Posts Tagged ‘gear’

It has been a good two weeks since my last post.  I have had a lot to do in that space of time.  I started my new job and am getting comfortable and working on that task.  I just finished my final exam today for College Algebra (Whew!). I survived a DNS outage and got ready for a presentation on the web site I’ve been working on. And, I’m still running mostly, sort of, kind of, regularly.

I began work at the new hospital two weeks ago.  I’m doing HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) work for them, plus refrigeration.  We’ve both been getting used to each other, though I think I probably have more adjustment to do than they do.  I came from a “one person doing it all” kind of opportunity via a huge mega-hospital experience and have now stepped into small-town-cozy-but-very-energetic hospital experience.  It’s a challenge sometimes, but I am adjusting and getting to learn everyone and our new systems.

I just finished up two days of working evening shift, which I have never officially done before.  It’s quite different, but it went well.  I’ve managed to keep up my work and still get a few things done that we couldn’t during the day.

I have a good crew of people to work with.  Two other guys doing HVAC with me and a host of folks that handle lots of other things.  They’ve been very helpful and friendly.  I learned quickly after starting work there that this really is where I am supposed to be for right now.  It’s a good place.

Because of the new job, I managed to purchase my first pair of Nikes this weekend.  I tried wearing some regular hard working shoes for two weeks, but they have been killer.  I think I’ve become too accustomed to living in running shoes.  I managed to find a pair of Nike Alvord 10 trail runners for work.  Their main feature that I wanted–they were all black.  Hopefully, they won’t get noticed and I’ll get to keep wearing them.  They were certainly comfortable last evening.

Our city’s bike lane task force is getting going again for the year.  We had the first meeting this last Wednesday.  I was on the agenda to show off the work we’ve done on getting a web site ready for bike advocacy in town, but it’s been quiet for a month or so.  I happened to get a weird e-mail error from my server early this week and thought to check on it.  I discovered my Internet provider had changed my home’s IP address and all of my DNS settings were now useless.  Since the web site is based on WordPress, if the domain name isn’t right, the site doesn’t work.  I still haven’t gotten the problem fixed, but I got a work-around done so that at least I could to the presentation.  The web site was well received by the members and we’ll hope to have it up live soon.  I have a few changes to work on and then get the ‘go ahead’ from our fearless leader.

Speaking of our bike lane task force’s fearless leader.  Our city is blessed by a lady that really knows her stuff on getting things like this done.  She has been leading the charge for bicycle advocacy in our town for a few years now and we are seeing some of the rewards of her work.  Things never move as fast as we would like, but things are looking up. We are getting more interested folks in what we are doing; though gas prices aren’t hurting our efforts either.

Also, yours truly got an e-mail recently from a site called Pocket Change.  It seems they liked my blog and sent me an Editor’s Pick award for the site.  You can see it posted in the column on the right.  It’s always good to get noticed for your work.  Though, at this stage in my writing, I do it just for the fun and to get to know others out there.  In addition, WordPress sent word a while ago that I’ve kept the blog up and running for three years.  That’s probably not long unless you count it in World Wide Web years.

I’ve just finished up my first semester back in college with my Algebra final exam this morning.  I think I passed, maybe.  With all the other stuff going on, I think I’ll let that be enough for now.  It was much harder that I expected, especially getting used to all the new technology of classwork on the Internet.  I learned a lot though and much of it may be useful on the new job.  We’ll see.

Running has been doing alright.  Back working in a hospital means lots of walking every day.  Not wearing decent shoes hasn’t helped how my legs and feet feel in the morning when I get up to run.  I’ve kept close to my weekly quotas that I set, but I am a bit behind.  I had hoped to be further along towards my 20 mile weeks by now, but I will have to be happy where I am at, not where I wish I were.  I am hoping for milder weather for a bit.  Twenty-something to thirty-something degree mornings get old in a hurry.

However, the quality of my runs is doing quite well.  I’m running a little slower than in October/November, but it is still going well.  It’s just been harder in the first mile or so to get going.  I should be able to adjust as I get used to the walking.  It’s side benefits are good though.  I was able to record a five pound loss for last week.  So, I am back down to my pre-Holiday weight (yippee!).

I am also starting to move my swim lengths back up.  I’ve kept them down to 600 yards each time so as not to interfere with my marathon training.  Now, with that over, I can start to edge back up to 1000 yards soon and hopefully get to a mile by about Summer (I hope).

Lots of new changes and adjustments.  Which is often disconcerting to a guy like myself.  I am a creature of habit and ritual.  I like for those things that I do to be somewhat in a rut at times.  When I can depend upon something being the same, I believe I am able to adapt to the changes that come my way.  Notice I said believe.  That may or may not be true.  Lately, there have been many changes that seem to happen all at once (though probably not really).  But, as Mark Lowry said once “this too shall pass,” which is from the Bible, but it was funnier the way Mark put it.  Regardless of whether it suits me or not, I have to adapt to the change.  Just like I do when the city road crews mess up one of my favorite running routes–detour through the neighbor’s yard and keep on going.  Happy Running!

