Mizuno Wave Rider 21 Review

December 12, 2017

2018 is almost upon us, and, with it, another shoe review! Once again, I’ve been fortunate to test out the new Mizuno Wave Rider, this time the 21st iteration, hence the Wave Rider 21. The Wave Rider is a classic neutral, cushioned daily trainer, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring! The review pair I received is a pretty sweet looking blue color.

If you’re new to Mizuno, the first thing you may notice is the black wavy part separating the midsole, which is Mizuno’s wave plate, acting as cushioning. New to the Wave Rider 21 is the updated CloudWave Plate, designed to produce a somewhat springy sensation. Underfoot, the shoe produces a soft, but not squishy ride, that does feel like it adds to your forward momentum. It’s been my experience that the Rider has been trending towards softer, from its earlier days as a fairly firm shoe, which is somewhat in keeping with how the industry in general is moving.

I found the fit of the Rider to be similar to the Wave Sky, with a narrower heel, and slightly wider forefoot. Even though my forefoot is on the wider side, I still had to cinch the laces pretty tight. If you have a particularly narrow forefoot, this may not be the shoe for you. If you sometimes need an EE width, you may want to try these in a D (for men).

If you’ve been a fan of previous versions of the Wave Rider, this version if going to please you. It is definitely going into my rotation!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Mizuno. The opinions and text are all mine.

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Mizuno Wave Sky Review

June 14, 2017

Ever since adidas introduced their Boost cushioning system, there has seemingly been a wave of new shoes from companies looking to have their own version of a highly cushioned, but responsive/springy shoe. It’s not often that Mizuno releases an entirely new model, but the Wave Sky seems to be their entry into this new category.


The Wave Sky features Mizuno’s new Cloudwave cushioning system “paired with an articulated U4icX midsole and Strobel lining.” No, I’ve got no idea what any of this means, or how it works, but what it amounts to is the softest, plushest Mizuno you’ll ever lace up, especially compared to the typical firm Mizuno ride.


According to Running Warehouse, the Wave Sky comes in at 11.1 oz. for a men’s size 9, which is definitely on the heavy side for me, but it runs lighter than its weight, like a heavyweight boxer dancing around the ring. That may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s not often I get to wax poetic in a shoe review. The drop is 10 mm.


Now, how about the actual running part of the shoe? I honestly didn’t expect to like this shoe all that much. Highly cushioned shoes aren’t really my jam, as a rule. I generally lean more towards lighter weight shoes with good road feel. That said, I am a fan of the Wave Sky through my early runs in them. While not quite as bouncy as an adidas Boost shoe, the Wave Sky did have a surprising amount of noticeable rebound without feeling squishy or sacrificing responsiveness.

I’d note that the forefoot seems to be fairly roomy, even for someone like me who has a wider forefoot. So, if you have a particularly narrow one, this may not be your shoe. Take note of the right lacing I had to do to get cinched in.


I think this is going to be a winning entry in the Mizuno lineup, offering an option to those who prefer a softer rider than Mizuno is known for. I will keep updating this entry as I put more miles in the Wave Sky!


Disclaimer: I received these shoes free of charge for my review. As always, all opinions expressed are my own and are without influence.






Martha’s Vineyard Half Marathon: Race Recap

June 8, 2017

In theory, many months ago, the title of this post was supposed to be “Martha’s Vineyard Marathon,” but theories don’t always pan out. I had it in my head that I wanted to use this race to make an attempt at a BQ. The brutally honest truth is that I lost my fire somewhere in the early stages of training, which, coupled with an injury, left me at a pretty low point in my running morale. After a string of good results, which prompted the BQ thoughts in the first place, this turn in the opposite direction felt particularly brutal and there were times when I really just hated running. Nothing felt right, not even the simple act of one foot in front of the other. I eventually came to realize two things: 1. I was not enjoying this process and did not find it fulfilling, as I thought I would. 2. I missed being a triathlete. I missed the biking and, yes, even the swimming workouts. So, I made the decision to drop down to the half marathon distance for this race and put my focus back on tri training. This seems as good a time as any to give a shout-out to my longtime friend, Jason L., who DID accomplish his goal of BQ’ing at the Eugene Marathon. Jason put in an inspiring amount of hard work and miles, and it was pretty awesome to see him crush his goal. Good work, buddy. Now, on to the race.

This was the inaugural running of the Martha’s Vineyard Marathon/Half Marathon. Unlike, as far as I know, all the other races run on the island, this was put on by a national race company, USA Endurance Events, as opposed to locals (see MV 20 Miler and Vineyard Triathlon). While the race did benefit two Vineyard non-profits, it’s my understanding that they did not do much, if anything, to reach out to the local running scene. This lack of coordination revealed itself most readily in volunteer situation, which I’ll address later. Should anyone from USA Endurance Events happen to be reading this, that would be my first note for you. The locals will help, but you need to work with them to ask for it!

We arrived on island Saturday afternoon and headed to the race “expo” in Oak Bluffs. As it turned out, the expo consisted of bib and t-shirt pickup plus a few branded pieces of apparel and some Gu products for sale. What stood out for me was the complete lack of race information readily available. For example, no one seemed to know how to determine which of the three waves you were supposed to run in nor how the pacer situation was being managed. These turned out to be minor complaints in the end, but it also seems like information that would be easy enough to put on the race website.



The race swag included a mesh drawstring bag, t-shirt, and running cap.


After lunch at one our go-to spots, Slice of Life cafe, we headed to our home for the weekend at the Winnetu Resort. Because R had to do work, I passed the time reading my new graphic novel, Lucifer, and I may have also enjoyed a two Bloody Mary’s.


Something something, calming the nerves makes me race better, something something.

Dinner was my now preferred go-to fish piccata (sole piccata to be exact) at Chesca’s in Edgartown. Of course, before turning in I laid out my race kit, which I’d like to think was suitably matchy-matchy.


Brooks Launch 3 for race day.

