Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review: Positively False by Floyd Landis

This weekend, I finished reading Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France by Floyd Landis with Loren Mooney (2007, NY: Simon Spotlight Entertainment). It's actually a well-written book, which is somewhat surprising, but very pleasant. The funny thing is that Landis/Mooney start off by stating that doping allegations always are followed by the athlete claiming innocence. This they do as well, but then build their case methodically until it is hard to believe how out of whack the international war on doping really is. If it is even half as bad as alleged in the book, it needs to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. A recommended read.

Midwest Trail: Waterfall Glen, Darien, IL

Sunday morning, the family and I previewed my choice of trail for my Sunday morning long runs (commencing very soon!). It's a 9 1/2 mile loop which meanders through a pretty forest preserve, with some rolling topography to keep it interesting. Some off road connector trails will add interest if it ever gets boring. My next big race is The North Face Endurance Challenge in Kettle Moraine, WI, a 10K race, so this training loop should help me build my endurance for that event.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gear: XTerra Wetsuits Vortex 3 John

Yesterday I received my XTerra Wetsuits Vortex 3 John. I squeezed into it, looking much like a overstuffed sausage, while my young children oohed and aahed over how soft it was. Aside from some difficulty with the zipper (my daughter held the wetsuit together as I zipped it up), it felt great. This is supposed to be a chilly weekend and I'm looking forward to wearing it for my first open-water swim in Lake Michigan (we're headed to the family cottage in Union Pier, MI). Review post-weekend!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Gear: Sugoi Windblock Tights + New Balance Vent Max Watch

Ordered some new gear from REI, they had a good Deal of the Day yesterday (at least for me).
I've been wanting to get a new sports watch and the had the New Balance Vent Max Watch - '09 as an Overstock item. It features: 100-hr. chronograph records 1/100 second resolution; 100-lap memory; Stores run number, month/date, lap number, split, time, best/average lap and total segment; time in 12- or 24-hr. format; displays day/date/month; tracks time in 2 time zones simultaneously; 3 alarms, 9 interval timers, and 3 independent timers (count-up, count-down and count-repeat); Backlight makes display easy to view at night; and Water resistant to 50m (165 ft.). Looking forward to getting it next week.
The other item was purchased to prepare for some winter riding, the Sugoi Windblock Bib Tights - Men's - '08, a Closeout item. The bib is a durable polyester/spandex material breathes well and moves moisture away from the skin; wind-blocking polyester material on front keeps you warm on cold rides; Mobil Mesh upper bib is highly breathable, lightweight and stable to keep the bib in the right position; eliminates the elastic waistband of conventional shorts, providing comfort and support; Articulated knees aid in fit, allowing freedom of movement; and Elastic cuffs keep pant legs in place; ankle zippers mean easy on and off. Bring on the Chicago winter!

Race Review: Michigan City Kids' Triathlon (08/22/2009)

Quick review of the Michigan City Kids' Triathlon, which my son ran on Saturday, August 22nd, 2009.
Friday afternoon we stopped by the park department to see if we could check in early; it was 3:00 and early check in was 4:00 - they turned us away and had us come back an hour early. We took the rest of the family and the dogs to Union Pier, where we were staying at the family's lakeside shack and returned to the early check-in at 4:00. We finally got his packet at 5:30! wow! 1 1/2 hours to sign a waiver form and pick a swim cap color. Ridiculously unorganized.
Saturday morning we got to the check in at 8:45, as they had told us to check in between 7:00 and 9:00, with a "possible" start time of 10:30. 1 1/2 hours for a child to check in and then wait for a race start?! No information on the kids' check in, no volunteer that had a clue. Luckily, another parent overheard us and let us know where to go. After getting marked and picking up his chip, the wait began.
Due to the lake being extremely wavy with a strong undertow, the swim was cancelled and the kids did a run-bike-run instead. Mostly we sat around, with an occasional announcement that the kids would be starting momentarily. Instead, we waited until all the adults had finished their bike portion, so that they could turn off and reset the timing mats. ????
The race itself took place under sunny skies, with some wind, and in a beautiful setting. My son had a decent out and back run along the lake, then hopped on his bike for that portion. As a parent, it was kind of chilling to watch him pedal off on the 3 mile stage, strange to see him disappear around the corner. He struggled on the bike (it was a hilly course and he was on a bmx bike), then gamely finished with the out and back run. All along the route, he waved and played to the crowd and then walked over to the announcer after the race to be interviewed - what a ham! Nice finisher's medal.
Overall, I was happy that he had finished, enjoyed the beauty of the setting, but was troubled by the myriad problems the organizers had. I would definitely not recommend this for kids, though hopefully next year they will work out the kinks.
Gear Review: On a side note, I purchased a Kodak ZI6 camcorder to record his first attempt, but unhappily, got almost no video at all. The salesperson had told me a memory card was included, but that was incorrect and the internal memory held only 30 seconds of video! Buyers, be warned! Otherwise, the camcorder seemed to work well and is incredibly light!, takes good pictures and has a usb attachment built in.