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Well, it is my last “free” weekend before going back to the world of work.  But, please don’t think that while I have been out of work that it has been “free” time at all.  Looking for a job in this day and age is challenging, frustrating, and just plain difficult.  It is only free in the sense that as of tomorrow morning, I’ll be back among the employed.  Hallelujah!

I can certainly tell from my time without a job that I am not cut out for being without a job or retired just yet.  I do need things to do.  Though, if I didn’t have to look for work, I do think I could think of enough to keep me busy.

Running of late has also been problematic.  I put it down to age, but the cold weather has been unbearable.  We in North Texas are experiencing a colder weather than we have had in the past couple of years.  It’s probably not too abnormal, but we are not used to it.  Last Tuesday, we woke up to a blanket of unexpected and unforecasted snow-like stuff.  It wasn’t snow in the pretty flaky sense.  These were little round snow pebbles.  We spent most of the week not getting hardly above freezing all day and the mornings have been mostly 20’s.  Brrrrrrrrr!!!!

I just wasn’t able to force myself out the door after these same temps have been with us off and on for a few weeks now.  I stayed on the trainer most of the week and even was desperate enough to get on a dreadmill at the fitness center for a couple of miles.  Friday turned out gorgeous and in the 60’s so I even broke my usual Friday rest rule and went out to run a couple of miles in the evening.  It was good to do, but they were a couple of tough miles.

Saturday morning was finally normal at 41 degrees and I felt reasonably good enough.  I debated how many miles I should run…three…four?  It is usually my routine to ride on Saturday morning but I needed to not be out too long so I elected a run for this time and didn’t want it to be a short one.  At Running Bear park (about two miles out) I went for broke and headed off for six miles.

The weather was good and I was dressed right for it.  I just wore a long sleeve tech-T and running pants.  I was comfortable and had set a comfortable pace.  I hadn’t run any hills since December and now would run three this morning.  Things worked well and through miles four and five, I felt really good running.

The city recently finished the addition of a small trail near a park I pass at about the end of five miles.  I thought I’d try it out.  It was really well done and brightly lit.  I took me around to an alternate street I could run down without being off course too much.  Since I was without a garmin I had to guess, but I think it was just enough to make my usual 6.14 miles into an even 6.2.  I finished up in 1:17 exactly and was ready for the day.

Winter running can be really hit and miss.  All I usually have to deal with is the cold, but even that can be daunting.  Everyone reacts to temperature stress differently.  If you’ve been running a while, it’s really frustrating to be off your schedule, but you just have to be patient and wait for the right time.  Treadmills have helped a lot of folks keep up in the Winter.  I use my bike trainer a lot, too.  You have to get creative.

Hopefully, with a return to work I’ll get back into my regular routine.  That should help me a bit and then I can get my miles back up to where I want them.  I’m working on getting back to and holding 20 mile weeks.  I’d like to get my long runs to about 10 miles.  I would like to be ready at almost any time to run a half marathon, though this year I might need a registration fairy for that to work.  Regardless, running is still well worth doing.

I guess I have wasted enough time away from finishing my algebra homework.  My semester is almost done and I’m ready to get it over with.  So, while I work on geometric progressions: Happy running!

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It seems that this new cold front is getting here just in time.  Tomorrow is the Cool Run 10K/5K in my town.  It’s held each year at the end of October by a local foundation to help raise money to fight cancer.  It was the first race I ran four years ago in 2008.  I have run the 10K each time and have improved each year.  Last year was my best at 1:06:10.  I’m still looking for that 1 hour or less 10K.

It’s a really fun race and the organizers put on a good one for the runners.  It’s local, but it does bring out some of the better runners from around the area as well as a good showing from the high school cross country teams.  I run it with a group of runners called Jo’s Team which honors a person we all knew that we lost because of cancer.  In addition to good running, it’s got the best food I’ve been to for any race of this size.  A local pizzeria named I Fratelli’s is right next door to the race and always brings out some of their great pies.

I’ve been fond of this race for a number of reasons.  It was my first and that is special.  It is also a good benchmark for where I am at in just running improvement.  I’ve been able to observe that I have gone from someone just barely able to finish the 10K to actually thinking I can compete, sort of.  Finally, it is also a good warmup for whatever I’m doing in December, whether it be a half or the full as I’m doing this year.

bikeirving screenshot

Test Site for the new BikeIrving.Org web site showing first tests of Google Maps API

However, I want to take a little while today to talk about a large (I mean really) project I am working on with a friend.  We are trying to build a web site for our city that will help us provide road and path data to the city on where cyclists are riding and commuting.  With this data we can help inform the city on where infrastructure and enhancements are needed because of known traffic patterns.  It will be a little similar to a site like mapmyride.com except that it will focus just on our city and we’ll be able to pull reports out of the database for presentation work (we hope).

