Ray's Blog

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

2006 February 26: Eric Nageotte Memorial 5K Snowshoe Race

My first ever snowshoe race! I was going to do one the previous winter, but just beforehand I managed to separate my shoulder, and I wasn't interested in pursuing any activities that might involve falling and stressing it.

By the way, as far as I know, snowshoes races don't grow on trees, so you gotta get 'em in whilst you can. In fact, I know of only two snowshoe races in my neck of the woods (both races are recurring annual events).

Anyway, I showed up at Camp Richardson, the site of the race. Recent spring-like conditions had been pretty harsh to much of the snow in the area, so at the last minute, they completely re-jiggered the course. Instead of a 5K loop, they made it into a 4 mile (approximately) out-and-back course, chosen carefully so as to go through snow as much as possible. Even so, there were a few snow-free spots we had to trudge through.

There were probably 20-30 people who showed up for the race. I had no idea of what to do for pacing for this event, since I had cleverly avoided ever running in my snowshoes for more than 50 yards or so at a time. At the start, two people started out together, then me and another guy, and then everyone else behind us (since I don't have eyes in the back of my head, I don't know the details of the configuration behind me). I started out at what seemed at the time to be a good pace, and indeed, it certainly seemed good enough to raise my heart rate pretty quickly (I wasn't wearing my heart rate transmitter belt, so I don't have any actual numbers to report).

Maybe five minutes into the race, I forged ahead of the guy I was running with, moving into a decisive third place. I could see that one of the two guys up front had taken off ahead of the other one at a good clip, and I was gaining on the #2 dude. I worked my way up to just behind the #2 dude, and ran in that position for a while, certain that at some point soonish, I'd pass him.

Unfortunately, what actually happened is that I fell apart a little. I was working pretty hard! I just couldn't keep going at that rate. So I slowed down a bit, and watched #2 recede into the distance. Even the newly slowed-down pace was a bit much, and I was really starting to wonder where that damned turn-around point was! When the trail started heading uphill (nothing steep-- just a small grade), I decided I was pretty beat and that my calves were already hurting plenty, and I stopped running and started walking.

#3 passed by me, as did another guy, putting me in fifth. How far out did this course go, anyway?! At this point I was doing a mix of running and walking. Finally the guy in the lead passed by me in the other direction, still going at a nice pace. A bit later, the other three guys, all together in a clump, passed by in the other direction. "Almost there" (or something like that), one of them said.

I slogged on to the turnaround point and started running back. It didn't look like anyone was very close to me. Since the -and-back portion of the out-and-back was mostly flat or downhill, I ran most of it (at a somewhat more moderate pace than I started the day with). Boy, this course was long!

Finally I arrived back at the start, having crossed paths with everyone else in the race other than the four guys ahead of me. I'm not sure what my time was; I think it was around 44 minutes. I was pretty out of breath from my exertions, and I sat around coughing and recovering and eating for a good 20 minutes or so after the race.

Next time I vow to start out at a more reasonable pace! Being able to see my heart rate might be helpful, too, although I should really be in tune enough with myself to have some idea of how hard I'm working. Mebbe I'll get a pair of running snowshoes, too-- e.g., the Atlas Dual-Trac or Dual-Trac SL.

2005 November 24: Manchester Road Race

This is the same "turkey trot" Thanksgiving day race I ran in 2004. Once more, my brother Larry & I took to the streets of Manchester, CT to show folks what we were made of.

Thanksgiving 2005 was a snowy day! We drove over to Manchester more than a little bit worried about what kind of conditions we were to be subjected to. It turned out that the roads were pretty much snow-free, though, and the temperature during the race was actually quite nice (after the race, once we'd started to cool down, things seemed distinctively chilly).

As usual, Larry and I started out together. I started us at at a pretty good pace, and I figured that I was going to beat him good, since I'd been living up at altitude for about a year and since I tend to do longer training runs than he does. But when we got to the big hill in the race, it was pretty clear that I was having a tougher time of it than he was.

Some time further on, I fell behind, and I just didn't have it in me to keep up with him. I was a little surprised at how beat I felt, but there was nothing I could do-- I watched Larry slowly recede into the distance ahead of me.

Even at the end of the race, I didn't have a big kick to deliver. Our finishes put Larry at 31:06 and me at 31:31 (see here for details). This was actually a nice improvement for both of us over our times in 2004, so I'm actually happy with my performance; I just wish the course hadn't mugged me so bad in 2005!

2005 September 17: Auburn Century

I did this ride with my college friend Jason and a posse of his cycling buddies. It was a long but pleasant day that I'll recap here in a big hurry because it's been a while since the actual ride occurred.

It took us a while to actually get going on the ride because some of our posse took a wrong turn and rode halfway in to Tahoe (from Sacramento) instead of going to Auburn. By the time we started cycling, there was plenty of light, and things had warmed up enough that I decided not to take a jacket on the ride.

I was all set to get dropped, because I had my PowerCranks on my Google bike, but I hadn't had a chance to put a lot of miles on them. Until you really get used to them, they make riding tough!

We mostly stuck together until I couldn't take it any more, perhaps 30 or 40 miles into the ride. After that, I rode on my own. Beautiful scenery, good grub, all that.

...and afterwards, we all went for an excellent dinner at the house of Royce, one of Jason's buddies.