As it usually does, race morning came way too quickly. After a stop at Espresso Love for an English muffin with butter, we headed to the start location, which was different from the finish location, at Martha’s Vineyard High School. From what I understand, there were also buses that took racers from several locations to the start, but I can’t say how well that system worked. Two things stood out about the start setup. First, there were FAR too few porta-potties for a race of around 1600 people. Second, the guy MC’ing the race (who knew races had MCs?) really straddled the line between fun and encouraging, and simply intolerable. A barefoot white dude with dreads, this guy punctuated every statement with a Little John-esque “YEAH!” If it helps you get an idea of this gentleman, bear in mind that the pre-race music was almost exclusively Rusted Root. I’m serious.

It turned out that Wave 1 meant racers anticipating a sub-8 pace for both the marathon and half. I found the 1:40 pacer, a nice bearded guy named Brian from Beast Pacing, and we set off down the bike path on our way to Oak Bluffs. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the path was not as crowded as I thought it might be, given the number of racers. It helped that it was still pre-season for tourists so there were not many bikers out. As for the race itself, the course mostly wound through woods in the middle of the island. There was one stretch of dirt road that lasted about a 1/4 mile, which is not called out by the race. I did hear that the marathon had a roughly 2 mile stretch. Both of these were somewhat sandy, not hard-packed dirt, and the race simply has to make a point of noting these in future course descriptions.

3rd place in my AG. Run Strava

There are no real steep climbs, but several long inclines that seem to go for a while. In fact, the course is net downhill.

3rd place in my AG. Run Strava (1)

The most mentally draining part of this race is a stretch that I have done many, many times, which is essentially the part on the map above from “Ocean Heights” to Oak Bluffs, where the finish was. While it’s a very pretty stretch, often with water on both sides of you, it’s a long, straight shot, and I was really struggling at that point. I did my best to focus on the scenery and maintain as much forward progress as I could muster.


Finally, I made it to Waban Park. The finish was somewhat of a tease, as you had to run up a road parallel to it, then make a sharp turn for a final stretch of about 100 yards on grass to the line itself. Though I’ve finished the Vineyard Triathlon on this stretch, and it didn’t feel too bad, this part of the park felt tremendously awkward running on. Maybe it was just the fatigue, but I couldn’t find a comfortable stride and kind of stumbled to the finish.


Of course, I messed up my finish line pictures by worrying about my watch, but heaven forbid I have an incorrect Strava record!


As you can see from the pace chart below, I was right on target for a 1:40 finish…until I wasn’t.

3rd place in my AG. Run Strava (2)

Still, I learned after the race that I had finished third in my age group, which was my first time placing in my AG in a “real” road race. Though I was a bit disappointed with my time in general, this picked me up a bit, and made me look at the race in the context of my current training and focus, which was not on PR’ing for that half marathon. In fact I’d only run one 10 mile run leading up to it. So, all things considered? I wound up feeling pretty good about the race in general.

Now, for a list of things I hope the race changes for next year:

  • More expansive “expo” featuring MV businesses and races.
  • Many more porta-potties at the start.
  • More water stops.
  • Better staffed water stops.
  • Better trained staff at water stops.
  • I’ve heard the signage needed to be better for the lead runners.
  • No dirt sections on the course.
  • Better stocked post-race provisions.

All in all, a good race with some definite room to improve. I have a feeling I’ll be back again for it next year!

Reebok? Reebok. Time to Floatride.

March 30, 2017

Listen, I won’t beat around the bush, I’ve long used Reebok as the butt of many a running shoe joke. Yes, I make a lot of running shoe jokes. Yes, that is not a particularly compelling source of comedy for the greater population, but I stick to what I know for my humor. Mostly, I’ve focused on the brand’s constant reversion to gimmicks to sell sneakers, rather than just making a good pair of running shoes, think DMX cushioning. I say all this not to rag on Reebok, but to say to you that I came to the Reebok Floatride as an extreme skeptic, prepared to add it to the heap of previous efforts, notably the “all-terrain” shoe.


So, with that introduction, we come to the new Reebok Floatride shoe. The shoe is built around Reebok’s new Floatride cushioning. According to Reebok, the cell structure of the midsole foam, which delivers “the optimal mix of cushioning and responsiveness so you can float through your run.” It is supposed to be lighter than traditional EVA foam as well. This foam took Reebok 6 years to develop and, based on my experience so far, it was time well spent.


Here you can see some of the other features that set the Floatride apart from the competition, in particular the lace cage (the black plastic diamonds), the stretchy knit upper, and the heel cup. According to Reebok, the heel cup is made in a bra factory, which seems to be a trend in the shoe industry these days. I don’t have a weight to report, but I can say that this shoe feels light. I’d put it in the same category as the Brooks Launch. Drop is 8 mm.

The combination of the heel cup and knit upper that extends fairly far up the foot can make putting on this shoe a little bit of a challenge, particularly because the upper can get bunched if you aren’t careful. For this reason, I can’t recommend it as a triathlon option, even though I do think it would be comfortable barefoot. That said, once you get it on, the “socklike” fit is comfortable, with the heel cup feeling soft but supportive enough, and seamless knit upper wrapping your foot.

When it comes to the lacing, I was worried about how the cage system would work, particularly with only three eyelets.


As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry. You can’t tie the shoes up like you normally would with your other shoes, but it is definitely possible to tie them up to the point where you feel like your foot is locked in. Personally, I leave the top knot a little looser on these shoes than I might with a different shoe, otherwise I get a painful spot on the top of my foot.

Traction comes via a sort of conveyor belt/waffle looking tread that seems to get the job done.


Once you get the shoe on, you immediately can feel the difference in the Floatride cushioning, much the same way you can feel the bounce in a pair of adidas Boosts. It’s the kind of bounce that makes you go “ooooh, I want to run in these.” Sure, it sounds hyperbolic, but put a pair on and you’ll see what I mean.


I’ve now put in two treadmill runs with these shoes, and can comfortably say that I really do like this shoe a lot. There is most definitely a springiness to the ride that doesn’t veer off into the bouncy softness of early Hokas. It’s just there enough to provide a unique run experience that makes a run fun, and this is from a guy who generally likes a fairly firm shoe. As a “Barney Rubble” footed individuals (narrow heel, wide forefoot) I can report no blister issues.

Now, during my first run I had some pain along the outside of my feet where the lace cage met the midsole. That pain disappeared after about 20 minutes and I didn’t have it the second run.