To do this site, I had to start learning some new skills.  I had to begin learning the Google Maps Javascript API.  It is a geomapping extension born out of Google’s work on it’s maps.google.com site.  Though it’s free; easy it isn’t.  I’ve had to really extend my knowledge of Javascript in order to just make this small test work. And, I’ve still got a lot to do.

Currently, the only thing you can do at the site, which you can access here, is to select a starting address, plot a route on the map, and you can print out a list of the latitudes and longitudes from your route.  Probably none of this will be quite the same in the final version.  But, I am interested in getting folks’ reactions to it.

Though there are still many things to do just on this portion of the mapping, I will have to turn it aside for a bit to start working on the database portion.  The concept is that cyclists will be able to come to the site, register and provide a little bit of demographic data, then map the routes they often use for commuting or other reasons.  Then, on the back end, we can pull up common maps showing multiple routes and where these intersect with roads.  To do that, I will have to build a database of users and a database of routes, plus a content manager to help us use the site.  It will also be a place to post events about and for cycling in our city.  Because it’s a public site, we’ll also need to put a privacy notice in place and establish means to keep folks information private.

I have no idea how long it will take to finish such a site, but I am making progress.  I’m going to be getting some help on it soon, I think.  Currently, I have it hosted on my own server.  I don’t yet know where the final location will be, just yet.  In the meantime, I’m still job hunting.  Still trying to be patient and wait upon God‘s timing for how things will go.  I am encouraged by seeing where He is working in the process this week.  So, this afternoon, I’ll spend some more time on the web site and tomorrow, I’ll just go and have a Cool Run in the morning.  Happy Running (and Cycling)!

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You will be lucky today as I’ll get two posts out on the same day.  Actually, since I’ve already posted a short update on my tech blog, I think I might be setting some kind of record on productivity.  In any case, I wanted to jot down some of the important things from the past week and I also wanted to do a review on Premier Protein’s shakes and snack bars.  I didn’t think the two would go together, so I’ll just write up two for the day.

I’ve been getting busy this week on the job search front.  I have a good friend that is helping me with that process.  He and I talked this past Saturday and now I have a good bit of resources on what to do next.  I’ve spent the week going through a process guide he gave me and it has helped.  I’m trying to get my resume done up correctly.  You wouldn’t think it would be that hard, but I happen to be trying to switch careers.  I’ve done a lot of IT work over the last four years, and a lot of similar type of work in the years before that.  I’d really like to keep it going.  I have some disadvantages in that I don’t have all the little alphabet soup certifications after my name.  I just happen to know how to do the work.  I’m kind of weird in that respect that actual experience and merit count for more than just tests, exams, and paper.  Not that I haven’t done those either.

However, today, I thought I’d spend a little time just doing things I like.  I have a web site of my own that I run and it needs some work.  It’s kind of the “cobblers children never have any shoes” syndrome.  If you sit on a PC all day doing coding and IT work, you don’t often wish to do it when you get home.  Therefore, my little site is kind of drab and needs some sprucing up.  It doesn’t do much and unless you’re a serious geek it may not mean much.  However, if you just want to see what happens, look at it every now and then and you’ll see it start changing as I work on it.  You can find it here, it’s called the T.A.R.D.I.S. Server Project II; mostly just an information type page.

Running has gone well this week.  My foot’s tendonitis is still acting up a little, but I’m trying to take good care of it.  It hasn’t cost me any days yet.  I have almost finished my second week of marathon training and I guess this week is the week of forgetfulness and loss.  Twice this week, I’ve forgotten to plug in the garmin and had to use my smartphone’s abilities instead.  One of those was my tempo day, so no HR controls.  And, my SmartCoach plan on Runnersworld.com got messed up again.  I got it back, but it’s off a little so I am adjusting as I go.  I’ll run my 12-miler on Saturday and that will finish out a good week of running.

Next week will be triathlon week.  Yeah!  I only go round to setting up and planning for just one triathlon this year, so it’s kind of a big deal for me.  It’s the same sprint tri I did last  year in September.  This will make my second tri and I’m hoping to see improvement over last year (which wasn’t bad at all BTW).  I will once again take the Fuji out for the bike portion (do not fix what ain’t broke).  I’m also making some last minute decisions on how to handle some other issues with transition.

The transition area at the Rose City Tri is very sandy, so I’m concerned about my bike shoes.  I wear Speedplay pedals and I know I won’t have time to put on or take off the covers in the bike out area.  I also haven’t learned how to lean over and do my shoes up on the bike (I don’t balance well).  The reason it’s of a concern is that the cleats on the Speedplays are big open holes that can easily clog up.  We’ll have to wait and see on that point.

I am also taking a hat with a bill this year for the run.  Last year, I just turned my cycling hat around and wore it on the run.  But, the run portion has a lot of east-west running and it’s right in the face of the sun.  I’m not a fan of that on or off the bike, so a hat will be a help.  It doesn’t take long to put on in transition.  Finally, swimming should be better since I can do the whole distance with freestyle strokes now.

