Skechers GOrun Ride 4

May 21, 2015

It has been way, way too long since I’ve done any kind of review here but, today, that drought ends.  If you’ve visited the blog before, you know I’m a big fan of the offerings of Skechers Performance, having previously reviewed the Ride3 and Bionic.  I’ve now had a good amount of time to test out one of the newer entries in the SP lineup, the Ride4, including using it for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Washington, DC and trying it out in a sprint triathlon.

To get the basics out of the way, the Ride4 is a neutral shoe with a 4 mm drop.  Like many other SP shoes, you can remove the stock insole to turn it into a zero-drop shoe, which I’ve done with the Bionics and have really liked.  The Ride4 also makes use of SP’s M-strike technology, which is meant to encourage a midfoot strike, and their GOimpulse sensors, which are designed to provide more sensory feedback with the ground.  Reported weight comes in at 8.4 oz.

IMG_1661

I’ve yet to be disappointed by an SP shoe and the Ride4 has proven no exception.  I particularly like the update in the upper from the 3 to the 4, which features a lot more mesh and improved laces.  What you cannot see, unfortunately, is the inclusion of a small thumb hole in the ankle of the shoe, which allows for the shoes to be pulled on quickly, aided by the slightly elastic upper and softer heel cup.  I rarely even untie these shoes on a day to day basis.  While many might not make much use of the pull hole, I found it very helpful when I tried them out in a sprint triathlon, allowing me to slip on the shoes quickly in transition.

On the triathlon side, though, I would note that the seem at the top of the forefoot, where gray meets black, did not agree with my bare feet…at all, giving me a pretty decent abrasion when I tried the shoes sockless.  With socks, I’ve never experienced any issues with irritation.
The sockless issue aside, I love running in these shoes.  Whether or not the M-Strike technology actually affects my stride, I don’t know, but I do know I at least FEEL like it’s easy land on my midfoot, with the ride never feeling clunky.  It’s hard to pinpoint why, but these shoes feel a lot lighter underfoot than the claimed weight might indicate.  What I particularly like is that, unlike many lighter weight shoes, the Ride4’s toe box feels generously wide, without feeling like my feet are sloshing around side to side.
So, if you’re looking for a lightweight trainer or racer for triathlons or longer races, I’d highly recommend you check out the Skechers Performance Ride 4 as an option!

 

Boston Marathon 2015 Happenings

April 1, 2015

Well, it certainly has been a while since I’ve dusted off the old blog, but nothing inspires me to write like the Boston Marathon!  There are sure to be lots of great events surrounding marathon weekend, and I aim to make this your one-stop source for all of them.  I’ll update the post as new events are posted, please let me know in the comments if I’m missing anything!

Tuesday, April 14

6:00-9:00 p.m. – Adidas Event: City Sports Back Bay.  Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon Director, will speak followed by a 2-3 mile shake out run. After the run, join us for a FREE pasta party courtesy of Adidas.

Thursday, April 16

7:00 a.m. – At Tracksmith (285 Newbury St.): Join us at every morning at 7 sharp from April 15 through April 22 for some brisk runs along the beautiful banks of the Charles River. Runs will be led by the Tracksmith Team, including 2016 Olympic Trials marathon qualifier (and Tracksmith product-fulfillment stud), Eric Ashe, with post-run hydration provided by Nuun.

5:30 p.m. – Tracksmith Amateur Press Conference:

While sports media tend to focus on the marathon frontrunners, the real story of Boston has always been about the accomplishments of the amateur athletes. Those runners who rise to the exceptional qualifying standards of this marathon with no promise of a laurel wreath.

Come listen to Mario Fraioli of Competitor Magazine moderate this Q&A with some of the top amateur runners, including Olympian Ruben Sanca.

6:00-9:00 p.m. – Brooks Lobster Event: City Sports Back Bay.  Stop by City Sports to celebrate the launch of the new Brooks lobster shoe. Enjoy a 2-3 mile fun run followed by FREE lobster rolls, a live DJ, and raffle prizes. All attendees will receive a special gift from Brooks.

Friday, April 17

6:30 a.m. – That’s right.  A.M.  Have you ever wanted to say “I’ve done the exact same workout as Olympian Shalane Flanagan?” or “Michael Wardian and I are part of the same nationwide workout group?” or “FUCK YEAH!”?  Then you need to join November Project Boston for their Summit Ave workout in Brookline.  Don’t want to do a hill workout right before the marathon?  Go do some exercises with the Injury Deck people, or just go cheer on everyone else.  The point is: Just show up.  UPDATE: It appears Chris McDouggal has verbaled!

7:00 a.m. – At Tracksmith (285 Newbury St.): Join us at every morning at 7 sharp from April 15 through April 22 for some brisk runs along the beautiful banks of the Charles River. Runs will be led by the Tracksmith Team, including 2016 Olympic Trials marathon qualifier (and Tracksmith product-fulfillment stud), Eric Ashe, with post-run hydration provided by Nuun.

5:00 p.m.: Bring your friends for an evening shake-out run hosted by Olympic medalist Deena Kastor and Runner’s World Chief Running Officer Bart Yasso. Evening will include:

· Fun run offered to runners of all levels
· Post –run refreshments
· Race day tips from Bart + Deena
· Chance to check out the latest Asics apparel and running shoes
· Secure bag check during run

FREE ASICS Gift Bag for the first 50 runners who attend.

Asics Store: 328 Newbury St.

6:00 p.m. – At Tracksmith (285 Newbury St.):

Ever since we started Tracksmith last year, perhaps the one question we heard most often was, ‘What about women?’ Well, the time has come; we’re going co-ed.

Please join us for the launch of our women’s collection, painstakingly considered to address the needs and aesthetics of competitive women who take their running seriously.

6:00-9:00 p.m. – Converse Event: City Sports Back Bay.  Join City Sports for an awesome event sponsored by Converse. Enjoy free giveaways, a live DJ, and refreshments.