A second caveat is that if you believe you need a shoe to prevent overpronation, this is not the shoe for you. I overpronate. I used to wear motion control shoes to prevent overpronation, but no longer do and have been much happier in neutral shoes. But, again if you are looking for a shoe you will not overpronate in, this is not that shoe.


So, my final verdict? The Reebok Floatride should absolutely be on your list to consider if you are looking for a lightweight, neutral, “responsive” cushioned trainer. I consider myself a convert to the Reebok brand and look forward to what they come out with featuring their Floatride cushioning in the future.


Disclaimer: I received these shoes free of charge from Reebok as part of their Reebok Elite program, but all opinions expressed are mine, and mine alone.

It’s Not About A Medal: USATF New England Open Championship Race Report

November 10, 2016

Man, just the title of this report makes it sounds kind of bad ass, doesn’t it? THE NEW ENGLAND CHAMPIONSHIP! Feels like the sort of thing you should qualify for, right? Well, thankfully, all you have to do is be a USATF member and pay the entry fee. The harder part of getting into this race was actually making myself sign up to race. I’d been meaning for a couple years to run a cross country race as part of my quest to challenge myself with new athletic experiences. Now, XC, as we like to say, has always been near and dear to my heart, but I haven’t run a cross race since 1999, which puts it outside of my “adult runner life.”

There were two factors keeping me from just leaping in feet first into this race at historic Franklin Park, which happens to be my new neighborhood. First, the race was 10K, quite the jump up from my memories of 5K races in high school. Second, there was a very real possibility that I’d come in last place. In 2015, last place was somewhere around 44:05, slower than my new PR, but not out of the realm of possibility given that it isn’t a road race. I wasn’t so much concerned about finishing in last as I was about the course shutting down, etc., which fears were likely unfounded, but there you go. I turned to my fellow Heartbreakers for advice, with every last one of them strongly encouraging me to just do it and have fun. Without singling any out, there were a few that were particularly encouraging and motivating, so I say thank you to them.

Part of the appeal of the race was that there would be a cheering section of non-running Heartbreakers at the race. Coach Dan arranged for a bus to take us from SEAC to Franklin Park, which I decided to take, rather than simply drive the 2 miles there, to fully maximize the high school nostalgia. It did not disappoint.


After a bumpy trip down memory lane, we arrived at Franklin Park, which was decked out in its finest autumnal livery, and endeavored to find all the fast, young people who were smarter than us and came in actual cars.


Things started to feel real when I saw this sign.


Two of the Heartbreaker women who were in a similar boat as I was, at least in the sense that they were running the race but did not expect to be scoring, and I broke off to find the rest of the racers, who had encamped at a corner of the park.


We met up with Captain Louis, who had our bibs, and tried to keep each other from being too nervous about the upcoming endeavor. I’ll admit, it felt pretty cool pinning this bib on.


After getting situated, I met up with the cheer squad to watch the start of the women’s race, which was crazy deep and featured some really top-notch runners for the 6K course.


After cheering a few loops of the course, I figured I should do a little warm-up thingy. So, as is customary, I jogged for roughly 3 minutes before joining the boys for some drills, which mostly meant me doing carioca, skipping and high knees in some haphazard fashion. I lied, “haphazard” is  way too generous a description of the level of planning I put into that warm-up. With a couple minutes to go before the race was set to go off, Captain  Lou called the team together for a last second pep talk, the details of which shall remain in the circle, but suffice to say it was motivating.


Photo Credit: Some Heartbreaker (Maybe Coach Dan?)

And so, pepped up, I took my spot on the line. Unlike a traditional road race, which would have a relatively narrow starting area, with everyone lined up rows deep, a cross country race like this has boxes for each team spread across a long line, which leads to a mad dash start, particularly in a race like this where the the course narrows fairly early on. I knew the field was going to be very fast, so I set myself at the back of our corral and did my best to start the race at my own pace, not trying to maintain contact, even early on.


Here you can see just how spread the field is.


I knew from Coach  Lou that the first mile of the race would be quick, so I tried to stay within myself, get a feel for the terrain, and find a pace I could settle into. The opening mile was fairly flat, with a few small bumps, and a mix of grass and dirt trail. I had some visual contact with the field, which wouldn’t last long, but didn’t make any effort to latch on to to the guys at the back of the pack. I was surprised to see a 6:26 pace for the first split, and knew I wouldn’t be hanging on to that.

The race basically consisted of a set of loops in different orders.


After mile 1, the race ventured into the zoo, and the infamous Bear Cage Hill. Bear Cage Hill, at least according to the Strava Segment, is 0.3 miles, with 52 ft. of elevation.


Bear Cage Hill is the bump at miles 1.5 and 4.5.

It certainly wouldn’t be a particularly onerous hill in a road race, but it sure felt difficult in this one. It’s made harder by the fact that it is looser terrain than most of the rest of the course, with some uneven, rutted out, footing.


Headed towards Bear Cage Hill. Photo Credit: Josh Campbell Photography

So, there was the “basic loop” done for the first mile, the Bear Cage loop, and then The Wilderness loop. As the name implies, The Wilderness was the most “trail-ish” portion of the race, but also probably the fastest. At this point, I basically had the course to myself, at least in the sense that I couldn’t see any racers, so I did my best to just maintain my pace solo. Thankfully, running on your own means you have a chance to get shots like this.


Photo Credit: Josh Campbell

Really the only negative aspect of this race came after I exited The Wilderness the first time. As I ran up the path, there was a fork in the trail, with no one from the race telling me where to go. I saw a group of women cooling down from their race as I came up to it and asked “which way do I go ?!” to which they thankfully all said “LEFT!” I really didn’t have to break stride and got myself going in the right direction. At this point, the lead bike came rolling past me, so I moved myself to the left side of the path, letting the rest of the field fly by and cheering on the Heartbreakers with what little breath I had left.


Headed into The Wilderness…I think?

The second half of the race included another trip up Bear Cage Hill, which I felt like I was walking up the second time around, and more Wilderness time. Each mile split got slower and slower from mile 1, 7:02, 7:06, 7:09, 7:10, until I hit mile 5 going into the final Wilderness loop. At this point I knew the terrain well, knew there were no hills left, and it was time to give whatever else it was I had to give until the finish.

