hoping would help me avoid problems like this. The slowdown was evident in my pacing as my average went down to 15 MPH from 19-21 MPH on the other flat/rolling sections.

Bike Result: 50:13, OA: 184/297, AG: 15/20 (Clydesdale)

T2

I went through T2 in record time making up almost an entire minute on my fastest T2 time in this race. As I left T2 I downed another Gu gel and off I went.

T2 Result: 1:26, AG: 9/20 (Clydesdale)

The Run

The run was almost uneventful. Since our wave was so far back in the time schedule there weren't many folks left out on the course. They put all the under-18 racers in the last wave and many of them passed me (as they should!). At times there wasn't a soul around me either in front or behind. At one point I thought I had taken a wrong turn until I crested a hill and found a water station. I was feeling good until I passed the "Mile 2" marker where my cramping problems began again in earnest. This time my right hamstring muscle was locking up in a major way very similar to my previous left-calf cramp. It loosened up a bit during mile 4 and I was able to increase my pace. This is evident in my split pacing-

Split Time Avg Pace Distance Elevation Gain Avg HR
1 0:09:51 9:51 1 65 156
2 0:09:53 9:52 1 21 154
3 0:10:20 10:19 1 58 153
4 0:09:26 9:26 1 31 156
5 0:02:02 8:32 0.24 0 159
Total: 0:41:32 9:47 4.24 176 155

 

In the final 200 yards the cramping became pretty intense and I was unable to bend my right knee. Somehow I kept going and hobbled toward the end. The cramping had really slowed me down and I was 6 minutes behind my goal time.

As I reached the finish line I heard a familiar voice announce my name and city: Boy #1 had somehow talked his was into the announcers area. It was really cool to hear my son say, "Yay, Dad!" over the loudspeaker. I'm not sure how he pulled that one off.

Boy #1 announcing my race finish.

I was greeted with a big hug from Boy #1 as I limped straight-legged toward the food area. The conversation with the chip-removal girl went something like this-

CRG: "Please put your foot up here." (on a milk crate so she could cut off the chip strap)

Me: "Uh, I don't think so. I can't bend my knee."

CRG: "Oh, that's OK, at least you can walk. Hold still and I'll get it for you."

She was very polite and accommodating, just like the rest of the volunteers. Did I mention how great the volunteers are at this race?

Run Result: 41:33, OA: 222/279, AG: 12/20 (Clydesdale)

Total time: 1:45:23, OA: 194/262, AG: 14/20 (Clydesdale)

Post Race

Well it wasn't anywhere near my goal time of 1:28:00 but I did set a new PR of this event and recorded my fastest 400m swim split EVER. Several folks in the food area were commenting on how short they felt the swim course may have been (maybe around 350m?). Since I was swimming pretty close to my training pace I can't say that it was shorter or longer but I am happy with the result.

My bike and run times were not what I was hoping for but overall I can't complain too much. My time reflects my training effort and lack of consistency in training schedule. At least it gives me something to shoot for next year!

My experience using my Garmin 310XT during the race was a very positive one. For the first time I was able to track bike and run paces and know exactly where I stood in my goal times. I'm sure that in longer races a power meter of some sort on the bike would have been very helpful to make sure I was in my power zones. As expected the GPS tracking on the swim is downright useless, even with open water mode enabled. It looks more like an attempt at modern art than a race course.

Recovery

I found the perfect way NOT to recover from a race: sit in a car for 7 hours! Within an hour of finishing the race we were packed up and on the road to California to spend some of our summer vacation with my folks. That night we arrived at our overnight hotel by 9pm and I was in bed and sleeping within 15 minutes. I can't say that I recommend this as a preferred race recovery method.

Boys #1, #2, and #3 crammed into the van for a long trip to Grandma's house.

Iron Horse Trail Ride Report (Almost)

On July 5, 2011, the Snoqualmie Tunnel was re-opened after completion of a significant repair project. This tunnel is part of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Iron Horse State Park just east of Seattle, WA. It was closed in 2009 (actually didn't reopen after the '08-'09 winter closure) due to safety concerns (falling rocks and an underground RIVER flowing through it). The tunnel was fenced off with big warning signs advising you not to enter...

Snoqualmie Tunnel east entrance, Snoqualmie Pass, WA, as it looked in 2009-2011 during the safety closure. 