7:00 p.m. – Harvard Book Store and Runner’s World welcome Skechers Performance elite athlete MEB KEFLEZIGHI, winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon, 2009 New York City Marathon, Olympic Silver Medalist, and founder of the MEB Foundation, for a discussion of his book Meb for Mortals: How to Run, Think and Eat like a Champion Marathoner. The evening will be hosted by Runner’s World Editor-in-Chief DAVID WILLEY, who will be joined on the panel by 1968 Boston Marathon champion and long-time Runner’s World editor AMBY BURFOOT, TCS New York City Marathon Race Director MARY WITTENBERG, and Meb for Mortals co-author SCOTT DOUGLAS.  http://www.harvard.com/event/meb_keflezighi/

Tickets can purchased online only at meb.eventbrite.com.

Saturday, April 18

7:00 a.m. – At Tracksmith (285 Newbury St.): Join us at every morning at 7 sharp from April 15 through April 22 for some brisk runs along the beautiful banks of the Charles River. Runs will be led by the Tracksmith Team, including 2016 Olympic Trials marathon qualifier (and Tracksmith product-fulfillment stud), Eric Ashe, with post-run hydration provided by Nuun.

9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. – Janji Shakeout  Run: City Sports Back Bay.  Prepare for 26.2 with Janji and City Sports! Join us for a short shake out run followed by refreshments and a Coach Greg McMillan meet and greet.

10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. – Join Meb Keflezighi and coach Greg McMillan and learn the secrets to Boston Marathon success!  Meet and greet from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Lenox Hotel, 61 Exeter St. at Boylston, Dome Room, 2nd floor.  All attendees receive a free UCAN sample pack and autographed photo of Meb!  Please register at: generationucan.com/bostonmeb

11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. – Where: City Sports Back Bay.  Customize all of your official Adidas BAA apparel at City Sports!

12:00 p.m. – Best-selling author Christopher McDougall (“Born to Run”) will be in town on marathon weekend promoting his new book, “Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance.”

WalkBoston and the Somerville Road Runners are helping organize free fun runs with Chris before his book events!

Meet us on the steps of Old South Church for a pre-event fun run and Wild Fitness workout. We’ll set off toward the river, covering 5k with a mid-run workout led by Wild Fitness creator Tara Wood.

The run is free, though runners must still hold a ticket to gain admission to the 2pm and 7pm events.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1588430711443936/

Want a ticket to the event, too? More info here:
http://www.harvard.com/event/christopher_mcdougall1/

Info on the run in Cambridge later:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1593533410904258/

2:00-5:00 p.m. – New Balance Fresh Foam Event: Where: City Sports Back Bay.  Celebrate the New Balance Fresh Foam Limited Edition Boston shoe with City Sports! Stop by our back Bay location and try on a New Balance Fresh Foam and receive a free grilled cheese from Roxy’s Grilled Cheese!

4:00 p.m. – Tracksmith: Please join us on Saturday to celebrate the release of METER Magazine Issue #01.

METER is a quarterly journal of reportage and gorgeous photography that re-establishes a connection between the sporting heritage of running and its current group of participants and fans. Meet some of the contributors and enter a raffle to win limited-edition prints of some of the featured photography.

Sunday, April 19

9:00 a.m. – At Tracksmith (285 Newbury St.): Join us at every morning at 7 sharp from April 15 through April 22 for some brisk runs along the beautiful banks of the Charles River. Runs will be led by the Tracksmith Team, including 2016 Olympic Trials marathon qualifier (and Tracksmith product-fulfillment stud), Eric Ashe, with post-run hydration provided by Nuun.

9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. – Janji Shakeout  Run: City Sports Back Bay.  Prepare for 26.2 with Janji and City Sports! Join us for a short shake out run followed by refreshments and a Coach Greg McMillan meet and greet.

11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. – Where: City Sports Back Bay.  Customize all of your official Adidas BAA apparel at City Sports!

Monday, April 20

Post Race – At Tracksmith (285 Newbury St.): Post-Race Party –

Technically it’s not officially a sanctioned, certified marathon party, per se. But unofficially, it sort of kind of could be considered a marathon party-type thing.

And you’re officially unofficially invited. Join us for cold beers and marathon-related socializing to kick off your Monday afternoon post-race celebration.

A Tribute To Cobb Cycling’s Customer Service

October 28, 2014

Please forgive this foray entirely into the cycling world with nary a run to be mentioned, but I wanted to share a recent experience I had with Cobb Cycling that blew me away in terms of customer service.  I was fortune enough to win a saddle from Cobb through a contest put on by Maverick Multisport whereby I was closest to guessing the time for their athlete, Amber Ferreira at the Ironman World Championships in Kona (you should really check out Amber’s blog, it’s great).  Cobb Cycling is a team sponsor for Maverick and I had my pick of 3 saddles, the Fifty-Five JOF, SHC, and V-Flow Max.  Given that I’m looking to make my Caadilac more tri-specific, I was psyched to have the opportunity to kit it out with a beautiful new saddle to replace the stock one.

My first instinct was to go with the JOF, which seemed to be a reasonable choice for both road riding and triathlons if I ended up putting aero bars on the bike for racing, as I hope to in the future.  Maverick even went the extra mile and contacted Cobb to see if they could send me the oh-so-beautiful Electric Green version, because of my need to color-coordinate wherever possible.  I mean, how could I pass this up?

JOF_green_large

Before taking the plunge though, on a whim I checked in on the Cobb Cycling Facebook page (go ahead, like them, you know you want to) and asked if they had any advice for choosing between the three options given that I use my bike for road riding and may or may not add aero bars at some point.  Instead of just giving an answer, which would have been totally fine by me, they invited me to call someone specifically the next day to talk through the options, I think his name is Steve?  Scott?  I’m going to call him Scott for these purposes, but don’t hold me, or Scott, to that name.  When I spoke to him the first thing he did was ask some baseline questions, i.e. height and weight.  He then went through some more particulars, including riding style, where I tend to ride on my current saddle, and if I was more of a runner or cyclist when it came to leg shape.  In other words, I told him I have thunder thighs.

Taking all my details into consideration, “Scott” said he was going to recommend I not go with any of the three options and instead the Plus, which would be a versatile option that would suit me well.  He then gave the OK for me to let Maverick know that Cobb was cool switching up the prize, and it was all taken care of from there.