I rounded the final corner and encountered a fairly non-stop cheering section of Heartbreaker teammates cheering me on towards the finish line, giving me the boost I needed to dig deep and produce whatever semblance of a kick I had left.


Photo Credit: JCP

It hurt.


Photo Credit: JCP

With cowbells clanging, and Heartbreakers cheering, I crossed the line, utterly exhausted, in 43:10, my second fastest 10K ever. Immediately after the race, our team photographer for the day, Josh Campbell, did a quick portrait session, as he did with everyone else, to capture the spirit of cross country racing.


I think this shot perfectly captures the pride I felt in my performance at this race, and the pride I felt in simply deciding to toe the line in the first place. There were so many  positives to take from this race, so many amazing experiences. I have to share the note Coach Dan included in the weekly Heartbreakers email to really convey just why I feel the pride I do wearing the ❤ on my chest and repping this club and HHRC in general:

“First, let’s review the USATF-NE XC Championships. There were many noteworthy things about it but many of those were by design and expected. We’ll get to those too. But, first, the unexpected – our whole cheer squad happened to have gathered near the finish when Michael Robertson made the final turn into the home stretch. Michael was in 110th place of 112 runners and our squad cheered their guts out. I could see that Michael was touched and the squad was so proud. It’s not easy to put yourself out there. I, for one, had no idea the race would be that fast at the back (Michael is not slow). Running is always relative: to ourselves, to the field, to our expectations, to our youth. You can ask Matt S and Emily about that. Both are BQ runners in the well over 20 min category and both found themselves in the back 1/3 of this one. It was a shock. That is championship cross country though. It’s fast. It’s rugged. There are few fans. There are no medals. There are teams. There are personal victories. There is great pride.”

To make a long story short, couldn’t have said it any better myself.


Wave Rider 20 Review

November 1, 2016

Fact: Getting new shoes is always fun. Double Fact: Getting new is especially fun when they come in shiny boxes.


It even came with a note!


The shoes inside the shiny box did not disappoint in terms of commensurate shininess.


All about the platinum.



And the outsole.

Some basic facts about the Rider, according to Running Warehouse at least, the heel stack height is 30 mm, and the forefront is 18 mm, resulting in a 12 mm drop. RW lists the weight at 10.4 oz., but Mizuno’s own site says 9.6 oz. soooooo, who knows. But you get the general idea. This is a traditional, neutral running shoe.

Like most Mizunos I’ve run in, the Rider 20 offers a firm, responsive ride well-suited to both tempo runs and longer training runs. I haven’t yet tried them for pure speed work, as I prefer a more low-slung, lighter shoe, for that purpose, but I do think that they would be firm enough for the track. The uppers of the Rider feel like they will be great in warm weather, but I do have my concerns about the airy mesh as the temperature dips. But, hey, nothing a thicker pair of socks can’t fix.

If you’ve never run in Mizunos before, you’re probably wondering where the cushioning comes from. While other brands, rely on air, blown foam, or gel, Mizuno uses a Wave plate, which you can see as the wavy black thing in the heel. The Rider uses Mizuno’s Parallel Wave, which is for their neutral shoes. The Wave works by dispersing force through the plate, rather than absorbing it vertically like other cushioning systems.

So far my only concern to report is a hot spot on my forefoot about 8 miles into an uptempo treadmill run. I’ll report back on whether that continues as well as durability of the outsole and upper as I put in more miles. Until then, I’m happy to have another shoe in the rotation!


Knuckle Lights Review

October 26, 2016

Let’s face it, seeing in the dark is hard. At this point in my life, I’m man enough to admit that, absent some sort of aid, I’m not really good at seeing things that are not illuminated. As we creep towards November, the availability of natural illumination, i.e. sunlight, on my preferred running paths has disappeared earlier and earlier, which makes it that much harder to run comfortably without fear of tripping. This is especially problematic on some sections of the path on the Charles River that are both dark and rooty, which roots are difficult to distinguish in the dark, leading to many a misplaced footfall. Enter, Knuckle Lights.

I previously reviewed the original Knuckle Lights way back in 2013 and, now, thanks to the gracious folks at Knuckle Lights, I can tell you all about their brand new version, which maintain the basic concept of lights on your hands while adding in new features, notably among them rechargability (please note, “rechargability” is not actually a word, but it should be). Here, you can see the dock used to recharge your lights.


As the name implies, Knuckle Lights go on your knuckles, as opposed to a headlamp, which goes on your head.


The lights are held on by an adjustable rubber strap, which I found a bit difficult to adjust at first, but had no problems with once I got it locked in.


The lights have 3 settings, which you can rotate through using the rubberized buttons at the top, high, low and blinking. For my purposes, the low has sufficed, even on darker sections of paths, but I suspect that there is still some ambient light helping out there, which wouldn’t exist on, say, a forest trail at night. According to Knuckle Lights, the high power produces 140 lumens per light, for 280 total for the pair.


And this is on low!

Here’s a demonstration of the lights on a dark section of the Jamaica Pond path on the low setting.

As you can see, these are not weak lights. During my test run, I found that I could run at full speed without ever having to worry about my footfall, which is really all that you can ask for out of a light. What I love about Knuckle Lights is the ability to shine the light where you need it while keeping your head in a natural position. This makes it easier to scope out the whole path while having the additional advantage over a headlamp of not blinding a running mate every time you look over to chat. While running, the lights stayed comfortably secure on my hands without having to pay attention to gripping them. I would guess that they might become a bit sweaty during hot weather running, but I also don’t foresee running at times that I would actually need them in hot weather.

One neat extra feature of the new version of Knuckle Lights? They have magnets that keep the pair together as a set, making it that much harder for people like me to misplace one.


Also, according to Knuckle Lights, they are IPX-6 waterproof. Other specs include battery life of 4 hours on high, 8 on low, 14 on blinking, and each light weighs 3 ounces.

So, if you’re looking to stay safe on the roads and paths as the sun sets every more depressingly early, I would suggest you get yourself a pair of Knuckle Lights.