Book Review: Every Second Counts

Finished Every Second Counts (2003, NY: Broadway Books), by Lance Armstrong with Sally Jenkins. Really an inspiring book, well-written and an interesting look into a slice of history. Good mix of insight, confusion, anecdote and humor make this book a definite recommendation!
Favorite quote: "There's no difference between a man with no power and a man with power who doesn't use it at all."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book Review: Iron Will

Excellent read, written by Mike Plant, Iron Will: The Heart and Soul of the Triathlon's Ultimate Challenge (1987, Chicago, IL: Contemporary Books), is a book that takes a slice of time and uses the races, the people, and the behind-the-scenes activities to knit together a fascinating account of the birth and maturation of the Ironman competition in Kona. Most of the characters are well-known, but they do not overshadow the supporting cast. Interesting case study of how the Ironman went from a cast of oddballs to perhaps the preeminent race in all triathlon.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Review: Pedaling Revolution

Recently read Jeff Mapes' Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities (2009, Cornvallis: OSU Press) and it really was an outstanding book! It made me want to push Downers Grove, where I live, to become a model cycling suburb. So many simple things that can be done, but here's the thing -- the one thing that works above all is getting more cyclists on the streets. Bike lanes, separate pathways, it all works as long as more people ride. The more bicycles on the road, the better educated motorists become on how to behave correctly. Mapes uses an intriguing mix of fact, programs, examples, and personal vignettes to explain how far cycling has come in the United States, how far we have to go, and where we can look to figure it all out. Definitely recommended.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gear: Podium Quest Aero Drink System

Just purchased a Podium Quest Aero Drink System on EBay, good price, though it didn't come with the Velcro straps (sorry, hook and loop fasteners...). Think that'll be relatively easy to replace, if not, they have replacement on the website.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bike Stolen: Downers Grove Main Street Station

Yesterday, when I got off the train to ride home, my bike was not there. What a bummer! The strange thing is that I had never really thought about it, but yesterday I did and, it happened. Unlikely the police will recover it and we have a $1000 deductible on our home owner's policy, so it's not worth putting in a claim for a $700 bike. Learn a lesson from this -- get separate coverage for personal items! I'll probably head over to the thrift stores this weekend to find a beater for my commutes to and from the train station.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Race: Men's Health Urbanathlon 2009

My brother-in-law invited me to participate on a relay team in this year's Men's Health Urbanathlon on October 17th in Chicago. It looks like a fun event. Basically it's a running race, with some interesting obstacles/challenges interspersed throughout the course. The challenges include such things as jumping over taxi cabs, doing marine hurdles, running up the Soldier Field stands, and so on. The total mileage is approximately 10 miles, and the relay team consists of 3 members. Looking forward to it.

Video: The Rights and Duties of Cyclists - Bicycle Safety

Interesting video, worth watching.