A couple weeks later, I received this in the mail.

2014-10-23 07.50.23

Soon, it shall be mounted atop my Cannondale, and my butt is just going to be SO very happy. I really can’t say enough about what a great experience it was working with Cobb Cycling. It was clear to me that it mattered to them that I be in the right Cobb saddle despite the fact that I wasn’t paying for it. I have to give Maverick kudos as well for being an excellent partner with their sponsor. Much love to go around. Thanks Cobb Cycling and Maverick Multisport!

Pilgrimman Triathlon Race Recap: The OK, The Good, and The Ugly

September 30, 2014

It seems as if a whole summer has passed since my last blog entry, which is unsurprising I suppose given that a whole summer has passed since my last blog entry.  I’d feel bad about that, but truth be told there’s really been very little to write home about as I’ve spent the summer trying to prepare myself for this past weekend’s Pilgrimman Olympic Distance Triathlon.  The advertised distances for the race were 0.9 mile swim, 28 mile bike, and 6.6 mile run.

I’m not entirely sure why, but there seems to be a naming convention for triathlons that includes “-man,” particularly if they include a 70.3 distance or longer, see Timberman, Eagleman, Pumpkinman, etc.  Though the timing is a bit off to be associated with Thanksgiving, Pilgrimman did take place in the Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth, MA, Myles Standish being a passenger on the Mayflower and first commander of Plymouth Colony’s militia.  Check out the flow on the pilgrim.

I set Pilgrimman, in its inaugural year, as my target race for my inaugural season training for triathlons and spent the summer building up my swim and bike strength while trying to maintain a semblance of running shape.  Of course, when I signed up for the race I didn’t have a very good sense of exactly where it was, nor did I know that registration would close at 7:30 a.m.  These two factors combined led to a 4:50 a.m. alarm so I could make sure that my whole race day wouldn’t be scuttled by a failure to get through registration on time.  This leads me to my first gripe with Pilgrimman, two gripes actually.  First, registration did not close at 7:30.  This gripe has more to do with being annoyed that I lost out on maybe 30 extra minutes of sleep and less to do with an insistence that races keep their word about when they say registration will close.  Frankly, it’s a good thing if they accommodate stragglers.  Still, it was clear that the 7:30 time was unnecessarily early.  Second, they had run out of all but extra-large size t-shirts by the time I checked in, around 7:20 a.m.  This was particularly vexing given that the shirt was included in the registration fee and I doubt there were many triathletes interested in XL size t-shirts.  Big deal?  Nah.  Annoying and an issue that should be addressed next year?  Yes, absolutely.  In any event, I was glad I had everything ready to go the night before so I didn’t have to wake up any earlier than I already had to.

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With registration materials in hand, I headed over to the transition area and got all markered up.  I wouldn’t exactly say the transition area was especially clearly laid out, but it was good enough and I was able to snag a primo piece of real estate on the bike rack.  Unlike at the Dam Triathlon, this time I had a decent sense of how to set up my transition area with the hopes of cutting down on my T1 and T2 times from my first attempt.  I munched on a half a pack of Honey Stinger chews to go along with my breakfast of toast and butter (note I include these details mostly in anticipation of a potential coach reading them at some point and critiquing my pre-race fueling) and passed the time talking with some fellow competitors, including one older gentleman rocking a wicked sweet pair of jorts over his tri-kit.  Finally, with everything in place, it was time to head down to the beach for the swim.

Despite my instincts towards laziness and an aversion to swimming any more than absolutely necessary, I convinced myself that everyone else who was in the water warming up must have some better idea about the right way to get ready for a swim than I did.  So, ever so slowly, I made my way into what turned out to be cold, cold water, at least to my delicate sensibilities.  Though all I wanted to do was rush back to shore and get warm, I ducked under the water and embarked on a roughly 50 meter warm-up swim.  OK, it wasn’t a lot, but I think it let me get over that first chest-crushing rush of coldness and anxiety that could otherwise completely sabotage the swim leg.  Fast forward through other age group swim starts and it was finally time to start.

That's me, bending down.

That’s me, bending down.

The swim was 3 laps for the Olympic distance, laid out in rectangular fashion with a short beach run from the end of each lap to the start of the next.  I’d like to think that I maintained a fairly even pace throughout the swim, slow that pace may have been.  There were two notable exceptions to the swim going pretty smoothly, the first being when, during the third lap, I veered too far left going around the first buoy (in a counter-clockwise fashion) and had to course-correct back up to the second buoy so that I didn’t cut the course.  Next, on the home stretch I somehow found myself swimming perpendicular to the beach, which, if you are unfamiliar with how races work, is not a good idea.  This is not a good idea, at all.  Thankfully I didn’t get too far before realizing my mistake, and powered through to the beach, dragging myself out of the water and beginning the trudge uphill to the transition.  Final time for the swim was 36:22, a 2:18 pace, good enough for a solid 109th place…out of 146…dang it.  I’m a slow swimmer.  Still, the performance was about what I would have expected, which makes it fine by me.

I tried doing the whole “running” thing but mostly ended up yogging and walking to my bike.  Learning from a mistake I made at Dam, which essentially boiled down to not listening to my mentor Jocelyn’s advice, I put my calf sleeves on under my wetsuit for this race, which meant I didn’t have to spend time pulling them on in T1.  I was dismayed to see that my helmet, which contained my sunglasses and gloves, had been knocked to the ground off my handlebars, but I can’t say it really cost me any time as a result, just annoyance.  I made it out of T1 in 3:44, a big improvement from the 5:01 it took me at Dam.

On to the bike leg.  The course was an out-and-back format, 7 miles out, 7 back, therefore requiring 2 circuits for the full distance.

Bike Course

Though the elevation gain doesn’t seem to reflect it, the course felt like it was an endless series of slight hills with very few flat stretches to speak of.