Disclaimer: For the avoidance of doubt, I was sent these lights by Knuckle Lights to review. However, as always, all opinions expressed are mine, and mine alone.

Gay Head 10K Race Report: An Unexpected PR!

October 3, 2016

It’s always fun to do a race on Martha’s Vineyard given their low key vibe and generally beautiful views on the course, but the 2016 Gay Head 10K promised to be extra-fun because it was the first attempt at a destination race by The Heartbreakers Running Club. We headed two with a full car with R, two Heartbreakers, a fiance, and a dog on Saturday morning. It was tight, but cozy, and Lucy apparently made new friends along the way.


Of course, Hem and I took an obligatory selfie during the slightly rough crossing.


We even did some goofing around in Oak Bluffs.


Saturday night we invaded The Black Dog Tavern with almost the entire crew, which I’m sure they did not expect for an off-season Saturday night, but hopefully, despite our large presence overtaking the dining room floor, we helped make it a better-than-expected night. It was nice getting to chat with teammates in a non-run setting and to introduce R to the team. I also got to meet THE Om Gal!


Race Day kit.

Headed into the actual race I knew that my recent track workouts were suggesting that I had carried some fitness from IMMT through into the fall season and that I might be in better running shape than I let myself believe. Still, I hadn’t done a run longer than 6 miles since that race, not including cumulative mileage for a track workout, and I really wasn’t sure what the result would be for a 10K on a challenging course. In 2014, the last time I did this race, I ran 46:09, with a 44:04 at the 2014 BAA 10K (my previous PR), and 44:59 at the 2015 BAA 10K following thereafter as my only 10K attempts. I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be closer to 44 or 46, or beyond if my endurance gave out. I gave myself about 6 minutes of warm-up before getting to the start, which was packed with Heartbreakers.


“Oh, I love your hearts!” – The volunteer exclaimed.

The race started with a laugh as the started got us going with “Runners on your marks, get set! 10, 9, [racers laugh], 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!”


Source: Vineyard Gazette

Knowing my tendency to start races far too quickly, and the fact that we’d be hitting hills early in the race, I did my best to start conservatively and not redline immediately. A pack of about 4 teammates set off more or less around each other, everyone seeming to feel out the course before putting the pedal down. As you can see below, the race definitely calls for pacing, with fairly unrelenting hills throughout. Of course, looking at the elevation now, miles 3.5-5.5 don’t seem so bad.


My goal for the first 3 miles, which I knew had the bulk of the hills, was to try to run a pace that I could maintain on the uphills while giving a little more on the downhills. I didn’t want to either push uphill and over-exert or take it extra easy on them to try to save energy, I just wanted steady running. As it turns out, I ran 6:37, 6:40, 6:38 for those 3 miles.

Making the only turn on the course at Moshup Trail, I saw that I was gaining on a teammate, which helped me focus on maintaining my pace and not letting up, despite some unexpected inclines along the way. As I passed him, we exchanged a few words of encouragement, but sadly his ankle was hurting too much to stick with me and I forged ahead, trying to track down the next Heartbreaker.

Gay Head 10K Map.jpg

Miles 4-5.5 were reasonably enjoyable, trying to stay steady while using the oceanscape immediately to the left of me as a distraction when needed. I did my best to try to catch the eventual female winner, and a Heartbreaker, but she had legs on the last hill that I could not muster. The race really gets tough right about mile 5.5 when the course begins its final climb up to the Gay Head lighthouse, with gradients in between 3-5.8% at times. I did my best to push as hard as I could, but I could really feel myself dying and got passed by a couple high school kids along the way. Where miles 4 and 5 were 6:37 and 6:52, mile 6 was 7:22. But after the final climb, you hit a brief, steep downhill to the finish for maybe 0.1 miles to the finish.


Final Time: 42:19, which made for a 1:45 PR and my first time averaging under 7 minute pace on the road for anything over 5K. I’m not even sure I’ve run this fast on a flat treadmill, come to think of it. In any event, I was really happy with the result, and it’s made me start to wonder just what I’d really be capable of right now in running, especially at the 5K distance.


PR happiness.

Maybe it’s time to take another crack at breaking 20 sometime soon? Until then, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, maybe fewer doughnuts mixed in, but continuing the track workouts that seem to be paying such great dividends!


Source: Vineyard Gazette


Salomon Trail 20 Review

September 29, 2016

It’s been a long while since I’ve done a review of any sorts, and that’s probably some combination of laziness and wanting to do in-depth reviews with lots of pretty pictures and whatnot. But I figure there may be some useful value to just sharing thoughts on products I use on a regular basis, not worrying too much about getting into nitty gritty tech specs, but just with the hopes of making your next purchase a little bit more informed.

Since moving from the suburbs to roughly 5 miles bikeable distance to Boston, I’ve been biking to work almost daily on my GT Grade. In fact, as of the time I started drafting this post, I think I took the subway 3 times into work as opposed to riding. It’s been a really wonderful change to my daily commute, certainly coming from upwards of 75 minutes by car from our suburban home, and I look forward to it on a daily basis.

Of course, one challenge when bike commuting is how to transport your clothes needed for work. Luckily, I work in an office with a pretty casual dress code, i.e. no dress code, when we don’t have clients, so my daily officewear is jeans, a button down, and sneakers. Since I started riding into work, I’ve left a pair of sneakers in the office, cutting down on the things I need to transport. I also am able to leave my U-Lock and cable locked to the bike rack in our office building. For the rest of what I need, I use the Salomon Trail 20 backpack.


In this bag, I can comfortably fit a pair of jeans, shirt, and foundation garments (socks too!). Although I generally don’t take my lock with me, I can also fit the U-lock and cable when needed. I would not say it’s appropriate for a suit, but it’s fine otherwise. I think it’d also be tight if you bring shoes with you on a daily basis, but, again, not a concern of mine. For what it’s worth, Salomon states the pack’s volume is 20 l. and 1220 ci.