2005 July 9: Death Ride

My third Death Ride. Because I let a ton of time elapse between the ride and the write-up, I really have nothing much to say here. It was a nice ride (ridden on my new "Google" bicycle); no big issues arose; I did all five passes. I have so little to say here that I'm clearly only making this post for the sake of completeness...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

2005 May 21: Auburn International Triathlon

Brad Kearns's "World's Toughest Half" was re-christened the "Auburn International Triathlon" in 2005 (plus the course was modified a bit). This event was great in 2004, so I had long been looking forward to it in 2005. Misha joined me on this venture for his first long-course triathlon, too; he would have driven up with me and Alex, except that he had to head back to the Bay Area after the race (Alex and I went up to Tahoe) to party hearty.

A day or two before the race, we learned that the triathlon was being modified into a duathlon. Apparently, late-season snow melt had overwhelmed the swim venue, filling it with debris and making it incredibly cold. Swimming was out! To space the racers out a bit (thereby avoiding an accident-prone bike start en masse, the swim was replaced with a short (5K?) run. I was philosophical and unperturbed by the substitution (I probably said my usual "It's the circle of life" line--possibly many times-- and of course I knew that replacing the swim by a run could actually only help my ranking). Misha was a bit bummed, since this was going to be his first long-course triathlon, but what can you do? It truly is the circle of life.

The 5K out-and-back run was a good warmup. We ran down down down into a canyon, turned around a pylon or something, and then of course had to run up up up. I tried not to work too hard, since I had never before run before biking, and I didn't want to have any unpleasant surprises. I came back into the transition area plenty happy, hopped on my bike, and headed out for the great unknown.

Oops...I once more let my website get way out of date with a half-baked trip report, so I have little other than very vague memories to contribute for the rest of the ride. To sum things up, the bike ride was nice, although I did not finish it with enough juice leftover to run a hilly 13.1 miles! So I ran some, I walked some, and I eventually finished. A great day's work, with terrific views, and a bit of inspiration to train harder for the 2006 race. Results here.

Alex took a bunch of pictures of the event.

2005 May 15: Tilden Tough Ten

This was a 10-mile running race that my uncle Steve told me that he was going to run. Unfortunately, when race day arrived, Steve was under the weather, so he wisely decided to forgo the race, although he showed up near the end to see my spectacular finish.

The ten miles is an out-and-back course that's mostly on a paved trail, although the last mile or so of the "out" leg (and the first mile or so of the "back" leg) is unpaved (and steep, steep, steep!). As you might guess from the name, this race is billed as being tough. In fact, it's so difficult that instead of just having "Tilden Tough Ten" T-shirts, the organizers have three sets of tiered award T-shirts: for people who finish under 80 minutes, for people who finish under 70 minutes, and for people who finish under 60 minutes.

Alex and I got up early and drove up to the race site. It was a bit chilly, and Alex was tired, so after the race started, she hopped back over to the car for a snooze. Before hitting the sack, she snapped a few nice pictures. I, unfortunately, had to stay awake for the duration, of course.

Things started out pretty well. I made good time, although I found myself getting winded more easily than I'd been expecting (in December, I moved up to a house at Tahoe located at an altitude of 7400', and so I was sort of planning on having Super-duperman lungs for all sea-level ventures going forward). I kept up a good pace down the big hill (it's rough enough terrain that you have to pay close attention lest you turn an ankle, too!) to the turn-around point, although I started encountering people on their way back a little earlier than I would've liked.

The nice thing about an out-and-back course is that you get to see what you're in for. In this case, you do the easy part of the race, and you have plenty of time to think about what you're going to have to deal with once you turn around. Things slowed down significantly for me (and for everyone else, too, I reckon!) as soon as I hit the turn-around. But I pumped my arms up the hill gamely enough, and in less time than I had feared, I had made it back to the paved trail and to more moderate climbs.

From here on, I was distinctly short of breath. Since I knew the worst was behind me, though, I tried to maintain my speed. I had visions of a big finish kick ("I'll really push hard for the last mile!"). While I didn't totally crash and burn at the end, I certainly didn't wow anyone with a ginormous speed burst, either. I finished in 68th place with a time of 75:41, and I promise you that I worked for that 75:41! I was a little bit bummed that my five months of living up at altitude apparently hadn't turned me into a human rocket, but I was pretty pleased with how hard I made myself work.

2005 May 1: Wildflower Olympic Triathlon

After last year's painful debacle on the Wildflower Long Course Triathlon, I decided to downshift and do the Olympic Triathlon at Wildflower in 2005. Misha was in on it, too (his first triathlon!), on his new Giant road bike. Diane signed up as well, hooking up with two other women to do the Olympic Triathlon (she was going to do the bike leg).

Alex and Misha and I drove down together, Misha and I picked up our race packets, and then Alex and I went to our hotel (Misha camped out in classic Wildflower fashion). Diane and Ben drove down together, picked up her packet, and went to their hotel; we then had a pre-race-day pizza dinner with the two of them during which Ben showed me his fancy new Garmin GPS watch.

Next day (race day!), we were all hanging out at the race start, waiting. Diane was rather antsy because she hadn't yet found her two teammates (a swimmer and a runner). Time was getting pretty tight for her to touch base with them and plan for the race! She was contemplating doing the whole triathlon herself even though she wasn't really equipped properly to do it, since she hadn't been planning on it ("Should I buy a new wetsuit?!"). Fortunately, the missing teammates showed up at the last minute, saving her a bit of trouble.