I started with “where to go from here”, but I think I have a good idea where that will be, or at least I have an inkling.  I will say, as I did earlier on Twitter, that it feels very odd not going to work every day.  Yes, it’s only the first week.  However, in thirty years or so of work, I’ve not had very long between jobs.  It feels as if I’m breaking some kind of rule.  As if there is some rule encoded in the Universe that says we are supposed to be at work every weekday.  There is one like that isn’t there?

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It is that time again.  I am not certain why I anticipate the wait so much for this one event each year.  It’s not necessarily one of my best at finishing.  I’ve only completed the 100-miler once, but it still is the one I anticipate each year.  It’s time to get ready for riding the 100 miler in Wichita Falls, TX again.  It’s time for the Hotter-n-Hell.

One does have to admit, for cycling in TX (and OK, NM, and other parts as well) this is the big party.  North Texas does not have a lot of century rides.  There are a few more down south, but still not a lot.  There are also very few rides around that can boast of a turnout between 12,000 and 14,000 riders nearly every year.  But, there you have it, 100 miles in 100 degrees.  It’s a really big cycling party.

However, if you don’t wish to, you don’t have to ride 100 miles.  You can choose any ride between 100K (62 miles) and 10K (6.2 miles).  You can ride a mountain bike trail and you can even run a trail race.  Why, if you’re really adventurous, you can do all three (NOT!).

Enough of the advertising, I don’t get paid to do that.  I like cycling and I’ve liked it for a long time, much to the chagrin of my family.  Cycling is both speed, endurance, and work and the HH100 is all three of these put together.  I’ve practiced all Spring and Summer to get ready for this one trip.  I am hoping that it will pay off and I can do well.

My experience at the HH100 is kind of spotty.  In 2008, I rode it for the first time and finished in 8 hours.  That was great and though the miles from about 75 to 95 were painfully slow, I counted it a good time.  I had to miss 2009, but in 2010, I took out way too fast.  I did a personal best of averaging 17 miles per hour in 20 miles and then 15 in 30 (get where this is going).  When I turned the corner at Punkin Center, I hit wind.  By Hell’s Gate (the cutoff point for being allowed to finish the 100), I was wasted.  I made the gate, but I bailed after that.  Last year, I was ready and my mind and plan were ready, but my bike wasn’t.  10 miles or so out from the start, I broke a spoke and had to turn around and come back.

So, in my off time this year, I spent it learning about wheels, spokes, truing, tensioning and all that stuff.  I rebuilt the rear wheel on the Trek and fixed it to withstand the rigors of my weight.  Then, in the Spring, a friend gave me new wheels and parts for my 1986 Fuji.  The difference has been very good.  I have always liked the Fuji’s ride, because it was a steel bike.  However, it was always slower because it was a steel bike.  The new parts for the Fuji were all lighter and more durable (Camagnolo crankset, Ambrosio wheelset, DuraAce rear derailleur and freewheel).  With the weight change came a better speed and an easier ride.  I did end up having to buy a new brakeset for it because the old ones just weren’t up to snuff.  A near accident on one Spring ride made me cough up some bucks for that upgrade.

Fuji after upgrades

This is the Fuji just after the upgrades, but before the new brakeset.

I’ve been actively comparing the two bikes for a few rides to see which one really was going to do better.  In the end, I have to go with the Fuji. The ride is just more solid and with the newer crankset, I can pedal nicely and hold 16 mph.  This should really help out.  I know that I will have to get to 60 miles out and still feel like I’ve got another 40 in me.

We are also getting a new 100 mile route this year.  When my sweetie and I rode in 2008, she really liked getting to go through the rest stop that Sheppard Air Force Base puts on.  And, I’ve heard that from several other friends that ride.  This year, even the 100 mile route is fixed to go through the Sheppard AFB rest stop.  I can’t wait to visit.

There’s not a lot left to do.  I took the Fuji out yesterday afternoon and cleaned it up real well.  I put new chain lube on and got things spiffied up for the ride. Tonight, after dinner, I’ll load up the bike in the Kia along with as much else as I can.  Fill up and freeze my polar bottles and then remember to go to bed REALLY EARLY!  We drive up to Wichita Falls because you have so much difficulty getting a room.  That means we need to leave out by 2:30AM to be there in time for a good parking spot for sweetie and to get my packet.  The ride starts at 7:05AM, just after sun up.

It’s like this with lots of things we do every day.  We do our best to prepare and to get ready.  Yet, we have to wait until the right time for something to happen.  It’s not possible to force things to go your way and even when you’ve done everything, there is a lot that is just out of your control.  I think that’s why to marathoners, the journey up to the start line is just as important as getting across the finish line.  I hope that tomorrow I will have done everything just right so that I can do well and get across the finish line.  That will be job number one all day long.  And, if I’ve done everything I can and things go right (Lord willing), maybe, just maybe I might be able to shave a half hour or so off that 2008 time.  Happy cycling!