Bike Elevation

After the end of lap 1, I took one Salted Watermelon Gu and also removed my cycling gloves, which were threatening to numb my hands entirely.  Both turnaround spots featured hairpin turns around a cone, which leads me to the first of my 3 gripes concerning the bike leg, the first being the hairpin turns, which I found difficult to navigate in a narrow space and a big momentum killer.  Frankly, I don’t know what could be done to avoid this, but I don’t like those kind of turns in road races, let alone on the bike.  Next, traffic issues were a major concern for me.  On the first lap I had a run-in with a car that I felt got too close to me on a turn and exchanged some pleasantries with the driver.  I know it can’t have been easy for cars to pass riders given riders going both ways on the road, but as a result I ended up stuck behind cars going up a hill because they refused to pass the rider in front of me.  I’ll give the Pilgrimman RDs some credit for course management in terms of giving directions to riders as I understand from various Facebook posts that there were major issues in the sprint race the day before.  Still, course management remains a concern for me.  Finally, though I love volunteers and am grateful they were there for the race, I found that they crowded the road when handing out water, though maybe I just don’t know how these things work in triathlons, never having been offered water on a bike before.  I’m willing to chalk that last gripe up to personal discomfort with people being too close to me on the bike.

[EDIT: Pilgrimman has announced that the course will be changed next year to a closed course, which is great news.  I really respect how quickly they have moved to address concerns from racers, it’s the mark of a good RD and they should get credit for their alacrity.]

Some shots from the bike leg!

Pilgrimman Pilgrimman DM_140928_8572

I didn’t pass as many people on the bike leg as I did at Dam, but I was still pretty happy with an average pace of 18.7 MPH.  That said, I have a feeling that I extended myself too much, sapping crucial energy for the run.  My time ended up at 1:29:39, good enough for 62nd place on the bike leg, which I can be pleased with.  I quickly racked my bike, gulped down some Gu Brew and a salt tab (thanks to Alett for the suggestion), pulled on my New Balance 890 v4s and headed out of the transition zone to begin my last leg, with a T2 time of 2:11, down from 2:42 at Dam.

I started the run feeling tightness in my quads, and that was about as good as I’d feel all run.  The run course started uphill.  The run course continued uphill.  The run course never stopped uphilling.  OK, that’s an exaggeration, still, the course just felt brutal to me, even though it probably might not have been so hard if it was just a road race.  I had to stop about a half mile in for a bio break – it would not be the last time I had to stop running.  It didn’t take too long to get the feeling that I just did not have very much left in my legs for the run and I soon became fairly demoralized by the feeling that I was running on what seemed to be a net uphill loop, which I previously did not think was possible (that’s a lie, there was a long period in high school when I argued that the Stratton Brook XC course was more uphill than downhill, despite being a loop).  I likely wasn’t in the best frame of mind, but I do have to point out my final two gripes for the course, both having to do with the water stops on the run.  The first probably has to do with me being a curmudgeon, but at the mile 1 water stop the volunteer asked if I wanted water, bottled water, or Gatorade.  I don’t blame the volunteer, and again maybe this is me not understanding the triathlon world, but at that point I just could not process or deal with trying to figure out why I was differentiating between “water” and “bottled water.”  Upon reflection, I’ll move this gripe into a personal preference clash as, maybe, triathletes like getting bottles of water they can carry with them and sip as needed.  Maybe some people put this feature of the race into their plus category.  However, I think my second gripe, now technically my first, is legitimate, namely that the Gatorade on the course was really, really gross.  I’m not sure what went wrong with the mixing process, but something did go terribly wrong, leaving it tasting really bad.  Perhaps this is all to say that maybe I should consider using a fuel belt in the future such that I can have better control over my own hydration needs, something I’ve never worried about in a road race, but, again, triathlon is a different world.

Pilgrimman Pilgrimman DM_140928_9387

As for the run course itself, other than feeling ludicrously hard, it was quite pretty running through the forest, at least during the times I could let myself appreciate the scenery.  All my fellow racers were friendly and encouraging, despite everyone around me appearing to be in some sort of pain or another.  Here are some pictures that relate to the course, and my slow, slow splits thereupon.

Run Course Run Elevation Run Splits

At long last I took the final turn onto the path leading to the finish, which, of course featured another slight incline.  I finished hot, exhausted, but proud.

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Oh, did I mention it was hot?  Like really hot?  Like “unseasonably warm” but hotter?  Well, it was hot.  Was I pleased with the run, which should have been my best leg?  Definitely not.  But, was I proud of the accomplishment of finishing?  You betcha.  There’s plenty to build on and I learned a lot of lessons about both training and racing, including:

  • Do.  More.  Bricks.
  • Swim more, swim faster when swimming more.
  • Run longer distances during training.
  • More bricks.
  • Think about adding a heart rate monitor to racing to not over-exert on the bike.
  • Be less fastidious in transition.
  • Swim straighter, sight more often.
  • Finally, more bricks.
  • Eat a better breakfast pre-race.

I’m sure there are more things I could have done better both in training and racing, but I’ll have to figure them out as I go along.  For now, I can be content with placing pretty darn squarely in the middle of the pack, 76th place overall and 6th in my age group.  I know I can do better.  I know I will do better, and I can’t wait until next tri season to prove it.

2014-09-28 12.49.45

p.s. I don’t want to come off overly harsh on my race experience.  This was a first time race, and it can’t be easy to stage a triathlon in its first year.  Overall it was a very good experience and all the volunteers were outgoing and helpful.  Fixing the t-shirt ordering and traffic issues would go a long way to smoothing the race experience as a whole but, on the whole, I think it was mostly a job well done by the RDs.

2014 Dam Triathlon Recap – I’m A Triathlete?

July 15, 2014

It’s been far too long since an update here, and now all of a sudden it’s like, wait, what, triathlon?  That’s right, dear reader, triathlon.  Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?  In the summer of ’97 I participated in my first triathlon at Winding Trails in Farmington, CT.  At the time, the format was a 1/4 mile pond swim, roughly 8 mile bike ride, then 5K trail run.  The weekly summer race series is still going strong, though they’ve switched up the bike to a 5 mile trail ride.  All the same, pretty neat that the tradition lives on these many, many years later.  At the time of these races not only did I not have a wetsuit (though most racers weren’t using them in the fairly warm water), not have a road bike, instead using my Mongoose mountain bike, but I was running in long mesh shorts and a cotton tank.  That’s right.  Frickin’ COTTON.  I shudder at the thought.  It would be a long time before I embraced the split short as anything but a cross country race piece of apparel.  But, embrace it I have since then.  About the only “legit” gear I had was were my trusty Nike Zoom Country racing flats.  Through the magic of technology, I have been able to take what were once actual physical photographs from those races that could be held in one’s hands and converted them into “digital files,” that I might share them with you.