Skipping over to me (since this is really my story) now...I must lamentably admit that this is one of those after-the-fact writeups that I really should avoid doing. So I don't have a whole lot to recollect about the actual race! Did a little swimming, a little biking, and a little running. On the basis of my Wildflower Long Course experiences, I had warned Misha in advance about the utter monstrosity about the run course, telling him that it would be largely off-road and steep beyond measure. It turned out that the Olympic run course was much saner than I expected, lacking hairy off-road killer hills. It's possible that it just seemed like an easier course (since it was 10K instead of 13. 1 miles!), but I think it genuinely was easier.

I finished the race happy and not feeling mugged. Results here. Misha and Diane also had good days, as did Li Moore, who I hadn't known in advance was racing. Brother Shawn "Big-time" Simpson was also on hand to party, so I chatted with him a bit afterwards.

During the race, Alex put her new bike through its paces. I'm not sure where this should go in this writeup, but I felt it should go somewhere, so here it is! Alex also took lots of pictures.

2004 November 25: Manchester Road Race

I've been pretty good for some years now about getting some exercise on Thanksgiving Day before the big meal. This year's exertions involved considerable advance planning: Larry and I ran the Manchester Road Race, and we ran a race a month in advance solely to get seeded for the Manchester Road Race.

Larry and I ran this race in 2001 unseeded, and there were so many racers running with us and getting in the way that I swore I would never again run it without seeding. We didn't run our pre-race race fast enough to get seeded in the fastest group (those who were expected to run on Thanksgiving in under 30 minutes), but we got seeded in the second group of the three seedings-- 35 minutes and under.

After some warming up, Larry and I took our spots in our seeding group. When things started, we had plenty of company running alongside, but enough room that we were actually able to run our own pace. Early in the race, ending around two miles or so in, there's a big climb that wiped me out more than I'd been thinking it would. After that climb, I had to ease up a bit-- fortunately there were no other real climbs further on.

Near the start of a downhill, Larry needed to stop to tie his shoe. For some reason, I was afraid of getting overrun by the mass of humanity running near us if I stopped with him, so I selfishly forged ahead. After he tied his shoes, Larry sprinted to catch up to me, but I think his superhuman effort at that point wore him down.

We trundled on down the hill, always onwards, onwards. The course flattened out for the last chunk, and I picked up the pace a bit. Larry was still winded from his sprint, and he fell behind. We finished the race fairly close together, both comfortably ensconced in the 30-35-minute range. Results.

2004 October 17: KC101 5K for Breast Cancer Awareness

Larry and I were planning on running the Manchester Road Race this Thanksgiving, but we wanted to get seeded to avoid
starting with thousands and thousands of huddled masses. (We had
run the Manchester Road Race in 2001, and we found that because of how
many people were on the road with us, we only got to actually run in the last mile or so of
it.) So we needed to run a certified course in advance of the
Road Race (and we needed to run it quickly enough!), and this little
course in New Haven was what we found. We figured that we'd have
really fast times, since New Haven doesn't have any hills.

We ran this race with Melissa, who has been known to be rather fleet of
foot. The three of us warmed up with a little running around the
Yale campus and then lined up near the front for the start.

Bang! Larry and I set out at a decent pace, with Melissa right
behind us. Within 3/4 mile or so, she decided that we were
pushing a little too hard, so we dropped her.

We soon learned that we were wrong in believing New Haven to be
hill-free. New Haven might not have many hills, but this little 5K
course certainly made the most of the hills there were. At our
monstrous pace, the course was tough going! Larry & I hung
together for a long time,
but then Larry started pulling away, and I didn't feel like I
could/should do much about it. It turned out that the hills were
his undoing, though. In the last mile or so, I caught up to him
on a hill, and we ran together for a bit more. Coming up on last
half-mile flat stretch or so at the end, I sped up, but Larry was out
of gas. I pulled away from him and passed someone else to finish
reasonably strongly (although rather breathlessly!). It turned
out that I was third in my age group, so I received a little worthless
trophy for my efforts, and I must admit to being oddly pleased to have
it. The guy between me and Larry was in our age group, so even
though he barely finished behind me, he was fifth in his (our) age

As Larry and I cooled down, Melissa hove into view. She had spent
most of the race in second place among the women, but near the end the
leader faltered and she took the lead. She won handily and was
given a free pair of running shoes for her efforts.

The three of us talked with other racers, and we all decided that--
certified or not-- the course was not
5K. Even taking into account the shockingly substantial hills,
the race took more out of everyone than a 5K should. (Larry and
Melissa made some noises about how they're going to verify the course
distance; I imagine they haven't followed through yet.) Nice
race, though, even though it kind of beat us up. And most
importantly, of course, we got our seeding for the Thanksgiving race.

My final time for the race was 20:04, and Larry's was 20:13.

2004 September 25: XTERRA Nevada

XTERRA is a series of offf-road triathlons that has been gaining momentum over the past few years. In 2004, Cedric and I decided we'd take part in XTERRA Nevada, which is held a few hours from the Bay Area in Tahoe's Incline Village. The XTERRA Nevada course consists of .75K (maybe .5K?) swimming in Lake Tahoe, 32K mountain biking in the mountains above Lake Tahoe, and a 5K trail run.

Cedric and Alex and I drove up the night before the race. I couldn't find us accommodations in Incline Village, unfortunately, so we stayed at the Resort at Squaw Creek, which is totally excellent, but which isn't quite ideally located.