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I count myself a lucky person.  I was fortunate enough to get to do two rides, back-to-back, in the same month.  If you’ve been riding, running, or tri-ing for a while you probably have figured out it’s a little expensive sometimes.  I am on a budget, both of time and money in regards to my “hobby”.  Therefore, I usually only do one ride or race activity per month.  However, because of a lucky set of circumstances, I got to ride the Tour dePepper on June 9th and the Tour d’Italia this past Saturday.

This was my fifth Tour d’Italia and was my best so far.  For those that haven’t caught on yet, the Tour d’Italia is in Italy…Texas.  We have most of the world’s great places here in Texas: Paris, Italy, Athens, New London, and Rhome.  There might be others, but I haven’t discovered them yet.  Italy is a small town in Ellis County south of Dallas County, where I live.

The Lone Star Cycling club puts on the Tour d’Italia each June to benefit the Italy High School athletic program.  There are rides from 12 miles up to the 100K that I rode this year.  I’ve ridden the 40 and 50 milers in the past.  However, I like to ride the TDI (as it’s called for short) because much of it runs through Navarro County to Italy’s south.  That’s where much of my Texas ancestry comes from.  Riding the TDI helps me remember places where I grew up as a kid fishing with my grandfather.

Though this is my fifth TDI, it is only the second 100K that I have finished.  I was plagued on the first three by mechanical issues, mostly breaking spokes.  The second year I had the Fuji, but only rode the 5o-miler as the Fuji and I were not completely up to making 63 miles.  However, last year I finally broke the barrier and rode my Trek for the full 100K and this year, finished in good time with the new and improved Fuji (and me too, I think).

The course for the TDI runs over a lot of country pasture and farm land through Navarro County, although it does get near the Navarro Mills lake area for a while.  One of the best rest stops on the tour is the 30-mile stop at the park near the dam.  These guys put out a great snack feast for the riders with fig newtons, plums, and nectarines. It is also the first spot on the tour where you can get a towel soaked in ice water.  In June, that’s pretty helpful.

This year, as we rode west on Highway 31 toward the 30-mile point, and just as we were going to turn north to the rest stop, we saw something interesting.  A lady rider was walking her bike back to the turn from further down the road.  Not too unusual.  I’ve missed turns before.  However, just as we were turning, she asked, “Where does the 30-mile route turn?”

What?  I had looked at my Garmin just a little back and we had crossed 28 miles.  Most just encouraged her to turn with us, but she also learned she had missed the 30-mile turn quite a while back.  By the time she made the rest stop, she had her 30 miles done.  I didn’t find out what happened, but she had a couple of choices: finish out with 50 or 60 (she had also passed the 40-mile turn), or SAG back and finish with her 30.  Yep, she done had her 30 for the day.

The TDI course is a lot less hilly than the Tour dePepper I rode the week previous.  I was able to keep up a good pace.  By 30 miles I was still at 14 mph average.  I started losing it somewhere near the fourth rest stop around 45 miles.  Even though we had some south wind, it wasn’t atrocious and it didn’t benefit us much as we turned north.  Though the morning was cool for June, it began to heat up as we crossed over 3.5 hours.  However, everything held on pretty well.  I finished up my 63 miles in 4:49; breaking five hours only about the third time since I began riding.

The TDI and the Tour dePepper will finish up my Spring riding.  I am glad to end it on a good note.  I’ve put three good 100K rides together this Spring: Head for the Hills, Tour dePepper, and the TDI.  I’m going to ride round here for the next couple months while I get ready for the Hotter-n-Hell in late August.  I have a good running/cycling/swimming schedule put together, and  if things hold together, I should be able to do the 100-mile in under 8 hours.  At least for now, the bike is doing well and I’m doing well.  Enjoy your Summer.  Happy cycling!

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This past Saturday, I ran in the first race since Bold in the Cold 15K in January.  I have been rebuilding my running since shortly after that race because of a swimming injury.  The Beat the Heat 5K was my first race since the injury and I think I can count the injury “under control” at least.  In addition, I had a good time at a small, quite new race in my town of Irving.

This was the second year for the Beat the Heat 5K and fun run.  They added a 10K and hired a local race director to oversee the racing.  Both were good choices to keep the race improving and getting runners to come out.  The normal time for the race is in late April and that’s where I think it gets its name.  North Texas heat sets in early in our neighborhood.  The race benefits Family Promise of Irving, a chapter of Family Promise that seeks to overcome homelessness among families in our area.  The organization partners with local churches to provide temporary shelter and day services to assist families that are recently homeless to get back on their feet.  My church is one of the partners as well as many others in Irving.  This race is one way that Family Promise of Irving raises funds for their mission.

I chose to run the 5K at this race because I wasn’t sure where I would be in mileage at this time.  However, my longer runs are up to 6 miles and I have begun to build some speed also.  Since this would be a 5K, I was hoping to see how well I could run.  My goal was to see if I could break the 30-minute barrier.