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Sigh, look at that fine head of hair.  Also, please note the old school TYR swim briefs in the middle picture.  Cool briefs, bro.  I’m sorry if that came off as sarcastic, I really do think that dude rocks the grape-smuggler look with panache.

Between those heady high school days and this past weekend, despite having a love affair with road bikes and roughly a dozen solid intentions to get into triathloning, I only followed the sport from the sidelines while concentrating on road racing, geeking out over bike tech, and swimming every now and then for a couple weeks when injured.  Case in point, I purchased a Zoot wetsuit in November 2012 but did not open it until June 2014.  And so, I existed as a pure runner, at least until my wife and I decided to each get bikes.

After a number of test rides and trips to bike shops, which was very difficult work, let me tell you, I finally decided on a Cannondale CAAD8 bike, which seemed to be a good compromise between an “endurance” bike and a “racing” bike in terms of comfort and geometry.  Sure, I could be making that up, but it sounds right at least in my head.  Also, it’s pretty, don’t you think?

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I…like taking pictures of my bike.

Concord Ride Mass Ave Bridge

I joined up with local triathlon club Zoom Multisport and starting joining them for Track Tuezday workouts at the Harvard Track and gorgeous Walden Wednezday open water swims (OWSs) at Walden Pond in Concord, starting to get used to swimming in my wetsuit and the difference between pool swimming and non-pool swimming.

Walden 1

Walden Team

I mean, beautiful, right?  Not the worst way to start a day, if I do say so myself.

Now that we’ve established that I had a modicum of training under my belt in the three ancient disciplines of triathlon, let’s get onto the race recap of this past weekend’s Dam Triathlon.  That Dam race (I feel it necessary to overuse the Dam/damn thing as the race itself certainly did) consisted of a 1/2 mile swim, “13” mile bike leg, and “5K” run.  I use quotes to indicate that although the race may have said one thing about the distances, my Garmin said otherwise, as did others’.  In the end, the bike was likely more like 12.5 miles and the run 2.9.

Alright, let’s finally get to the race.  Friend and Zoom teammate Jocelyn picked me up bright and early and we loaded up her Subaru with my bike alongside hers, because taking anything other than a Subaru to a race involving bikes would be a USAT violation.  Arriving in Amesbury, I was downright giddy to go through the pre-race procedures of getting Sharpie’d up with my number and getting my ankle timing chip.  Then it was time to set up my transition spot, which just happened to be right next to another Zoomer, Greg.  Now, I’ve seen transition set-ups before, but somehow trying to do my own filled me with anxiety.  Above all, I didn’t want commit any newbie faux-passes.  Here’s what I ended up with.

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I even managed to do that nifty thing where you hook your bike onto the rack using the saddle…and it didn’t fall down!

And for my fellow shoe geeks, shoes.

Pearl Izumi plus Hoka One One.

Pearl Izumi plus Hoka One One.

Headed to the shore for the start of the race, Rebecca flagged me down and gave me some last minute words of encouragement.  She also got a pre-race shot.

They were supposed to have yellow swimcaps for new triathletes.  Instead, they wrote "NOVICE" on the regular ones.

They were supposed to have yellow swimcaps for new triathletes. Instead, they wrote “NOVICE” on the regular ones.

My swim wave was second in the water behind the elites and was to be a “waist-deep” start, which I didn’t know existed until that day.  I tried to relax a little bit before the start by joking around with my fellow swimmers to calm my nerves and it must have worked because, for my first time in open-water swimming, I didn’t have any moment of panic when I got into the actual swim.

I'm in the white cap.

I’m in the white cap.

My only strategy on the swim itself was to survive and maintain forward momentum.  I achieved the forward momentum goal, and survived as well, but definitely could have done a lot better job when it came to sighting, not that it likely would have done anything to change the fact that I left the water second to last in my age group (12/13) and behind a number of athletes that started 6 minutes after I did.  But, hey, I swam a half mile both without drowning and without collapsing on the beach in a huffing mess after it was over.  Final time for the swim was 17:49, which I’m pretty sure is a time I should be happy with given my training paces.

Photo by Rebecca.  Editing by Snapseed.

Photo by Rebecca. Editing by Snapseed.

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It would be fair to say that my first transition was glacial in pace. In fact, it took a whole 5:01.6.  I should have listened to J’s advice to put my calf sleeves on under my wetsuit and swam with them and I should have gone sockless rather than spending the time to dry off my feet, quite deliberately it would seem given the time.  Other than that, I’m not entirely sure what I could have done to get through the transition faster, but I’m sure as I get some more tris under my belt it’ll just…happen.  Finally, all set up, I made my out of T1.

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On to the bike!  I figured I’d be able to make up some time here and set off to do just that.  Then I missed the second turn, roughly 1/8 mile into the leg.  Oops.  Backtracking, I made it onto the real course and set my sights on the cyclists ahead of me.  Riding in the drops, I got into a good rhythm, focusing on keeping my cadence up and “spinning” rather than “pushing” the pedals.  Soon I was making up ground on, and then passing, other competitors, eventually settling in with about 4 or 5 other cyclists that I would trade spots with throughout the remainder of the leg.  I have to say that there was a moment around Mile 8 where I just had to smile, thinking “I’m racing on a bike right now, and that’s pretty neat.”  It was a truly unique moment in my pursuit of athletics, and one I enjoyed tremendously.  My final time on the bike was 39:24, good for a 19.1 MPH average according to Strava, my best MPH average over any distance to date, and 7/13 for my age group.  Speaking of Strava, here’s your Dam bike route map and elevation chart.

Dam Strava Bike

Sadly the official race photographer didn’t get any shots of the bike leg, but thankfully Rebecca was on the spot and got some!