Race morning had us showing up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and slowly fighting the bikes off the top of the car (I have since replaced my bicycle racks). We brought the bikes and other race equipment to the transition area and then walked across the chilly wet grass towards the lake. We stopped to put on our wetsuits, which helped warm us up significantly. Then we continued down (ouch! Pebbles underneath bare feet!) to the lake to hang out for the race start.

Cedric & I posed for a few pictures while waiting. The water was cold enough (62 degrees) that I dreaded entering it, so I didn't get in before the race (I seem to make that decision often!). With a bang! the competition was underway, and all the participants took running starts into the lake. My thermal worries melted away as I had the most pleasant swim I've had thus far in a triathlon-- the water felt great, the lake was beautiful and crystal clear, and I somehow had plenty of space to myself.

After the swim, I slogged out of the water and jogged (ouch! again) back towards the transition area. About a minute into my transition, Cedric joined me (we had placed our bikes next to each other). After pulling myself together and making a final decision on whether or not to bring my water with me for the bike ride (my mountain bike frame can't fit any water bottles, and a Camelbak seemed like overkill...), I got going on part two of the triathlon. (I can't remember whether or not I did end up bringing water with me. Probably I did.)

After a short stint on the road, the long line of bikes started climbing up into the hills above the Pondarosa Ranch (yup! The one from the TV show). It was a pretty tough climb up rather low-traction sand and gravel, and it took a lot more out of me than it should have. I screwed up and chose a bad line at some point (in retrospect, I should have paid more attention to where on the path everyone else was biking!) and had to walk my bike briefly until I found some traction; naturally that was when Cedric came upon me and passed me.

Once the big climb was done, we continued riding along some singletrack. I didn't know what proper mountain bike or XTERRA racing etiquette said about letting people pass, and I guess I should've let people pass me more often. In my defense, I wasn't actually the limiting factor for most of this section-- I was right behind someone else who I couldn't figure out how to pass. I gather now that I should have communicated to him that I wanted to pass him, and then he would have pulled over at an appropriate spot. Next time!

Things eventually widened out to a fire road for a few miles, and then we had the big descent down to lake level. The first part of the descent was packed dirt with occasional medium-sized rocks in the path-- nice, classic mountain-biking riding. The bottom part, however, was a lot of sand. I was amazed at how fast people were descending (it seemed like a lot of people passed me here!), because I was scared to go very fast on this stuff. Even at the speeds I was travelling, I felt as though I was on the edge of control (except for one corner, where I was definitely out of control, and I almost lost it).

I made it back to the road and the transition area in one piece and put on my trail running shoes for what would be the longest 5K run of my life. There were no big climbs on the run, but there were a lot of little ups and downs, and after the bike ride, I didn't have a lot left to give. There were some minor off-road-ish obstacles to overcome (like going over a log to cross a creek), and those slowed things down as well. Nobody passed me during the run, and I passed a reasonable number of people, which presumably means (yet again) that I didn't work hard enough during the bike leg. The run course wound around the race start/end area and thereabouts, never getting too far away from it; this made it difficult to guess how much running remained at any given point. Towards the end, I thought I was on the final stretch, and so I sped up, but then it turned out that the course zigged and zagged for a while more before the end.

Cedric and I found each other and compared notes. He had beaten me by some huge amount on the bike leg, so he had been hanging out already for a while. We both agreed that the race was an awesome experience. I'm definitely planning on doing some more XTERRAs! My swimming and running were acceptable in this race, but hopefully I'll improve my mountain biking beforehand...

After cooling down and wandering around some more, Cedric and I gathered up our stuff and brought it all back to the car, where Alex was snoozing.

Alex's pictures of the event are located here. My results are here.

2004 August 22: TriOne Olympic Triathlon

Miz told me about this small local triathlon (she was initially going
to race as well, but when the race rolled around, she didn't feel up to
it).  A nice flat Olympic triathlon less than than an hour from
home sounded pretty good to me, so I signed up and started looking
forward to it.

The day before the race, I went on a fairly substantial hike with some
some friends.  After the hike we did some hot-tubbing and
barbecuing, and by the time I got home, it was a lot later than I had
intended.  I was full and tired, and I hadn't yet laid out any of
gear for the race.  I therefore thought very seriously about
bailing out-- getting out of the house at 5am so I could arrive in
Alameda at 6am or so sounded a trifle unattractive to me.  So I
sort of
compromised: I got my gear together, but didn't set an alarm.  I
decided that if I woke up in time, I'd go and race, but if the Fates
permitted me to sleep in, I would.

(Another reason I wasn't so excited at the prospect of racing was that
a few days previously, I had somehow, over the course of a bike ride,
abraided myself in a very
sensitive area.  To get myself shipshape, I decided to close up
the wound by spraying New-Skin Antiseptic Liquid Bandage on it. 
This was actually quite effective, but it hurt like [obviously I need
to keep this trip report G-rated and suitable for mixed company, but if
I didn't, I'd say that, well, it hurt like it would hurt to spray some
caustic agent on a cut on one's balls].)

Around 5am, I was semi-awake and looking at the clock.  In the
state I was in, I thought to myself, "Well, I guess I'm up in
time.  I can even laze around in bed some more, since I don't have
to leave home until 6am."  At 5:17am, I suddenly realized that 6am
was actually an hour after I
had intended to leave, so I jumped up, pulled myself together, and
drove off.