To keep the pack secure as you bomb through urban streets, the pack has both a chest and waist strap, both of which I find keep the pack exactly where I want it to be. I don’t experience any kind of slipping around, whether when “sprinting” or climbing. The waist strap has two pockets, a zipped one on the left, and a mesh open pocket on the right side. The zip pocket comfortably fits my wallet and keys. Each side of the pack also has deep mesh pockets, which I often use to hold my phone in case I need to access it quickly for, you know, directions. Definitely not for selfies. I never take selfies when riding.


OK, this ONE time I stopped and took a selfie, but that was purely to illustrate the backpack for this post. Except that I took it a couple weeks before starting this post. And before I decided to write this post. Also, I take a lot of selfies while riding.

So, there you have it, if you’re looking for a streamlined pack for bike commuting, I’d recommend checking out the Salomon Trail 20!

I am an Ironman: Ironman Mt. Tremblant Recap

September 22, 2016

I think, deep down, I always knew that some day I’d want to do an Ironman. Even after swearing off marathons, I couldn’t help but have this itch in the back of my mind that I could not scratch, even with a half Ironman and other races. Unable to shake the feeling that I needed to take my shot at this pinnacle of race distances, I signed up for Ironman Mt. Tremblant. I picked IMMT in large part because of my lifelong obsession with Canada, particularly the French-speaking part and because I had heard nothing but wonderful things about every aspect of the race, including the beautiful venue where it is hosted.

Training for IMMT is really it’s own separate big post, so I’m going to stick to the race weekend itself. The way Ironman races are typically set up (I think), you pick up all your materials on Friday, rack your bike and drop off your race bags on Saturday, and race Sunday. We drove up from Boston on Thursday night to Burlington, VT to break up the drive, then up to MT on Friday morning. On the way, we stopped at a grocery store on Rt. 117 that was at least a quarter filled with Ironman racers (notable for their IM paraphernalia, visors, and compression socks. We picked up what I’d need for dinner Saturday night and breakfast Sunday morning before headed to MT itself.


Mont Tremblant is a ski resort that also does summer activities like a roller luge and apparently lots of hiking. The village is a collection of shops and restaurants all done up to look like a classic European ski village. It even has not one, but two gondolas you can take for some spectacular views!


Of course, while waiting in line for registration, I took the chance to take a selfie in the village with my Heartbreak Hill Running Company t-shirt.


Registration itself was a well-oiled machine as the very friendly volunteers, which would be a theme for the weekend, shuttled you from station to station, one of which was a weighing station where they took your pre-race weight (more on that later) before finally getting to the part where you got your much-vaunted Ironman backpack containing your race bags.


The one major hiccup I had during registration was entirely self-inflicted, and entirely in my own brain. As we walked through the village, it was impossible not to notice the many athletes wearing their previous Ironman gear, looking tremendously fit, and wheeling around their superbikes with carbon race wheels. In a moment of panic, I felt extremely overwhelmed, underprepared, and intimidated, more so than I ever have for any other race. But, I shared my feelings with Rebecca, she said all the right things, and the moment passed.

Taking a friend’s advice, after finishing up with registration and checking into our condo (Les Manoirs, which I’d highly recommend), I headed down to Lac Tremblant to get in a pre-race swim and see what the water conditions were like. Getting into the water and taking an easy swim helped me relax and feel a little bit more in the groove leading up to the race. The water was a pretty perfect temperature for a full-sleeve wetsuit and was fairly clear, though you couldn’t see the bottom once you were away from shore, which was just fine by me.


I had some intentions of doing a course pre-ride on Saturday, but wound up spending the better part of the morning and early afternoon getting my race bags ready, which included making a batch of Skratch Labs rice cakes, before taking my bike down to transition. If you’re unfamiliar with the process, Ironman races differ from a normal triathlon in that you aren’t allowed to have anything with your bike in transition, including your helmet, so you pack up one bag with everything you need for your bike leg, one with the same for the run, and two bags with anything you will want halfway through the bike and run i.e. your “special needs bags.” It’s kind of a pain to get all the bags to check-in, but it’s also helpful to know that you are packing everything in one place and know it’s all accounted for. Of course, this also led to pre-race mistake #1, packing my tri shorts in my bike because, you know, it was what I was going to wear on the bike. Thankfully, I had my jammerz that I wore for my pre-race swim, which would do the trick for the swim leg in a pinch.


Don’t put the shorts in the bag! Put the helmet in the bag!

Pre-race dinner Saturday night was my go-to meal of couscous, cherry tomatoes, and chicken sausage. In bed around 9:45 p.m. after watching some Olympic track.

Race Day

4 a.m. should never exist, but it does on Ironman race day. I dragged myself out of bed, started the coffeemaker, and made myself a toasted bagel with toasted everything bagel with peanut butter and honey. Not much later, Rebecca also got up so she could come down with me to transition and grab my bike pump from me when I was done topping off my tires. I’d been warned not to rely on someone else having a pump to borrow, which turned out to be excellent advice as my pump wound up being the one passed around. Of course, I couldn’t go without pre-race mistake #2, not realizing my helmet should have gone in my bike bag. This meant that I was one few morons wandering around transition with my helmet on, but was able to drop it off in my bike bag before heading to the water.



First, if you’re doing this race in the future, you should know that it is a LONG walk from transition to the water, so plan ahead. And, despite the many excellent logistical details for the race, one of the few shortcomings also caused me the greatest stress of the day, namely the lack of port-a-potties. There were far too few set up at the swim area, which meant I couldn’t really enjoy neat touches like the fighter jet flyover, because I was too worried about having a chance to “go” before racing. When I finally was able to quickly get into my wetsuit and head to the water, I passed my good friend, Alett, who gave me a quick pre-race pep talk, telling me not to think about anything else besides the swim while I was in the water. I had quite the anxious few moments as my wave was literally getting ready to start and I was still behind the barrier with no way to get through the crowds to get into it. I wound up hopping the fence in my wetsuit, which I’ve never done before and hope to never have to do again. Despite the rushing and confusion, I made it into the pack a few moments before my wave started.