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And then it was into T2, which I managed to navigate a lot faster than T1, likely because it mostly involved changing shoes and taking off my helmet.

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And then onto the run, which I hoped would be my best showing.  I slipped on the trial pair of Hoka One One Conquests the Hoka rep procured for me and made my way out to the course.  Although perhaps a bit heavier than the shoes I would normally race a 5K in, I was looking forward to the cushioning that the Hokas would give my legs and the Speed Laces were perfect in aiding my attempt to speed up my transition.  Also, they matched my Pearl Izumi cycling shoes, which is very important.

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Almost immediately, I was hit with the exact same problem I would have way back in high school switching over from the bike to the run…calf cramping.  Also, that whole legs feeling like “bricks” thing was exactly on-point.  I stopped at the side of the road to stretch out my calves whereupon Zoomer Lindsey came up on me and encouraged me to get going.  Thankfully that bit of stretching did the trick and I didn’t have any other issues with them.

The run course was about as hilly a”5K” course as I’ve run, which hills definitely took their toll on my already beaten legs.  I tried to keep my sights set on the runners ahead of me and do my best to pick them off as I could.  Given that I’ve run, and written about, my fair share of road races, I can’t say there was a lot to blog home about when it came to the run leg other than to note that, even in the heat, my Pearl Izumi tri shorts and Zoot tri top were both comfortable to run in.

After one last uphill push, there was a quick corner to turn before finally hitting the finish line, 1:25:48 after I started with a 20:53 run split, which was 5/13 in my age group.  Here’s the pace and elevation chart.

Dam Run Leg

And then, I was done, with a neat and glittery medal in hand.

2014-07-12 12.12.05

 

Flush with excitement, I met up with Rebecca and my fellow Zoomers whereupon we all helped ourselves to the Kegs and Eggs that makes the Dam Triathlon such an appealing race, i.e. one local beer plus some eggs, sausage and blueberry muffin.

The Dam Triathlon was a Dam good way to start my Dam life as a triathlete, or at least an adult triathlete.  Many lessons were learned, and there are many more to come, no doubt.   I’m very grateful for my supportive wife being there to not just cheer me on and take great action shots, but keep me posted on how I’m doing in the field.  Coming out of the water she told me “there are white caps behind you,” which was not quite technically true as there was only one white cap behind me, but it made me feel better nonetheless.  Also thankful for my Zoom teammates, in particular J, who helped me with innumerable training and race-day questions, and then provided more encouragement on the course.

Next up, the Borderline Running Club Triathlon, a 5 mile bike to a pond, 500 yard swim, 5 mile bike back to the start, then a 5K run and then, at the end of September, the Pilgrimman Triathlon, my attempt at the Olympic Distance!

Run, and tri, happy!

 

 

 

Cambridge 5K Freedom Run

June 11, 2014

When is a 5K not just an ordinary 5K?  When it ends with a wicked party, complete with what is essentially an open beer bar.  Such is the case with the Freedom Run, a Cambridge 5K race.  This would be my third Cambridge 5K race, starting with the VERT-Sasquatch Trail Race in 2012 and then the Yulefest in…2013 I believe.  The races are always well-attended with a young race crowd looking to have a great race and then a great party after.

I went into the race hoping for a good time on what I thought would be a fairly fast course.  After being only six seconds off my PR the previous week at the Oak Bluffs Memorial Day 5K, running 21:12 on a course with a few good hills, I thought that I might have a better time in me.  I decided the race would be the perfect time to break out my brand-spanking new November Project Grassroots Gear along with my relatively new New Balance 1400v2 racing flats.

photo 1

A cool feature of the race, which started at Cambridgeside Galleria, was the offer of free parking in the Galleria garage such that, even though I was running later than I wanted to be, I was able to park easily, jog through the mall to packet pick-up as a warm-up, jog back to the car and then to the start and feel like I’d gotten my muscles at least a little on the warm side.  I said a brief hello to friends Kat and Thor and then made my way to the starting line, weaving my way through the crowd to get to a spot close to the front.

I resolved in this race not to make the same mistake I did before in Oak Bluffs, i.e. going out too fast in the first mile.  At OB, I went through mile 1 in about 6:24 so, true to my plan, I took it nice and easy and cruised through mile 1 in 6:14.  Damn.  The good news was that I had thought the first mile felt pretty hard and that old “I just don’t have it today” refrain started passing through my head.  I say good news because it would have been really depressing to feel like my legs didn’t have any fast in them and then have it confirmed with a slow opening mile.  As it was, I could take comfort in knowing I had just run 1/3 of the race at a fast pace (for me).

Mile 2 was pretty much a straight shot down Hampshire St., followed by a sharp right on to Cambridge St.  Throughout the mile I could see Kat chugging away ahead of me and set my sights on trying to keep her close, knowing that she would be going at a pace that I’d like to get close to.  Somewhere along the way I got passed by the newly-returned-to-Boston Mike Dow, who proceeded to remove his shirt and truly give the fans a show.  There was little else to report for the mile, and it passed in 6:41, much better than mile 2 of the OB race, which was 7:01 (though that included the two climbs).

The 1.1 miles were a long straight shot down Cambridge St., affording a good view of the runners ahead of me and giving me some targets to keep sight of.  I wasn’t able to catch them, but hopefully just having that visual helped me avoid slowing down more than I might have otherwise.  Though the course featured some slight, gradual uphills here and there on the course, the only real hill came around mile 2.5 and last about 0.2 miles.  It wasn’t a real hill by most race standards, but coming so late on an otherwise flat course, it certainly took its toll.  During the hill, my pace jumped up to around 7:25, not exactly the pace I was hoping for.  But, with the course finishing on a downhill, I was able to put the hammer down, at least as much as I had in me, and I felt like I really turned in a solid kick effort.  It certainly helped to see the clock ticking inexorably towards the 21 minute mark and I really, really wanted to be under that time.  My final, official time?  20:44, good for a 22 second PR and an ecstatic feeling given that I hadn’t seen 20:xx for a 5K since high school.  I’m particularly proud of this picture because, I think you can see the effort in my face.

photo 2

Post-race, I met up with Kat and we hit the beer garden.  I wish I could say that I hit it hard, given that I had to drive after, but I still managed to have some tastes of the offerings from the likes of Night Shift, Notch, and Downeast Cider.  If you can take public transportation to a Cambridge 5K party/race, I definitely recommend you do so.