I see that all these miscellaneous musings and observations aren't as
exciting as the real
cutting edge race report, so I'll skip ahead a bit now to some random
after arriving on the scene...

...there was quite a current in the water (the swim portion of this
was performed in the Bay).  The first part of the swim involved
swimming against a fair bit of this current, and the people swimming in
the first waves clearly didn't quite realize how true this was. 
All of them ended up swimming rather amusing (and significantly longer
than necessary) courses, and the announcer, Brad Kearns, made sure to
make fun of them in a friendly way.

I was actually sort of caught with my pants down (not literally, as it
happens) at my
wave's start.  Originally, the sprint distance waves were
scheduled to start at 7am, and the Olympic distance waves were
scheduled to start at 7:30am.  Because of some misfire of some
sort, the sprint distance waves were pushed back to 7:15am, and Brad
said that the Olympic distance waves were pushed back to 7:45am. 
So around 7:26am, I was still chillin', just getting ready to walk over
to the transition area, when I heard Brad say that my wave was starting
in 4 minutes!  I ran over to the transition area and put on my
wetsuit as quickly as I could (this isn't a 5-second job; it's
important to take enough time to
get these things on right!),
but by the time I made it to the race start, I was barely in time to
get in even on the wave after my proper wave.  The bottom line:
should view my swim time and total race time as both being 4 minutes
faster than the official results indicate.  Really!

(Even sacrificing those 4 minutes to start with a later wave, I didn't
have enough time at the start to start out in a good position-- I was
much further downstream than I wanted to be.  Even though I knew I
really wanted to swim in a fairly upstream direction, I ended up not
having that choice, because I was sort of blocked by all the people who
started with me (and who, I maintain, did not initially swim as much
upstream as I wanted).)

Anyway: I swam very slowly.  It was
a tough swim: in addition to having to fight the current, there was
some medium-sized chop out there.  I'd like to say that, hell, everyone swam slowly, but that's
not quite true: in fact, I noticed to my chagrin that the fastest
swimmer swam more than twice
as quickly as I did (even after properly taking 4 minutes off my swim
time)!  I'm really
starting to think I should work on swimming faster.

Arriving at the transition area after the swim, I saw that the weather
was still excellent (you can assume that I told you about the great
weather earlier, in the section that was skipped in my haste to get to
the actual race venue.  A brief review of the weather: it was
perfect, not too
hot/cold/sunny).  I decided to make like a "real triathlete" and
not wear any socks (for the first time!), so I did just that and saved
precious seconds off my transition.  Surely victory would be mine
this day!

The bike leg was a 3-loop course that had a few 180-degree turnaround
points.  At the first of these, I got into a minor disagreement
with the guy who was at the turnaround point and directing the
cyclists-- it seemed as though he and I weren't sure whether I should
pass on the inside of
him or the outside of him.  I ended up kind of skidding around the
turnaround, and afterwards I noticed that he took up a post well on the
inside of the
cones to prevent further trouble.

I only took a single water bottle on my bike, because there was
supposed to be a water station somewhere on the course (and since the
course was 3 loops, that would provide ample opportunity to get
fluids).  There might well have been a water station, but I never
found it, so I was
feeling a bit dry towards the end of the ride.  Nothing serious,
though; after all, the bike leg was only around an hour in temperate

Miz & Tom were present to cheer me on, and it was great to see
them.  I saw them several times, since the bike course had 3
laps.  I didn't really have a chance to exchange more than 2-3
breathless words with them, of course.  They took the pictures
below (any blurring you see in the pictures is caused by the incredible
speed at which I was moving):

My tri bike (& its brethren)

Me biking somewhere around the transition area

Me with a kind of funny look on my face

Me starting or ending my ride

Me doing something or other in the transition area

The official pace figure for my bike leg was 21.8mph (I think the
elapsed time includes one of the transitions, too).  I guess
that was reasonable for me at present, although it's not as fast as I'd
like, considering that it's only a 40k course, that it's completely
and that the weather was most excellent.  It's rather sobering
sometimes to think about how top
Iron-distance athletes maintain 24-25mph for 112 miles! 
Inspirational, too, of course.  But mostly sobering.

After the bike leg, I was still feeling quite good, and I moved quickly
onto the run.  I left the transition area like a bat out of hell,
and shortly thereafter, I realized that my rapid transition and hasty
start to the run had
me wheezing like a maniac (do they wheeze?).  Although I felt
good, I was breathing so loudly and rapidly that I was probably
bringing down property values, and something was going to give out
soon.  I managed to get myself under control somewhat within a few
minutes without slowing down too much, fortunately.

The first half of the run went well, but then my sockless feet started
to get a bit of a "hotfoot" to them.  I think I need slightly
smaller running shoes if I'm going to go sockless, because my feet were
moving around just enough to be bothersome (I found out after the race
that I had lost a bit of skin on the bottoms of my feet.  Nothing
major).  The turnaround at the halfway point was at an airport--
not Oakland Airport, which was very close by, but a little area where
people were flying remote-controlled airplanes.  It looked like
fun (more fun than wheezing through another 3.1 hot-footed miles), but
I kept going with my usual stern reminder to myself: something like,
"My country did not send me 40 miles to start the TriOne Olympic
Triathlon.  It send me 40 miles to finish the TriOne Olympic
Triathlon."  Yes, believe it or not, while I'm racing, these silly
send-ups of famous quotes really do
run through my head.  I also try to think of amusing comments to
use in my write-ups, but by the time I get to the end of a race, these
are usually long gone.