This tunnel has been on my "bucket ride" list ever since I heard of it when I first moved back to WA in 2001. I never made it up there until they closed it. Then the economic downturn and state budget cuts made it seem like they would never get it fixed. I heard about the opening several days after it happened (I was out of town on vacation at the time) and was pleasantly surprised.

Trail surface: gravel, packed gravel, and packed dirt.

Bike recommendations: anything with tires wider than 28mm (i.e. don't ride on a road bike with skinny tires). Cyclocross bikes should be fine. The last time I rode I was on a bike with 26" x 1.7" road tires and they worked great.

The WA State Park Service has contracted with a private company to provide a shuttle from the trailhead, near Cedar Falls and Rattlesnake Lake, all the way up to the summit at Hyak. This allows you to park your car and, for somewhere around $20, you and your bike can be shuttled up to the top and ride the ~23 miles downhill back to your vehicle. Total time, including shuttle ride, should be in the neighborhood of 3 hours.

I fully intended to ride through the tunnel with 2 of my kids (the 2 that can ride) leaving the other home with Mom but when Saturday arrived Mom was sick in bed. Change of plans! Our ride down the trail turned into a hike through the tunnel with some geocaching thrown in for good measure.

We started out playing the compass game...

Playing the compass game at Snoqualmie Pass, WA

To play the compass game you simply find an object in the distance, using your compass to get the magnetic bearing. Then you have someone else stand in the exact same spot (very important!) and try to determine which object you were pointing at using only the compass bearing. My kids love to try to stump Dad but I always get it. }B^)

We ate some lunch and read the information signs at the Hyak parking lot along the trail.

Informational board at the Hyak parking lot, Iron Horse State Park, WA

And then we hiked the very short distance (less than 1/3 of a mile) to the tunnel entrance. This is the east entrance of the Snoqualmie Tunnel.

East entrance of the Snoqualmie Tunnel, Iron Horse State Park, WA

Inside the tunnel we hiked for about half a mile before we turned back. My boys were not in the mood to hike the nearly 2.5 miles to the west entrance on the other side of Mt. Catherine. So we hiked in a bit, found a geocache, and called it a day.

Looking out toward the east entrance, Snoqualmie Tunnel, Iron Horse State Park, WA

So the tunnel is open ready for riders. The trail in the tunnel was very smooth but a bit moist. There are a few dripping leaks from the roof (expected in a 100+ year old tunnel) but the eastern 1/3 of the tunnel is virtually brand new trail surface and walls/ceiling. I'll be back again this summer with my boys to ride the tunnel and trail again.

Our next stop was a great little lake called "Gold Creek Pond", a reclaimed gravel pit right across the freeway from Hyak on I-90. This is a very picturesque lake with picnic tables, a paved trail around the perimeter, and great views of the mountains. We intended to ride our bikes on the perimeter trail but USFS rules stated "no bikes" so we ended up walking.

Gold Creek Pond near Snoqualmie Pass, WA

If you are looking for a quick picnic at Snoqualmie Pass this is a great place. The trail was flat and easy, the picnic tables are 100 yards from the parking lot, and there weren't many people around.

To make up for the fact that we didn't get to ride in the tunnel or around the pond our next and final stop was the Marymoor Velodrome, Marymoor Park in Redmond, WA. This is one of my boys' favorite places to ride, and for good reason-

Marymoor Velodrome, Marymoor Park, Redmond, WA

The track itself is open to the public (when not in use for classes or races). The surface is textured concrete with banked turns and a 400m circumference. This is one of the few outdoor bike tracks in the western US and it is just a few miles from my house! I highly recommend checking it out and taking a few laps. 

As I was playing around on the track with my oldest son I broke the frame on one of my favorite bikes, my nearly 18 year old Schwinn High Plains. After nearly 10,000 miles it finally gave out under my weight. I can generate a lot of torque and have replaced many parts on this bike over the years. It's like losing an old friend. Yes, I almost cried.

Broken rear dropout, drive side on the rear wheel of my 1993 Schwinn High Plains after nearly 10,000 miles. Goodbye old friend! 

...but then I remembered something very important: NOW I CAN GO BIKE SHOPPING! In the past 3 years this bike has served as my year-round commuter bike and has seen everything from thunderstorms, sleet, and hail (which really hurts your face). Now I need another bike that can fill this void.

Upcoming posts: shopping updates!

 

 

Tour de Blast 2011

Elk Rock Viewpoint, Mt. St. Helens National Monument during Tour de Blast 2011On Saturday, June 18, 2011, I participated in the Tour de Blast, a fabulous ride up SR504, the Spirit Lake Highway. It starts at Toutle Lake High School, going all the way up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory in the Mount St. Helens Volcanic National Monument.