When I got home, I allowed myself a couple treats to celebrate the PR, enjoyed while attempting to do some gardening.  Long story short, I was exceedingly happy with a great result at a great race enjoyed with some great friends!

The tribe is strong.

photo

Road Runner Sports R-Gear High Five 5″ Short

May 27, 2014

This post kicks off an exciting new relationship with Road Runner Sports!  RRS was kind enough to send me some great clothes from their house R-Gear brand, along with a sweet running dufflebag, for me to review.  I’m going to kick off the reviews with the R-Gear High Five 5″ short.  Here they are, pictured below front and back.

IMG_1864 IMG_1865

Anyone who has seen my race pictures knows that, when it comes to race shorts, I like to keep things as short as possible, usually in the 3.5″ range.  Still, there are times when having a bit of extra coverage is more appropriate, particularly when it comes to group runs when I don’t want to be “that guy in the short shorts.”  What I love about these 5″ shorts is that they give me some extra coverage without making it feel like I am wearing basketball shorts.  You can see where they hit my leg here, which is to say about an inch or two above the knee.

IMG_1825

This is pretty much my ideal length.  The shorts feature a fairly standard built-in mesh brief that didn’t bind or chafe.  The shorts were, in a word: comfortable, even when tackling the stairs of November Project.  When I run, I don’t want to have to think about the clothes I’m wearing, either in a positive or negative light.  If I’m not thinking about them, they are doing their job, and I’m very happy to report that is the case with the High 5 shorts.  When I first put them on, I noticed that the waistband seems a bit thicker and…for lack of a better word, sturdier, than some of my other shorts.  I thought this might wind up bothering me, but instead it proved to be a positive feature, as the waistband material did a better job of staying put without a lot of need for a tight drawstring, which can cause unpleasant pressure in other shorts.  The shorts stayed put, no riding up, no twisting.

A final noteworthy aspect of the shorts are the pockets, which, for anyone training for a longer race, are quite important to get right.  What’s very cool about these shorts, and, I believe, unique among all the shorts I own, is that these shorts have 3 pockets, two of the “holster” style, i.e. slanted on the back hip with velcro closures, and one zip pocket right at the small of the back.  I typically prefer velcro pockets because they allow faster access to gels and I never have to worry about not being able to get a zipper undone when I’m really hurting for fuel.  At the same time, a zippered pocket is really idea for when you want to be certain you don’t lose something important like a key or hotel room card.  3 pockets, one zippered, two velcro, that is the way to go.  Hands down.  Overall, I really liked these shorts and, for $35 they’re priced right too.  I definitely recommend these shorts!

Full Disclosure: These shorts were sent to me free of charge by RRS.  All opinions are my own.

Drinking The Kool-Aid: My First November Project Experience

May 23, 2014

I am now 3 days removed from my first November Project experience and just now starting to regain full use of my quadriceps. Such is the difficulty of doing HALF a full workout.

November Project, briefly, is a grassroots fitness movement started by two former crew rowers, Brogan and Bojan, in Boston. Meant to last but one month, ie November, NP has grown from 1 member beyond the founders to hundreds in Boston alone plus new NP locations in cities from Boston to Vancouver. Yes, Vancouver. I can’t speak for the other city’s schedules and activities, but in Boston NP meets three days a week, with a moving Destination Deck on Monday featuring various exercises, stadium steps at the Harvard Track on Wednesdays, and hill work on Friday. Members are held to an accountability system through “verbal” commitments and you may find yourself publicly called out for reneging on such a verbal. Oh, and it’s free.  To get more of the story, and a glimpse into practices, check out this video.

Since its inception, NP has developed something of a cult-like following, with NP members referred to as The Tribe. It’d be tough to meet a duo more charismatic and engaging than Brogan and Bojan, the proverbial pied pipers of fitness. Perhaps it was this exuberant devotion that caused me to stay away for so long, not wanting to be sucked in, or perhaps it was laziness in not wanting to wake up at 5 am to make a 6:30 am session but, whatever the reason, I did not attend an NP workout until I finally made a verbal to attend a Wednesday session of stadium stairs.

Walking up the steps into the stadium, I began to get both excited and terrified, hoping I wouldn’t do something to immediately identify myself as a “noob.”

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I arrived to find a large group of mostly young, think 20-30 something’s on the whole, gathering and chatting at the base of the first section of the horseshoe-shaped stadium.

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There are 37 sections with, according to the official numbers, 1147 steps if you complete a full Stadium. Wednesdays feature both a 5:30 and 6:30 am group. You can see the 5:30 group taking their group shot here.

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Before I actually started the workout, Bojan called a meeting of Newbies, about 20 of us. After some light stretching, we were told to high 5 five people. Then hug a stranger for 5 seconds. Then hug a stranger for 7 seconds. Sound silly? Sure, and it is. And that’s the point. You giggle. You laugh. You drop an F Bomb or 2 and, even for a brief moment, you make a connection with someone. I hugged a dude for 7 seconds and survived to tell the tale.  When the hugging and high fiving was over, Bojan explained to us how the session would go.  As you might expect, it’s fairly straight-forward: 45 minutes on the clock, do as many sections as you can.  Sometimes a bell will be rung, indicating a fire drill at which point everyone drops on their step and does push-ups until the bell stops ringing.  Being new to the Project, Bojan recommended we go halfway on our first time, to section 19.  I hated the idea of cutting a workout short, but everything I’d heard going into this was that the stairs were a lot harder than could be expected and I’d be wise to follow the advice given.

The sun shines on The Tribe.

The sun shines on The Tribe.