Time to skip to the end of the race.  I actually had something of
a finishing kick, which was nice, although it's going to take more than
a 400 yard sprint before I'm actually doing these races quickly. 
I was happy with my run performance overall, especially considering
that I had gone running only once in the past three weeks (my back had
been giving me some grief, so I had been taking it easy on the
high-impact activities).

I hung out at the race HQ for a while.  A live band was playing
selections from Tom Lehrer and Wierd Al Yankovic, among others. 
In the transition area, I talked for a while with a guy, Chris, who's
recently started doing triathlons.  We finished in about the same
time, and we might do some workouts
together sometime.

The only remaining thing I have to say about the day's experience is
that on the way home, a very stupid woman cost me some time at the San
Mateo Bridge toll plaza.  Without getting into excessive detail,
let me just say that people whose cars are not FasTrak-equipped simply
shouldn't be in the FasTrak-only lane.

Results are here
Don't forget to take 4 minutes off of my time (2:27:05.4 after the -4
minute correction)!

2004 August 1: Half Vineman Triathlon

This day was gonna be huge! I was in shape, well-rested (as
well-rested as I get,
anyway!), and just
plain ready to kick some butt (please be aware that "butt-kicking" is a
relative term. In this
particular case, it meant that I was going to improve upon my 2003 time of approximately 5:12 by
handily breaking the 5-hour mark. 4:50 seemed to me like a
reasonable goal for a man of my magnitude).

In preparation for my expected domination of the course, I tossed out
the usual highly reasonable rule of "not messing with your bike just
before a big ride". (Hey, the 2003 Half Vineman was the maiden voyage for my current tri bike, and it
out fine!) I had a few little tweaks to make on my bike that I
hadn't gotten around to earlier, and on Friday-- two days before race
day-- I decided that I would throw caution (and common sense) to the
wind and do them.

One of these tweaks was swapping out the 12-25 cassette and putting in
a 12-23 cassette instead. This would shave some negligable and
unnoticeable number of grams from my bike, but more importantly, it
would (I figured) give me a slightly more appropriate gearing range for
the Half Vineman course, which doesn't have any substantial hills (and
even if it did, my tri bike actually has a triple chainring). I
did not go out of my way to
buy a new cassette for this; I happen to have a 12-23 cassette that
came with my Litespeed road
bike sitting around and doing nothing in my garage.

After doing all the minor modifications I wanted, I pulled myself
together to go for a ride. I stepped out of the house and
immediately got stung on the arm by a bee. Ouch! It's been
many years since that happened. That sting itched like a
sonuvabitch for the next five days or so.

After some quality time cussing and recovering from the shock of the
sting, I got on my bike and started riding. No problems-- things
seemed great. There was one really odd thing, though-- it seemed
like when I got up a little bit of speed, and shifted into a higher
gear, sometimes the bike was actually easier
to pedal than before the shift! That certainly didn't make a lot
of sense, but I figured that perhaps I was pedaling at a funny cadence
before shifting, and so it was biomechanically advantageous to be in
the higher gear. After experiencing this oddity several times,
though, it seemed that something was definitely wonky. So I took
a look at my rear wheel, and I saw what's in the picture below (more or
less-- the picture was taken well after the fact, at home, which you
can probably tell because the wheel doesn't have a bike (or even a
skewer) connected to it):

My cassette, as I installed it on my wheel

If you don't see what's wrong above, I'll give you a hint: traditional
bicycle mechanics install cassettes so that continued shifting of gears
in one direction changes the gear ratio monotonically. While I'm not
a traditional bicycle mechanic, I could still have perhaps been more
careful in the installation of this cassette, I reckon. Anyway,
as soon as I got home, I fixed this little issue.

Fast-forward to leaving the race expo the next day after registering
and buying a stylin' new Halo II Headband
(something I was planning on buying, anyway, but hadn't gotten around
to, yet-- it wasn't an impulse buy). On the street, Tiger & I
saw a very
interesting bike-- it had a fancy frame built by someone I'd never
heard of, some very fancy deep-dish wheels by someone I'd never heard
of, and a totally weird
looking saddle (by someone I'd never heard of). I asked the dude
walking it what kind of a saddle
it was, and he quickly whipped out an info sheet and offered me a quick
test ride right then and there! It turned out that he was
Stefano Doldi, and his Dimar company
is the US distributor of these saddles and of the Rotor System crank. His bike was
also equipped with this crank, of course, and between that and the
saddle, his bike felt quite different [from anything else I had ridden]
in the few hundred yards I spent on it. When I handed the bike
back to him, I was going to say something along the lines of, "That's
pretty wild! It's tough to tell from such a teeny test ride, but
that saddle really has potential!" Before the words could exit my
mouth, though, he said more or less exactly that.

I have purposely let you, dear reader, stew for a bit, wondering what
was so weird about this saddle. Presumably you're now dying for
some information. Well, it's called the "un~Saddle", and the first thing
you'll likely notice about its website is that it doesn't have any
information right now. The Dimar website
has a few pages of info up, though, to give you an idea. It's
like a saddle that pivots on its post
and that's missing the nose, and I found it sufficiently intriguing
that I'm working on procuring one, even though it's a bit of a pain to
install one on a Softride bike
(you need some custom widget because the Softride doesn't have a
seatpost. I'm looking into it).