The morning was cool, but not too much; yet, the wind was fairly strong.  The race was held near Las Colinas Elementary in north Irving.  There are some  pretty good hills around the school area that would give us a challenge.  The race organizers invite the churches involved with Family Promise to set up booths at the race and my church was well represented.  We have a good group of older guys that do a lot of cooking for different things and they came out to help serve goodies for the runners.

We had a good selection of goodies for the race.  Chik Fil A had donated chicken biscuit sandwiches and Einstein bagels provided…well…bagels.  There were also fruits and pastries as well as a good supply of coffee.  The guys were trying their best to peddle the chicken sandwiches and other goodies before the race, but with little luck.  They weren’t aware that a lot of runners won’t eat much before a run or race, especially shorter ones.  I had a banana just to make sure I had something in my stomach, but I was waiting until after the race for the better stuff.

There was a little disorganization evident with the race start and the sound didn’t work out.  However, they got the kiddos off on their fun run on time and got set up for the 5K/10K.  We would start at 8:30AM after the kiddos were finished.  The little guy that came in first ran his mile in 6:05.  Someone should keep an eye on him.

We started just a little after 8:30, I think, but close.  The gate narrowed us down a little, but the field wasn’t huge so we all got out quick.  I took off too fast, but tried to hold it as far as I could.  I had to back off at about 3/4 of a mile.  I could still hold a good pace, but it was slower.  We went down a long hill on Kinwest Parkway right off the bat.  This looked like it would be our “demon” coming back up for the finish.  We turned a corner onto a side street at about a mile out.  By then we were at our second water stop.  I didn’t stop at this one and at the first, I barely slowed down.  I got a little bit in me and some on me.  I still haven’t’ figured out how to drink and run; just not that coordinated.

Our turnaround came up fairly quick and not too long after I saw the leader going back.  There were several friends from my church that were running.  One of our preachers was about a half minute in front of me at this point, so we saw each other on the turn around.  There was a lot of uphill going back, but I kept my pace pretty well.  On a side note, this was my first race to use my Android phone instead of my Garmin.  It worked well, but with it in my back pocket, I don’t really know what my pace is.  In the future, I should probably stick with my Garmin for races since it lets me see the pace and control it better.

I didn’t see a sign for the second mile.  Yet, I knew where I was since “the hill” was here.  I kept my pace as well as possible up the hill, but had to slow down near the top.  It was…large.  However, I made it over and that left only a short run up to the finish.  I saw a shadow of a couple that kept pace with me near the end coming up from behind.  That was all I needed to put in the kick to get to the finish.  I could see that the gun clock was just barely over 31 minutes.  Not the goal, but still a PR.  Now for that chicken sandwich.

I waited around and talked with other folks and watched to see one friend come in from the 1oK.  When I left, I stopped by the table to see the postings for the 5K.  My final time was 31:14, but I was sure the counter was wrong since it listed that I was the 19th runner in.  I chalked that up to technology and just went home.  When I checked the web site posting later, I was amazed.  I finished first in my age group (50 -59) and was 19th across the line of 97.  So, not just a PR, but a win as well.  That was still hard to believe.  My preacher had also finished first in his age group.  And, for the naysayers, we weren’t the only ones in the division either.

This is a great little race with lots of good volunteers, a challenging course, and for a great cause.  They are still going through birth pains and learning how to do things, but for just their second year, they are doing great.  I had a good time and got to run with friends, which I don’t often get to do.  The goodies to eat were exceptional and our swag bags weren’t bad either.  It’s a race I will certainly sign up for next year; maybe the 10K next time.  Happy running!

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And, a good time was had by all.  That’s just the best way I can say it.  This is my third year to ride the Moritz Chevrolet Ride for Heroes in Aledo, TX.  Even though I chose not to do the whole 63 miler, it was a great ride.

One couldn’t have asked for better weather on this April Saturday.  It was 49 degreesF when I got up and the high was forecast for only 74.  In addition, the winds would be light.  I did better this year by going ahead and planning for the cool weather.  We had a similar cool morning last year, but the day was warmer, I believe.

I had not been able to do very many longer rides in preparation, so I was a little apprehensive about doing the 100K route.  However, I saw that I could bail onto the 44-mile route if I needed to do so.  Somewhere around 20 miles or so, I realized that I should since tomorrow, I have a five hour safety class on the bike.  To make the class, I am going to  have to ride to church, leave a little early, ride to the class, and then spend most of the day on and around the bike.  It was better to have a fun ride today and not risk a bad day tomorrow.

And, that was a good plan.  The riders spread out fairly soon enough that by 10 miles or so, riding was pretty good.  The courses for the Ride for Heroes ride is very hilly.  My choice to take my Trek with the compact chainrings was a good idea.  I’m not sure me and the Fuji are ready for almost straight up hills.  Fortunately, there aren’t too many of those.  Just enough to keep one humble.