The start of any swim leg is chaotic, but this one felt especially so. I tried to find some feet to follow and draft off of while fending off the many elbows surrounding me and people crawling up my legs. I actually felt very smooth in the water, just trying to keep up a steady rhythm that felt comfortable without over-exerting and getting caught up in the churning. Now, here’s where I make my really, really dumb admission for race mistake #3: I thought the swim course was two laps. Yes, I had looked at the course map, and, yes, I knew that there were 13 buoys out before a turn to a straight stretch before a right turn back to shore, but for some reason I thought the map showed a run across the beach before starting lap 2. But, around buoy 7 it occurred to me that, maybe, the swim was actually one loop, which I’d prefer in any event. I checked my Garmin and confirmed that had to be the case. Sigh.

Around the first turn, the water started to get really choppy as we swam parallel to the shore. I was glad that I had practiced breathing to one side so I could switch up where I was breathing based on the waves, and not force myself to breathe into a swell. I was not much a fan of up and down movement with the waves brought on by the impending storm, but just kept on swimming…until I ran into a boat. A moored boat. You find yourself asking, what was a boat doing on the course? But then I’d be forced to admit it really was fairly off the course, I just happened to be swimming fairly off the course. I managed to shake off the head-to-hull contact and finish off the swim feeling fairly strong, if not a bit off kilter from the waves.

I hit the carpet on the beach and started to make the long journey to T1. I saw Rebecca and Alett along the way, informing them of my boat mishap, trying to keep the whole experience light and fun. Be forewarned, it is a long way to the change tent, so pace yourself!


Official Swim Time: 1:29:28


The moment I got dressed for the bike in the change tent was basically the last time my kit was dry, as it soon began to rain, and did not stop…like, ever. In some ways, this wasn’t such a bad thing, if it was going to rain at all, because otherwise I have a feeling it would have been very sticky and humid when it stopped. It was just easier to accept I had a good number of hours ahead of me in the saddle in the rain and make peace with it.

The bike course sets out from the village for a roughly 45 mile total out and back.


Everything to the left of the green dot is the initial out and back of each of the two laps you complete. As you can see from the elevation map below, this section contains some long flats with some good descents/ascents in the mix.


There is only one segment of this portion of the course that I would in any way consider technical, and that comes soon after you start on a long-ish downhill on a portion of the road that is marked as single-file only. That said, it’s not a technical descent, it just felt nerve wracking to me because I didn’t want to go fast down it and had the stress of people coming up behind me and passing when they shouldn’t have. Otherwise, the road surface is superb, you’re riding on a highway after all, and there’s plenty of great scenery, assuming that you can see it through the rain. I was able to stay in aero for a good portion of this stretch, which helped keep my MPH up, and felt completely comfortable just trying to keep up a steady rhythm on the pedals on the flats and spin up the hills.


As you can see, the rain was fairly intense, and this picture doesn’t capture any particularly heavy moment. To be honest though, it wasn’t all that bad riding through the rain other than on the descents, which became that much scarier on wet roads, at least for someone like me. I’m not sure if it had any affect on specators that might otherwise be on the course, but you do a short out and back stretch through a town and the roads were lined with people, which was a nice distraction.

Of course, you can’t do IMMT without hearing about the fabled Chemin Duplessis, which was the focus of every pre-race discussion about proper gearing for the race. This leg of the race is what I call the “back half” of the course, even though it, of course, didn’t account for half the lap, it just felt that way. Here’s the elevation.

Hardest Riding.jpg

So, as you can see, no joke. I did my best to heed every piece of advice I’d gotten about hill climbing on this part and spin up the inclines in the saddle, rather than red lining my heart rate and trashing my quads by standing. For the most part, I was pretty successful in this and actually felt reasonably comfortable ascending, even as my average MPH slipped down and down. The more nerve-racking aspect of this section of the course actually came after the turn-around on the steep descents in the rain. I am not the most confident descender on the best of days in the best of conditions, so I was particularly nervous on these downhills in the pouring rain. On the steepest section, there was a race official (I later learned it was the Race Director himself) on the side of the road urging riders to slow down. He pointed at me and said “that’s the speed I want everyone going!” Of course, I was basically gripping my brakes at the time, just trying to stay under control. Further down the road, I saw why he was out there, as 3 riders were being treated after an apparent bad crash. Though they ended up in the ICU, word is they were all recovering. I also had to contend with a crash right in front of me as a woman tried to make it to the side of the road to an aid station, but wasn’t able to unclip from her pedals and fell over in front of me, causing me to have to swerve quickly and avoid not just other riders in my direction, but those coming at me as well.

After stopping to reload my fuel at the halfway point with my Special Needs bag, I carried on for loop 2.


Fast forward to around mile 100 where my knees, the subject of a great deal of pre-race stress, really started to protest, to the point where I could barely turn my pedals over without pain. Of course it didn’t help, mentally, knowing that the hardest part of the course still lay before me. At this point I started to repeat the mantra that would carry me through the rest of the bike leg and its sharp hills, to wit, “THERE IS NO PAIN, RIDE UP THE FUCKING HILL!” Granted, it was a bit on the self-flagellating side, but it was exactly what I needed. I abandoned spinning up the hills, literally trying to minimize the number of times I had to spin the crank, and actually ended up passing people strongly, despite the pain. I even got some nice comments from fellow riders.

Finally, after completing the “back half” again, I rolled into transition, knowing that a marathon lay before me.


Official Bike Time: 6:43:54


At last, the run leg was upon me! I headed into the transition tent, excited about the prospect of changing into some dry clothes. Originally, I had planned on changing into running shorts from my tri shorts, but decided that: 1. I was just going to get new shorts wet again, and 2. the risk of chafing, given the rain, was less with the tri shorts than running shorts with a liner. I saw Rebecca as I made my way in to change and warned her that my knees were killing me, which might result in a very slow run, so she shouldn’t be worried if she saw a slow pace while tracking me. I also saw her leaving the tent, apparently in a really good mood before running a marathon after 2.4 miles of swimming and 112 miles biking.


Again showing the kind of triathlete I am, i.e. not a very prepared one, I had very little idea of what to expect from the run course in terms of elevation. I knew there were no significant climbs to speak of and that, generally, the harder hills came as you finished each of the two laps.


And so, blithely ignorant, I set off at what I hoped was an easy pace that would keep my heart rate low and, contrary to most every other race I’ve done, I succeeded, at least for the first half of the race. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that my knees didn’t hurt at all while running, apparently the running motion is different enough from pedaling to make the difference.