This ride has been on my "to do list" for quite some time. Last year somebody called it "Tour de Frost" in reference to the very cold/wet weather they experienced. It even snowed at the turn-around at Johnston Ridge. The weather patterns this year are very similar to last year so I decided not to take any chances and significantly over-packed.

I brought everything except my rain bike: shorts, thermal pants, rain pants, rain jacket, winter gloves, short gloves, balaclava, thermal shirt, shoe covers, wool socks, regular socks... the list goes on. Why did I do this? Because the weather at this altitude is incredibly unpredictable. As I drove to the camping area the day before the sky was clear with temps in the mid-70's, a perfect late spring day in Western Washington. A couple of days before I pulled a graphic from weather.com showing the extended forecast. Can you guess on which day the ride was scheduled?

As I arrived at the camping area (a field next to Toutle Lake High School) the weather was gorgeous. I pitched my tent and enjoyed good conversation with my neighbors as well as a good novel. As far as camping goes it was fabulous. Little did I know this was the highlight of the trip.

Camping at the Toutle Lake High School

As I went to bed I noticed some high clouds rolling in. By 1am I was awakened by HEAVY rain which lasted through the rest of the night and all the next day. I finally got up about 6am, packed up my things, and got ready to ride. This is where some decisions had to be made - how do I dress for the ride: winter commute gear? light rain gear? no rain gear at all and hope the rains stop altogether? The weather forecast called for temps in the upper 50's and a 40% chance of rain. With this in mind I opted for the light rain jacket, short gloves, and rain pants over my short sleeve jersey and bib shorts (mistake #1).

Just as I was about to start out on the ride I found Gordon, a friend from work who just arrived at packet pickup. He asked, "Have you already been out and come back? You are soaked!" No, I just walked across the field from the camping area to the start/finish line. Yes, it was that wet but the temp was in the upper 50's and felt quite warm (mistake #2). And on that note I started up the mountain.

Start/Finish area, Toutle Lake High School

The first 13 miles were slow with some rollers. Within the first 10 miles I found the "unofficial Tour de Blast Rest Stop." They call it "unofficial" because they give away free beer. I'm sure the ride organizers cannot endorse this because it may lead to someone "riding under the influcence". In Washington State you can be charged with DUI for riding a bike while drunk. I passed them around 7:45 am and they were already out hootin' and hollerin' as riders went by, with a big sign advertising "free beer". They were already drinking as I went by and I'm sure the party went on well into the night. They even had a guy dressed as sasquatch. Very cool in attitude in such a small town.

Around mile 5 I noticed that my Garmin was registering my speed as 33 MPH. While I would love to think that I'm in pretty good cycling shape, I'm not THAT fast. I did a quick adjustment (changed wheel size in the bike profile to "auto") and within a minute it showed my actual speed of 16-18 MPH in the flats. Within a few more minutes my Garmin kept beeping at me with "auto pause" and "auto resume" notifications, effectively telling me that I was starting and stopping even though I was riding down the road at a fairly constant rate of speed and cadence. This is an ongoing issue I am having with my Edge 705 and the cadence sensor (more on this in a later post when/if it gets fixed). To fix it I simply disabled the cadence sensor which leaves the system to use your GPS coordinates to calculate speed and distance traveled rather than the cadence/speed sensor on the back wheel. The end result of these 2 issues is that my ride profile shows me going very fast in the first few miles and about 2.5 miles further than it actually was.

As I hit the first rest stop I was feeling good. The legs were great and I had a lot of energy. The only downside was that I was completely soaked through. This actually happened in the first few miles but the slow and steady climb raised my body temp enough that it was easy to stay warm. The food was fabulous: fruit bars, brownies, fruit, peanut butter bagels, and lots of sports drink. After a few minutes of food and liquids I was back on the road.

The first rest area, Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitors Center, Mt. St. Helens National Monument, Tour de Blast 2011

The climbing really began in earnest after the first rest stop. The grade changed sharply from 1-4% to 6-9% (as registered on my Garmin). I kept up a slow but steady pace of 6-7 MPH and slogged up the cold and wet road. The views along the way were very limited, even at the very picturesque Hoffstadt Creek Bridge.

 The Hoffstadt Creek Bridge, Mt. St. Helens National Monument, along SR504.