Fast-forward once again to the race. While Tiger & I were
hanging around at the
start of the race, waiting for things to
get underway, I heard the announcer say something like, "Wave #3, the
6:38am wave, is actually wave #1 now, because the pros didn't show
up." (In most triathlons, the male pros are the first wave to
start, and the female pros are the second wave to start.)
Although this had no direct bearing on me (or on any amateurs present,
actually), it seemed pretty weird. The only reasonable thing for
me to assume was clearly that all the pros got scared off by the
prospect of my passing them during the race (despite the fact that I
was going to start at 7:10am, which was 40 minutes behind the pro men
36 minutes behind the pro women).

At the appropriate time, I entered the water with the rest of my
white-capped brethren, who turned out to be exceedingly numerous.
"Jeez, there's a lot of 33- & 34-year-olds!" I ventured to say to
my compatriots. Bang! And we were off and swimming!
While I was gonna be busy demolishing my time for the previous year's
race, Tiger had my Game Boy Advance and was ready to spend the day
readin', snoozin', chillin', and gamin'.

I have to say that I've never been pushed around so much during a swim
as I was in this race. I sustained no serious damage, but for
most of the 1.2 miles, people kept on prodding me. I managed to
keep myself on course better than usual, but other folks going in
random directions repeatedly tried to shove me off to the side, to my
annoyance. Despite this, I kept up a huge pace, since I was
intent on some good results.

At the end of the swim, I ran out of the water and into the transition
area to my bike. No time to waste here! I took a glimpse at
my watch to see exactly how much butt I was kicking and determined
that apparently, my own butt was the only one that I kicked: I was
somehow already far, far behind 2003's effort (Editor's
note: 44:18.8 vs. 37:17.0. Ouch! How the hell did that
happen?). Inconceivable! Well, not a big deal, really--
after all, the swim is just a warm-up for where the real time is spent, on the
road. I'd make that up in no time on the bike, since I was
planning on showing some serious speed there.

The weather was so perfect (not too cold or too hot or too sunny) that
I didn't need to use my bike gloves or even my sunglasses. I did have on my new headband, which,
by the way, did a great job of keeping the sweat out of my eyes
during the ride and the run (admittedly, things were cool enough that
that probably wouldn't have been an issue even without it. At
this point (the time of this write-up), though, I've worn it on hotter
days, and it is indeed most excellent).

Back to the main event. The ride began nicely, with me passing
lots of folks initially as I warmed up my legs a bit. Lookin'
good! But somehow, I never really managed to get into the
high-speed groove that I had anticipated would be so easy to fall
into. Perhaps this was partly an issue of nutrition-- for some
(or for no?) reason, outside of water and Gatorade, I consumed nothing other
than half a banana during the bike leg. (I picked up this half a
banana at the second aid station, perhaps 26 miles into the ride.
Snagging it was kind of an afterthought; I had already started to pick
up a fair bit of speed after getting a bottle of Gatorade when I yelled
to a banana-holding volunteer, "That banana looks great" (or some
such), and I grabbed it out of her hand at high velocity. For the
next 10 miles, I kept on hearing Paul McCartney singing words to
the effect of "banana...on
the run.")

Sometime after eating the bit of banana, I started to feel the effects
of possibly overzealous fluid consumption. Without getting into a
ton of detail (I think I swore in some previous trip report that I'd
stop detailing what my bladder was up to in every race or ride in which
I participate-- although I'll violate that oath here, I'll try to do so
tastefully), I had to go a bit slowly and in a rather upright position
for some miles because, well, I
didn't want to pop. It was quite a relief (in several ways) when
I finally reached a Porta-Potty, and I was able to bike significantly
faster after my pit stop.

Around 44 miles into the ride, I hit Chalk Hill, the biggest of the
hills on the course (which, as I indicated earlier, is quite
flat. Chalk Hill is only about maybe 300 feet of climbing, and
it's not incredibly steep). I stood up for the duration of the
hill and worked through it quickly, since I knew I was (to put it
mildly) behind schedule. Even if I have nothing else positive to
say about my biking, I will
say that I climbed that li'l peak at a good clip.

Nothing much else to report on the ride other than that I managed to
lose yet more time, relative to 2003. (Editor's note: 2:49:20.9
vs. 2:40:23.3. What's going on here?) Not doing so well
thus far, but
luckily, I was going to do the run so incredibly quickly that the day
wouldn't be a total loss.

Like the first leg and the ride, the run started out swimmingly.
I was jammin' on
past everybody at breakneck speed and feeling great, except that my
bladder was again fit to bust. It didn't sound like fun to wait
until the 2-mile aid station, so I made a pit stop at the very first
opportunity. Unfortunately, both Porta-Potties were occupied when
I got there, so I had to wait two or three minutes to get my
turn. As usual, I have to say: it was worth it!

Back on the road, the miles were flying by. Around three or four
miles in, Chris Gregory saw me and hailed me, and we exchanged some
[very small] number of words. It's always nice to see folks you
know during something like this-- it provides a rather welcome

I have to admit that although I still felt terrific on the flats, I
found that even the little rolling hills on the course really made
things tough (at that point in the day, they feel like they only roll
up, and never down!). Still, I knew that in 2003, my run was
completely pathetic, and that
although I did in fact run the entire distance (i.e., I didn't stop or walk any of
it), I was going to crush
that effort this year.