The run course itself is mostly a two lane route, one coming, one going that starts through the town, then turns onto a rail trail before a turn-around, then back and on to a couple detours, including one along a gorgeous lake on a crushed gravel path, before heading back through the town and into the village where you either take a right fork back for your second lap, or a left to the finish.



Second lap lake path.

The nice thing about the two lane set-up is that, at least for a large part of the run, and depending on the time of day, you’ve almost always got someone around you, either running in your direction or the opposite way, which helps when the mind starts to wander.

Somewhere around mile 10 or so, I became convinced that I was going to finish the race well within the cut-off time. I know I should have been convinced long before this, but I really didn’t want to get ahead of myself or take anything for granted. Of course, as you can see from the chart below, this is where the wheels began to come off.


By the time I back to the village, I knew the second lap was going to be a struggle as I could barely bring myself to take in any of the fuel I had in my Special Needs bag, including the Sour Patch Kids treat I had put in the bag as a pick-me-up. I did my best to ignore the hoopla of the village as wicked fast people were coming in for their finishes, took the right fork, and headed back out onto the course, seeing Rebecca again shortly after starting the second lap.


I’m really not sure what’s going on in the above picture, other than I think I’m starting to hurt but also trying to not show it to the cameraman.

I started walking soon after starting lap 2, and that would be my main method of forward progress for the remainder of the race. It wasn’t so much the fact that I was tired or hurting, which I was, but not terribly, but that my stomach was in full-on revolt with lots of fun cramping and vomiting. I wasn’t able to take in any fuel other than some water periodically, and even that I’d lose soon thereafter (sorry for the bodily functions, but you’re reading an Ironman race report). I would try to run for as long as a stretch as I could, sometimes half a kilometer, sometimes as much as 2 kilometers, but mostly I just tried to make relentless forward progress. If nothing else, the walking gave me some time to interact with other racers and all of the wonderful volunteers on the course. The pace chart below gives a fair idea of how I yo-yoed in pace.



Despite my best efforts, I was unable to avoid doing That Thing that I do with my hands in every single race picture of me.

As I neared 2 kilometers to go in the race, the sky was dark and the temperatures were dropping, though still comfortable. It wasn’t much of an acceleration, but I did my best to make myself run, however slow, for the rest of the course. I’ve never finished a marathon running, at least anything beyond the last 10 yards of the race, and really wanted to be able to do so for the Ironman.

Approaching the village, I was hit by the volume of music playing and screaming fans, not to mention the streaming lights. It was a party, and it helped propel me on.


I have never experienced a finish like Mt. Tremblant, including Boston. The finish chute you run through for about 100 yards or so is fairly narrow and is lined with fans 4-5 deep, all urging you onward. Despite the pandemonium, I spied my friend Alett, a nice little surprise. At last, I approached the line and heard a slight variation of his famous words from Mike Reilly informing me that I was, in fact, an Ironman.



Official Run Time: 5:03:27

Official Ironman Time: 13:42:19


After crossing the line, I was greeted by a volunteer who would essentially be my escort through the finishing zone. He put his arms around my shoulder and guided me from station to station, first getting my finisher’s medal and then to get some water, etc. We chatted in French about Boston and hockey before he handed me off to Rebecca with a smile. At this point I was in pretty rough shape, feeling quite nauseous with awful stomach cramping. I couldn’t decide if I needed a medic or not, knowing it was probably pretty normal to feel terrible after 140.6 miles, so Rebecca took charge and decided I should at least get checked out, but not before surprise gifting me with the official finisher’s jacket!

The first cut of the med staff sat me down and asked some questions before taking an instant read of my blood sugar, which was low. I tried taking in some chocolate milk, but was barely able to take a few sips. They decided to bring me inside to the larger medical area, if for no other reason than to get out of all the commotion of the finish area, which I think they believed would help. They loaded me into a golf cart, which took me inside, where I was put into a wheelchair and taken to intake. The med staff weighed me, determining I’d lost 8 pounds over the course of the race, which apparently is not unusual. They had me lay down on a reclining cot and sip some hot chicken broth for a while until I eventually started to feel better.


Eventually, I felt well enough to leave and meet back up with Rebecca, who let me hang out on some steps in the village while she got us some take out pizza.


We picked up my bags and bike and, thankfully, were able to take the shuttle bus back up to the condo, where Rebecca had a variety of beers that she’d previously bought waiting for me! We debated going back down to the line but, when I reminded her that our friend had said we absolutely had to go see the midnight finish, we got off our butts and made our way back down. I couldn’t help myself and got some poutine in the village, managing roughly four gravy, cheesy bites before having my fill. The midnight finish itself was everything it’s cracked up to be. It was tremendously inspiring to see those athletes giving everything they had to be official Ironmen and I am very happy we went to see it. It’s not to be missed.


While I thought I’d sleep forever the next day, I barely made it past 6 a.m. Despite feeling fairly good, at least my muscles, after the race, my knees were absolutely awful and I could barely manage stairs. Once I got walking I was OK, but standing up was the worst. We went and had a great breakfast before going to the expo for swag. When we got there, I was sorely disappointed to find that the one thing I really wanted, the race mug, was all sold out, which I should have known would be the case. However, Rebecca came to the rescue, spotting a mug containing stickers on a random table, grabbing it, dumping the stickers, and triumphantly presenting it to me.


As you can kind of see, I also managed to get the last men’s bike jersey in my size at the expo along with a running cap Rebecca also found. All in all it wound up being a great haul. Afterwards, we took the gondola up the ski mountain and took in the beautiful views.


And of course took an ussie.


Plus, I managed to find my favorite, or at least most nostalgic, Canadian beer, Alexander Keith’s IPA!


At 4000+ words and a month after the race itself, it’s probably time to bring this post to a conclusion. In conclusion, Ironman Mt. Tremblant was an absolutely incredible, fulfilling, challenging, humbling experience that I would highly recommend to anyone looking to take on the Ironman distance. One more huge thank you to Rebecca for everything she did both during training and the race (and after).

I think I can safely say that I am done with the Ironman distance…unless I change my mind.