Race Review: 2009 HRMS Naperville Sprint Triathlon

Yesterday was my first triathlon, which was the 2009 HRMS Naperville Sprint Triathlon held in Naperville, IL. As a beginner triathlete, I had no idea what to expect, outside of what I had gleaned by researhing the library and the Internet. As is typical of all races, there were pros and cons with the experience.
Registration/Packet Pick Up/ Expo: Registration was on the Internet, so simple. Packet pickup was held at one of the local sponsors, the Naperville Running Company. The process wasn't bad, but problems cropped up immediately. The goodie bag did not include a cycling bottle, which is not a big deal, but obviously did not deliver on what was promised. From what I could tell, the "expo" consisted of several racks of discounted triathlon clothing. Yawn. Very disappointing, especially to a gear-head like myself. There were no directions in the packet on what to do with the numbers included; I sent an email to the promoters, but never received a response. Only by looking through multiple websites was I able to guess at how the numbers were to be displayed (no fun for an anxious first-timer).
Pre-race: Getting marked was fine, I was early so the process went quickly. The bike racks seemed totally random and no guidance on how to hang the bike (each side of the rack was numbered). When I went to look at the swim course, I stumbled across the chip table, which I had forgotten about and wasn't mentioned when entering. Hmmmmm.
Swim: Great location, WAY too small for this many triathletes (approximately 2000). The swim start was in waves of 4, so I didn't enter the water until 8:00, an hour of wait time. Very disorganized. The swim itself was uneventful, my first open-water swim, many lifeguards and shallow in spots, so it was possible to walk around turn 2 and also into the finish.
Bike: Great course, several hills and sweeping turns to keep it interesting. Most of it was newly-paved, so a pleasure to ride on. I'm not a big fan of multiple loops, but both circuits went by quickly.
Run: Mostly streets, which was a shame as the course was so close to the river and the river walk was barely utilized. Several parks were en route, but the course stayed on the roads. Yesterday was a very hot day (one of the first this summer) and the route should have been reversed, as it was completely in the sun for miles 1.5 or so until 2.5. Reversing the route would have placed this sunny stretch at the beginning of the run, with shade occurring in the latter stages, more pleasant to finish.
Overall, this was a decent first race, with a good setting, with flawed organization. I wouldn't recommend it for beginning triathletes or first-timers, as there were too many anxious moments during the process.

Race: Naperville Triathlon: 1:27:45

Yesterday, I completed the Naperville Triathlon, which is a sprint distance (400 Meters swim, 20 K Bike, 5 K run). I had hoped to finish in 1:30, expected 1:45, but surprised myself with a 1:27:45, which included a half mile or so of walking. With an actual training plan, loss of some weight, and this experience, I feel that I can improve on that time quite a bit. The most remarkable thing is that, upon completion, I felt invigorated to repeat the process, which is not typical when I get enthusiastic about a new endeavour or interest.
Yesterday I was the prototypical middle of the packer, which pleased me, considering the lack of training overall. I finished 654th out of 1729 finishers, 62nd out of 122 in my age group, 495th of 988 men, 836th swimmer, 543rd cyclist, and 916th runner (not surprising since I walked part of the way). All in all a decent first attempt.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Naperville Triathlon tomorrow!

Yesterday afternoon went to pick up my race packet, no expo, so very disappointing. Organizers didn't put in a water bottle into goodie bag as stated; in general, I'm not sure why they are having problems after 8 or so years of running this event. Oh well.
Got organized this morning, made sure my bike would easily fit inside my car and I had all my gear together. Tried on my tri-suit and I just look really fat and sad. Kind of deluded myself that I'm making good progress, but that suit does not lie! Good motivation to continue.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Triathlon Training: Cycling

Proud of myself today! I had planned on riding this morning, but just didn't feel like it when I got up; however, after walking the dogs and a cup of coffee, spur of the moment, headed out. Rode about 13.5 miles, concentrating on keeping my cadence in the mid to upper 80s, which seems comfortable to me and maintainable. Couple of jerk drivers this morning, guess they haven't visited the Yield to Life website. Oh well.

Running, Skiing, and Endurance Sports -

REI: Gear for the Great Outdoors

UnderArmour - I WILL

Outdoor DIVAS - Adventure Gear for Active Women