At last, we lined up, 10 at a time to begin our up and down journey around McCurdy Track.  I was quickly taken aback by just how tall the stadium steps, requiring more of a lunge than a step.  This was not the stairwork we would do in high school.  I started off by trying some approximation of running up the steps and then walking back down (the stairs used coming down are more like regular steps, but narrower, making them feel quite precarious when your legs are wobbly).  That strategy didn’t last long and likely doomed me from the get-go.  Before long, I was struggling, hands on knees, trying to will my burning quads to keep moving.  Soon, there was no attempt at running, or bounding, up the stairs.  There was only one thought: “get to the top of this section.”  I was thankful to have fellow Hub Runner Brenna there as she provided motivation and encouragement as I made my way up and down, up and down, up and down, the concrete steps.  Despite strong inclinations otherwise, I didn’t let myself stop to try to recover at the bottom of a section, having a strong feeling that if I did I might never start again.  Some of the de facto leaders of NP made their way around the stadium, shouting encouragement, giving more high-fives, and reminding those that stopped that the base was “lava” and they had to get out of it.  Again, silly, but, from what I saw at least, it never failed to work.  No one wants to find him or herself in lava.

At Section 18, I decided to give a little extra push, mixing in a few bounding/running steps up.  Then I finished Section 19, the halfway point and figured, “what the heck, why not 1 more?”  So, my workout ended after Section 20, and I was happy to call it a day there.  Despite having given up running long ago in the morning, my legs felt like absolute jelly.  Quivering jelly, at that, like a wobbly jello mold.  After finishing the last up section I didn’t even trust myself to go back down the stairs, for fear my legs would just give out from under me and I’d go a-tumblin’, tumblin’ down, down, down to the lava below.  This is what my workout looked like via GPS (kind of, at least, I don’t think Garmin had a lot of luck tracking the stairs).

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I found Brenna and finally got some blessed relief sitting at the top of Section 19, waiting for the rest of The Tribe to finish this insane workout.  Many were still running, yes running, up the steps to finish their stadium, some were even ON THEIR WAY BACK, having already done all 1147 steps but not having found satisfaction yet.

Recovering with Brenna.

Recovering with Brenna.

Finally, the 45 minutes was up, and the majority of participants gathered in Section 19.  The first order of business was the awarding of the Positive Energy Stick.  That might not be its actual name, but it’s a big stick, and you get it for displaying utmost positive energy during the workout.  It seems to be quite the honor.

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The presentation of the Positivity Stick.

Next, we wished a Happy  Birthday to Tribe members, along with doing some sort of echo-type shout, which I couldn’t quite figure out, but it sounded neat, so there was that.  You can even hear it here.

And, with that, my first November Project workout was complete.  I made my way, slowly, to the car, seeing two of the people most responsible for getting me to finally go, Lindsay and Renata of Marathon Sports group runs and Hub Running, along the way.  I felt flush with excitement over the possibilities that lay in store with more NP workouts, albeit I foresee myself being limited to Wednesdays until we move out of the suburbs.  I pictured tearing down downhills with my stair-strengthened quads, being propelled forward on taut calves, and a general increase in stamina for race day if I stuck with it.  I was even motivated to run later that night, my first 2 workout day in Lord knows how long.

In the end, I’m not remotely surprised that I find I drank the November Project Kool-Aid.  Hard.  It’s a gathering of people all trying to be the best they can be, whatever that means for them.  Some are trying to get in better shape, some trying to be better runners, some better athletes in general.  Maybe some just really like working out.  Whatever their reason, they are there doing their thing and supporting others with an infectious air of positive energy and optimism.  If you go to a November Project workout, I urge you to go with an open mind and  a willingness to smile.  It’s easy to be cynical about it all, especially if you’re a bit of a curmudgeon like myself.  But, at least as far as I can tell after one workout, it’s real.  The people, the energy, and, above all the work you will put in, all real, and all ready to kick your butt into shape.

The Tribe is strong, and I hope to make it one person stronger.

Verbal for next Wednesday.

1964 Boston Marathon Footage

May 19, 2014

I just came across this 26 minute documentary film on the 1964 Boston Marathon on Running Warehouse’s blog, which is simply amazing from a runnerd perspective.  Although I haven’t yet watched the whole thing through, but I can’t imagine anyone in the film can beat the Reverend Shannon, who ran the race 14 times but couldn’t compete that year with an official bib because he lost his amateur status after competing as a professional boxer.  The good reverend has a few interesting training techniques including:

The Back Wiggle

Back Wiggle

And The Stomach Bounce.

Stomach Bounce

Whatever happened to the Lynn Athletic Club?

Lynn AC

This Guy.

This Guy

BAA Runners.

BAA Runners

 

I won’t spoil the rest of the fun, here’s the movie in its entirety!

 

Blue Trailer Lockers

May 16, 2014

With races everywhere instituting new, strict security policies, the bag check amenity is getting harder and harder to come by.  This can often mean running back and forth between wherever you managed to park your car, then to packet pickup, then back to the car, then back to the start, all while trying to not be over/under-dressed in the time before the race.  In short, it can be a pain in the neck.  Enter Blue Trailer Lockers!

I first became aware of Blue Trailer while training for the Boston Marathon this winter.  As a very cool way to market themselves, Blue Trailer had a table set up on Beacon St. with goodies for the troves Saturday morning runners out on the course.  Essentially, Blue Trailer Lockers brings a mobile set of, that’s right, lockers to races for you to securely store your gear in. Lockers can even be rented online in advance of your race.

Blue Trailer Lockers at a race.

Blue Trailer Lockers at a race.

Pretty nifty idea, right?  And absolutely worth the cost to know your gear is safe and secure.

Here’s where you can find Blue Trailer Lockers in the near future!

May

17 – TI Disco Fever

18 – Newton 10K

24 – Gold Star Run For Honor

25 – Great Hyannis Road Races

June

1 – Old Sandwich Road Race

7 – York Hospital 5K

14 – Flag Day 5K

21 – Sharon Timlin 5K

29 – Bands on the Run Half Marathon

July

4 – Hingham Road Race

12 – Jamestown Half Marathon

13 – Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon

20 – Salisbury Beach Relay

So, check out Blue Trailer Lockers on Facebook and Instagram and keep up with their latest activities, your bag will thank you!

NOTE: This is not a paid advertisement, just a cool service offered by people who care about runners that I thought you should know about!


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