At this point I was doing pretty well, finding my "groove" but starting to feel some fatigue in my legs. My lack of training (mistake #3) became very apparent as I approached the second rest stop.  

A rider climbs up the last few yards to the second rest stop at the Elk Rock Viewpoint, Mt. St. Helens Volcanic National Monument

The second rest stop was quite crowded. They had a tent and a couple of canopies setup. The tent had copious amounts of food while the canopies were crowded with riders huddled around 2 fire stands setup to keep people warm and dry.

The second rest area on Tour de Blast 2011, Elk Rock Viewpoint, Mt. St. Helens National Monument.

As I filled up on snacks and water I spoke at length with a support guy standing next to a while board with the temp and conditions posted along with mileage and climbing elevations on the next two climbs. It didn't look good.

Current conditions at Elk Rock Rest Stop: 46F, Raining

Current conditions at Johnston Ridge Rest Stop: 40F, Sleeting

I walked over to the fire to warm up and dry out a bit while chatting up the other riders to see if any of them had made it to the top. No one there had been to the top yet and most intended to either turn around right there or wait for the SAG wagon. As I stepped away from the fire, fully intending to ride up to the top, the wind kicked up with some really strong gusts and the rain started blowing sideways. It continued for 15 minutes. As I waited I did dry out a lot but started getting colder and colder (mistake #4). The combination of the wind and low energy output (riding up the hill was keeping me quite warm) started to really bring down my body temp.

My next thought was, "I'm done, time to ride down." I hopped on my bike and started down the mountain. I made it only about 1/4 mile before I was forced to stop. My hands were shaking so badly that my front wheel was unstable. At downhill speeds in the 30-40 MPH range this could be very dangerous. It also signaled the first stage of hypothermia, uncontrollable shaking and somewhat blurred vision (eye issues will be yet another topic for a future post). I slowly climbed back up to the warmth of the rest stop to wait for the SAG Wagon.

Pooh Bear enjoying the ride back to Toutle Lake High School aboard the SAG wagon.

The SAG Wagon was a small bus similar to the smaller busses used by some transit agencies on short routes or in small towns. There was no bike rack so we put our bikes in the aisle, as many as would fit, and hunkered down for the 30 minute ride back to the start. My day was finished. This was the first, only, and hopefully last time for the SAG wagon.

Speghetti and meatballs! A great (warm) way to end a long/cold ride.

OK, it was almost finished. Back at the High School we were served a very warm and yummy spaghetti dinner by the Rotary Club volunteers. I'm not sure which was better: the warm food or the actually very tasty pasta. I followed it up with a big vanilla ice cream with strawberry sauce.

And there you have it. Score - Me: 0, Mt. St. Helens: 1

I made lots of mistakes on this one-

  1. Did not dress appropriately for conditions. I had the right clothing in my bag in the car: thermal shirt, balaclava, thicker Showers Pass rain jacket, and Gore rain gloves. If I had over dressed, just like I had over-packed, I would have been much warmer and continued the ride. Without a doubt.
  2. I trusted the air temp at the bottom and did not ask the ride officials about weather conditions up the mountain.
  3. Lack of training. Gordon asked me earlier in the week how my training was going. My quote: "I've been tapering for a month!" That's my sarcastic way of saying I wasn't prepared. And it showed.
  4. I waited too long at the rest stop before continuing on. Because of this my core temp went way down and it went downhill from there.

I ate my lunch with some of the race organizers. They passed on some interesting stats:

Registered riders: about 950 (permit allows for 2500 riders)
Riders who picked up their packets: around 750
Number of riders who actually went out on the ride: 600

So how did Gordon do? He made it to the top! With 1.5 miles left he had a flat and rode that last bit on a flat front tire. I'm sure his speeds were slow enough that this wasn't an issue. He also didn't want to stop and give up his momentum, physical and mental. Then he made it all the way back to the High School.

Another friend from work, Bret, put this in his ride report: 

"Before we start, our group typically gets together and shares some kind of inspirational/motivational thoughts. I thought I would be funny and use a quote from the biblical story of Noah’s ark, apropos the weather: And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. (Genesis 7:19) People in general are not amused. Literally as we wrap up our little pre-ride meeting, it starts to rain harder."

Brett made it to Elk Ridge and then turned around and rode all the way down. He, at least, was prepared for that, unlike me.