This is the 10th annual Ride for Heroes and it raises money for several of Parker County’s Fire departments and the Parker County Sherriff’s Reserves.  The ride starts and ends at Aledo High School and the students are many of the volunteers.  It is very nice to have them encouraging riders coming and going from the rest stops.

Additionally, this is also one of the better supported rides I attend.  The Parker County city and county law enforcement folks do a great job of guarding the intersections and corners where the cyclists turn.  Knowing we will have a safe path to ride makes any ride better.

The roads around the routes vary quite a bit.  Some of them are in wonderful shape, while some are not as good.  You do have to be on your toes to avoid bumps and ruts.  I do think a lot of this comes from the gas drilling equipment that plies the county’s roads.  However, the routes are scenic and well laid out.

Having frequent course changes during a long ride is a preference of mine.  Since the Ride for Heroes routes are well marked, I enjoy getting to change direction quite often.  Some rides will have very long straight stretches of road that make you wonder when the road ends.  Getting to change direction fairly often keeps the monotony down and the morale up.

If there was a down side to today at all, it was that my Android died right at the end of the ride, with all my GPS tracked route on it.  I did have my Garmin on and working, but I also forgot to switch it to cycling.  I had to do math in my head while riding to know what my mph’s were.  In running mode, the Garmin only gives minutes/mile.  The dead phone also meant I had to ride around the parking lot until I spotted my wife’s car.  Fortunately, she hadn’t moved far.

The final time tally didn’t show it (3:31:10), but I believe I rode much better than I had been riding.  I definitely know I handled the hills better than in the past.  I probably just spent too long at a couple of rest stops.  No flare ups from the left foot was a good bonus, and a good reason to stop at 44 miles.  Now that I’ve gotten the season’s first ride done, I can look forward to more rides where I can handle the bigger challenges.  Hotter-n-Hell Hundred is on my list again.  Happy cycling!

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Yes, I have procrastinated my posts until I am on vacation.  After a very busy Winter and Spring (for work, not riding or running, obviously), I finally got time to take some time off.  I thought I would catch up on my posts, but hey, it’s vacation.  What’d you expect?

Seriously, time off has been good.  I’ve gotten to spend time with the most important person in the world (sweetie), and got some needed things done around the house.  However, there has been some stuff for me this week as well.  A colleague gifted me a vintage Schwinn Series 70 mountain bike.  At the time, it was Schwinn’s top-of-the-line mountain bike, and the one I had seemed in great condition.  Until this week, I did not have enough time to get it out and clean it up and see if it would ride well.

Disclaimer time: I am not a mountain biker, nor do I intend to become one.  However, I have some friends that ride some local trails and it would be nice to ride with them…upon occasion.  I have enough trouble riding the roads and not causing injury.  I can’t imagine riding paths that would be actively seeking my downfall.

Surprisingly, the Schwinn cleaned up well and didn’t really need a lot of adjustment.  The frame is a little on the small side for me (17″ I think), but it’s adjustable.  I would really like to have a lot of standover height on a mountain bike, IMO.

The clean up job came out real nice.  I rode it for just a little bit.  Long enough to realize I needed to raise the handlebars.  However, that presented a problem.  This Schwinn has a really good set of Shimano cantilever center-pull brakes (Yes, the purists might say the two terms are redundant, but I know some won’t understand ‘cantilever’).  The cables appear to be cut to length just right and the control pulley is on the stem.  There is no slack or adjustment to the cable and if I raise the stem, the brakes will lock up.  So, I need to get a new front cable so I can raise the bars.  Then, I can see if I will survive a trail.

Other than that, I am also trying to spend time learning Perl.  Perl is a programming language used very often on Unix PC’s and servers. It’s not  new, but it’s getting used a lot these days.  I felt I needed to add it to my arsenal of languages I already know.  I chose a good book to read, but the author takes a utilitarian approach by teaching how to re-invent the wheel on basic Unix utilities with perl.  Boring after five pages.  But, I need to get through these steps before getting to the good stuff later.  Yes, I’m weird.  So what?

Vacation will be over soon, but not before I get my first organized ride of the year in on Saturday.  It’s time for the Ride for Heroes in Aledo, TX.  I haven’t gotten to ride any really long distances this Spring.  My running has been good, so I hope to be able to get the 100K done.  We’ll see.

Then on Sunday, I get to spend five hours on traffic safety for my instructor course.  My city is working on becoming a bike friendly city.  It needs a certain quantity of League of American Bicyclist certified instructors as part of the criteria.  The city is generously paying for several of us to earn that designation and this weekend is one of our courses.  I’ve done the online portion and this is one of the next steps.  I think there is another after, but I’m not certain.  They’ll let me know, I’m sure.

It’s been a good week of rest.  Mostly, vacation is just a good time to get your mind off of work.  It can so easily take over.  We know as triathletes that we have to rest in order to avoid injury.  It’s also important to rest our minds and our spirits from time to time as well.  It’s been a good week and there are still some good things to do before it’s back to the grind.  Enjoy yourselves and don’t forget to tri hard.