Summary

Ride Stats-

  • Rolling Time: 2:53:03
  • Actual Time: around 4 hours (included rest stops, warming by the fire, and SAG ride)
  • Rolling distance: 29.19 miles (distance is suspect, about 2 miles more than it should be)
  • Average rolling speed: 10.4 MPH
  • Elevation Gain: 3630 feet
  • Average Heart Rate: 142

Highlights:

  • Perfect camping conditions the day before.
  • Camping on-site allowed for quick prep for the ride.
  • FOOD! Wonderful food at the rest stops and a pasta feed at the end, with ice cream!

Lowlights

  • The weather day of the ride.
  • Not mentally prepared for the cold
  • Not dressed for the cold and wind
  • Didn't train enough hills, although I didn't stop due to training limitations
  • Issues with my GPS continue to frustrate me.

Will I be back again? - Absolutely. I want to conquer this one.

Would I recommend it to a friend? - Yes!

Post Ride

During the drive home (2.5 hours) it rained the ENTIRE way. This was a much bigger rain system than the computer models were letting on (refer to the 30% chance of rain above).

Ride recovery was fast since I didn't actually ride that far. As an example, my commute to/from work the next day was quite fast. I use the "Courses" feature on my Garmin to track my commutes to/from work. I use the best ride from the previous month and try to beat it each time I ride. This time I had a PR (personal record) by almost a full minute, breaking 34 minutes for the first time on this particular route. That means I had something left in the tank and very well could have finished the ride from a training perspective. Oh well, there's always Tour de Blast 2012!

Looking forward to Cycle Oregon 2011!

}B^)

 

Ride Report - Bike To Work Day 2011

Commuter Station at NE 124th between Redmond/WoodinvilleLast Friday, May 20th, was Bike To Work Day (BTWD), a great excuse to get people to ride their bikes to work who usually don't have the time, energy, or motivation to otherwise do so. What does that mean for those of us who regularly commute via bike? More people to share the fun! The more people we can get biking the better.

There are bike snobs out there (sorry, I refuse to link to them) who think that Bike To Work Day is the worst day of the year. Some of those even boycott the day completely. I relish it! OK, maybe not, but I am no where near the attitude I refer to. If you want to read the vile put out there about the N00bs who dare to get in their precious way, then please go and do a search yourself. Go ahead, my blog will be waiting for you when you get back from cleaning the vomit off your keyboard.

My favorite BTWD in 2008 was the best. I was in fabulous shape (compared to years previous). I pulled up to a stoplight at the back of a pack of about 20 cyclists waiting to go up a big hill (corner of E. Lake Sammamish Pkwy and Leary Way in Redmond). As the light turned green the guys in the front (obviously not regular riders) were having trouble getting started which caused the group to stop, accordion style. I pulled out to the left of the group and was able to pass the entire group. As I climbed the hill I was able to look back using my rear-view mirror to see the incredible carnage playing out behind me: people falling over because they stopped mid-stroke and couldn't unclip, pushing their bikes (out of shape), while the regular commuters weaved around them trying not to become a victim themselves. Overall there were no serious injuries but lots of colorful metaphors.

This year I decided to do something new: a long route starting early in the morning that would take me by 2 of the BTWD commute stations (i.e. SWAG stops). I even invited some friends from work to join in the fun.

  • Start time: 7:20 am
  • Estimated distance: 19.24 miles
  • Estimated climbing: 1033 feet
  • Estimated time: 90 minutes
  • SWAG stops to hit: 2

Of course things don't always go as planned...

  • Actual start time: 7:35 am (missed meeting my friends)
  • Actual distance: 28.87 miles
  • Actual climbing: 1520 feet
  • Elapsed time: 2:01:55
  • Swag stops hit: 3

      Commute Station on the Sammamish River TrailThe weather was FABULOUS (sunny, highs in the 60s) with very little wind. I kept to my route for the most part but diverted north on the Sammamish River Trail a bit to hit a third SWAG stop in Woodinville. The bad news was that they were closing up shop. The good news was that they told me to take as much food as I wanted because they didn't want to transport it. SWEET! I loaded up on samples of nuts, dried fruit bars, Cliff Bars, and assorted other snacks (this proved useful later). The other commute stations along the way at 60 Acres and the 520 trail were also very thin so I didn't stay long at either place.

The final destination of the morning was a BTWD breakfast hosted by my employer but when I arrived I found that they had literally just run out of food. No! What was to be the highlight of my day turned out to be a bit of a downer. As I was sulking, looking at the empty tables, a good friend, Steve, arrived as well to find the bad news. That's when I remembered by bag full of snacks! The two of us sat down, exchanged ride stories, and chowed down on all the snacks I picked up earlier. The morning had been saved.

Overall the day was a success: I got in my long-ride for the week, hit the commute stations, ate some pretty good food, and socialized with some friends. When I got back to the office I took inventory of the SWAG take for the day, including the snacks that weren't eaten earlier...

BTWD SWAG collection

My ride home was supposed to be an easy 8-mile ride that I have done hundreds of times before but it was not to be. Only 3.5 miles into the ride I popped a spoke nipple and ended up taking the bus home...

Popped rear spoke, drive side spoke nippleMy saving grace, KC Metro route 269

To end the day I took the family down to the Marymoor Park Velodrome in Redmond for some bike racing action. My kids eat this stuff up, especially the Kiernan race with the scooter...

Setting up for the Cat-4 Chariot heat

Next year I think I'll start something new: "Bike to anywhere but work day," thinking that I will take the day off to just bike anywhere that suits my fancy.

 

Ride Report: Presidents Day Ride 2011

Every Presidents Day holiday for the past few years I have organized an informal ride with friends. Those of you from the Seattle area should be shaking your heads by now. Why? Well, the average temp range for Presidents day in Seattle are a bit on the chilly side (Hi: 52F, Lo: 36F). Since I typically leave before 8am the temps can be somewhat chilly. In '08 the temp was 27F when I departed at 7:15 am. With this in mind attendance ranges anywhere from 2-15. Suprizingly my luck with weather on this ride has been fabulous: nothing more than fog, typically with lots of sun. This year was not different with overcast skies, slight snow flurries, and some breaks in the clouds.

Each year the ride typically ends up on the I-90 trail from Sammamish to Pac-Med in Seattle. This year we decided to do something different at the request of my son (Boy #1): the John Wayne Pioneer Trail at Iron Horse State Park. With some intrepidation and snow in the forecast we loaded up the car at 7am and headed for the trailhead. Unfortunately I forgot our camera so we had to make do with my cell phone camera (i.e. not the best quality pics/videos). Iron Horse State Park

For those not familiar, Iron Horse State Park is a "rails to trails" park that has one of the best kept secrets in WA state. One of our friends on this ride, a long time WA resident, had heard of the trail but never actually seen it. The trail is a retired rail bed converted into a hiking/bicycle trail (At the time of this writing, 2/23/2011, you could also use it as a cross country ski trail with all the snow received this week). I took a group of Boy Scouts on a 3-day ride on the same trail back in '09. The ride is easy (never more than a 2% grade), well maintained, and quite scenic with views of waterfalls, the Cascade Mountains, high bridges over the canyons, and lots of wildife.

We met up with a couple of friends (bringing the group size to 4) and headed out on our adventure. Some highlights:

  • The trail was smooth and frozen: warmer weather would have meant more mud to contend with.
  • Although there were a few small sink holes the trail was in great shape.
  • Lots and lots of ice on the cliffs and around the running streams but no ice over the trail. On one of the cliffs, where the ice covering the cliff face was beginning to melt, air bubbles were flowing with the runoff under the ice making it look like there were ants crawling underneath (I tried to take a video but it didn't turn out well).
  • We had remarkable visibility, despite the overcast skies, which gave us great views of the valleys and mountains.Views of the Mountains from the Mine Creek bridge
  • Best part of the ride (according to Boy #1): the fast ride down.
  • Good conversations with our friends over the course of the day.
  • We came across a mountain goat on the Deception Craggs climbing cliff. Very unexpected and cool.

Lowlights:

  • Did I say it was chilly? BRRRR! (30F when we set out)
  • Someone had taken some pot shots at the signs with a shotgun. We saw other rifle/shotgun damage to signs, posts, and rocks as well as some clay pigeon remnants. They even shot the "no shooting" sign.
  • We only had 4 hours to do the ride, which meant we covered 8.5 miles before we had to turn around.

Lessons Learned:

  • Next time Boy #1 needs a bigger bike: 26" tires would have made a big speed improvement for him.
  • Drink more water. Although I brought 2x20 oz bottles, I didn't drink more than 10 oz.
  • Breaks needed to be longer in duration for our two younger riders. At 90 minutes Boy #1 struggled a bit.

After just over 2 hours we decided to return. As you can see in GPS ride profile the return trip was a bit faster than the first half. On the way home we stopped in Fall City at "Small Fries", one of our favorite hole-in-the-wall burger joints. That's how we top-off after a great ride in the mountains!