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After seeing all the things that my daughter’s and other folks’ smartphones could do, coupled with lower prices, I decided it was time to upgrade.  I had known for a while that there were several  features of smartphones that could help me as a runner and cyclist.  So, I went to my provider and picked out one of their android-based smartphones and took off.

Well, sort of, took off.  There is a bit of a learning curve for smartphones, but not a great one.  More of it involves getting used to the change in speeds of things happening, but more on that in a bit.

I chose an android-based phone for several reasons: 1) it’s not Apple, and 2) the android operating system is based on Linux/Unix.  I’m not exactly an Apple-hater, but I dislike their prices, their exclusivity, and their fakery.  Yes, fakery.  Underneath Apple’s fancy OSX disguise is just a regular old Linux kernel.  The same kernel that runs my own PC.  Whether that carries over to the iPhone or not, I don’t know.  And, since the android OS is based on the Linux kernel, I am comfortable working with a Linux OS if I need to or want  to do so.

To describe what I expected to happen as far as running and cycling goes with a smartphone, let’s start with how I normally ‘hook up’.  Generally, when I am running, I carry my Garmin 305 and an iPod nano (Yes, it’s Apple.  Please remember what I said about ‘exclusivity’).  On top of this outfit, I also would carry my cell phone for emergencies and contact.  My hope was to reduce three devices into one with the smartphone.

Now, how was I going to do that?  The android smartphone has two ways to handle music; on board mp3 playing and Pandora.  Playing your mp3 files on an android phone is about as simple as the iPod, though getting them there is not.  In order to move my mostly iTunes-based library over requires some artful digging into folders and some conversion work.  Then I have to dismount the micro-SD storage card, put it in an adapter, plug the adapter in my PC and move the files then vice-versa.  Quite a bit of work.  It would be much easier if I could just move my iTunes library over.

But, remember that word exclusive I used in context with Apple?  Yep, you guessed it.  Can’t do that.  Since the android OS is a part of the Google system, and iTunes is exclusive to Apple stuff, I can’t get iTunes for my android smartphone.  So, my library transfers are a work in progress.  Though, for getting new music, the Amazon mp3 store is a good alternative.  And, that brings me to Pandora.

Pandora is an online web site/service that has an app for the android phone.  In Pandora, you look up styles, genres, or artists in music that you like and it builds a “radio station” around that choice.  Pandora streams music to your phone that are similar in style to your primary choice.  As an example, I have a Roy Orbison station on Pandora.  It then sends music from Orbison, but also from Chuck Berry as well as others from the same era or style.

However, Pandora has some features not conducive to all types of running music.  It’s a bit slow to start up because it depends upon your connection to its servers.  It requires a lot of data transfer so you best have an unlimited plan, and you can’t go backwards on the smartphone (you can on your PC).  In addition, whether it’s Pandora or your own mp3’s, the tactile feel of changing songs or stop/start on an iPod is still superior.  However, I have found that on shorter runs so far, in town, that it works well enough.  Oh, and don’t forget, they play ads too, but not as many as a regular radio station.

Now, for the Garmin stuff.  I use MapMyRide.com to log my rides/runs and they offer an app for the android OS to have MayMyRide right on my phone.  In addition to the regular features of the web site (adding routes, logging workouts, logging calories), the android app uses the GPS of the smartphone in order to log the route and the workout simultaneously.

The first time I tried this out was on a walk during my injury recovery.  It was less than stellar.  I couldn’t quite figure out how to change stations, so I was stuck with the shuffle feature of Pandora.  I have since figured that out but I still wouldn’t recommend changing a station mid-run.  Difficult and lots of dead air.  The MapMyRide workout recording did well, but I had a severe problem starting and stopping the workout.  MapMyRide’s server connections are severely slow and too much dependence on that keeps things slow.  They would do better writing the app to use local resources on the phone and only up/download at the beginning and end of the workout.

I have since taken a couple of short runs using just the smartphone.  I have been able to improve upon my use by adjusting what I am doing.  I start Pandora and choose my station before I leave the house.  I start the MapMyRide app and let it sit idle and getting ready right up until I start my run.  I know I have to get the phone back out before I end the run and make sure it’s ready to stop the workout recording before I get to the end.  And, it’s important to keep the MapMyRide app on your display so you don’t fumble with that when you’re ready to stop.

Smartphones can certainly make things easier on cell phone users and athletes.  However, they come with their own new set of difficulties and limitations.  In their place, they operate just fine.  Out of their place, our older devices will still work better.  I am just starting to test the use out on bike rides.  That’ll be a future post.  For now, I will continue using my smartphone on shorter runs (<5K) and stick to my Garmin and iPod for my longer runs. There are probably lots of other apps for android and iPhone users that might be better, simpler, faster, and/or easier.  If you know of them, comment and let me know.  Happy running!

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