The last few miles felt thoroughly slow. Feeling is believing,
and so I have to figure that they really were slow, too. Even so, I
was absolutely positive that they were going by faster than they did in
last year's race.

Imagine, then, my shock & appallment at the end of the day when I
ascertained that I had run slower in 2004 than in 2003! (Editor's
note: 1:46:47.5 vs. 1:45:37.8. Words fail me.) A
week later, I still don't
know how this could happen, and I figure there was some sort of
relativistic effect involved.

(I may have been guilty of consuming too few calories during the run,
too-- other than a few cups of Gatorade,
all I had were two ClifShots.)

The one bright spot: transition times! In 2003, I spent a total
of 8:38.3 in the transition areas, but in 2004, I reduced this to
6:35.2. Still not exactly smokin', but you gotta take your
victories where you find them, I figure.

My slower-than-expected time was particularly tragic given the ideal
weather on race
day. In 2003, the run was hot!
In 2004, the sun waited until a few minutes after I finished to finally
kick away the clouds, and so I didn't have to deal with any of that
unpleasantness. As long as I'm coming clean, I suppose I could
mention that my bike is sporting cooler wheels, pedals, and saddle in
2004 than in 2003 (plus I have much phatter bike shoes). Over
time, I see more and more the truth in the title of Lance's book, "It's
Not About the Bike".

More detailed results for the day's efforts are here.
I wore bib #1198.

2004 July 10: Death Ride

This was my second time participating in the Death Ride (see my trip report for 2003's ride).  I
was part of a posse of five more-or-less Googlers (the other four
people are active Googlers, and I'm a former Googler) who went up to
ride and hang out together.  I drove up on my own, Lauren and
Kekoa drove up together, and Ed and Chad flew up in Ed's father's small

We all met up the night before the ride at Turtle Rock Park, the ride's
start/end point.  After taking care of registration and dining,
Lauren and I headed to South Lake Tahoe to spend [what we could of] the
night at Caesar's, while Ed and Chad and Kekoa camped at the Alpine
County Airport.  All of us intended to get a rather early start
the next day, since the ride starts at 5:30am; Kekoa had to get an
especially early start, since he hadn't registered for the ride in
advance, and so he had to show up at 4:30am to request an open slot
from a no-show rider.

Lauren and I got to South Lake Tahoe a bit later than would have been
ideal, given that we intended to get up a bit before 4am (the drive
between South Lake Tahoe and Turtle Rock Park is around 45
minutes).  We slept fitfully enough that maybe that didn't matter,
though-- we were both awake and preparing for the day's exertions well
before the time we set the alarm at.  After throwing everything in
the car, we headed out in the darkness to Alpine County Airport, where
we grabbed Ed and Chad and their bikes, and then we all headed to
Turtle Rock Park.

Kekoa had successfully gotten himself an entry into the ride, and
promptly at 5:30am, the five of us took off.  Um, except me. 
Even though I'd tossed down some food when I woke up, I decided to
stick around for a quick "Death Ride Breakfast" (pancakes, scrambled
eggs, oatmeal, and coffee).  I ended up starting the ride at about

This year, unlike last year, I had parked my car in a reasonable way,
and so I wasn't so scatterbrained that I left useful items in the
car.  Not only did I remember my sunglasses and gloves (cycling
gloves were pretty much mandatory for me this year, since I was riding
my tri bike, and I find that my grip on my tri bike's bars gets very
slippery if I'm not wearing gloves), but I brought along my new very
lightweight jacket, whose presence I very much appreciated in the early
hours of the ride.

The first little downhill through town was a nice and easy (if somewhat
chilling) descent towards the base of the first climb, Monitor
Pass.  Then the climbing began!  For the first four (out of
five) passes of the Death Ride, the roads are closed to cars, so riders
get to enjoy a very pleasant cycling experience.

The first climb is a bit less than 3,000' high.  At some point, I
caught up with the bulk of my posse: Ed and Kekoa and Lauren were all
climbing together, although Chad had forged on ahead.  I joined
the posse and we finished the climb together, then stopped at the rest
stop for some food & drink.  1 down, 4 to go!

When I left the rest area to descend the back side of Monitor Pass, I
decided that I'd split off from the others and go on my own from
there.  I went a bit ahead and started my descent-- and it's an
awesome descent, really long, great road, sweeping views, etc.  Shortly after I started
descending for real (going at what I thought
was a reasonable pace), something zoomed by me at high speed, and a
closer look at its jersey revealed that it was Kekoa.  Whoa! 
He was well ahead of me quickly enough.  I think Ed might have
passed me, too, but I can't recall for sure.

At the bottom of the Pass, the four of us regrouped again (I know, I
know, I said I'd be on my own henceforth).  Here I took my single
token picture from the Death Ride (given that I toted my camera the
whole way, maybe I should have taken more of them!).  It came out
OK, although Kekoa looks a trifle squinty (note also Ed's polka-dot
climber jersey):

Ed & Kekoa & Lauren at the bottom of the first descent

Ditching my compadres once more, I turned around and started climbing
what we had just descended.  Ed had said that on the way down,
he'd seen Chad around half a mile or so from the base, so I figured I'd
catch Chad at some point.  It turned at the half a mile isn't so
short and/or Chad was climbing at a pretty good rate and/or the other
four of us had hung out for a while at the bottom, because I didn't see
Chad during the climb.

During this climb, I saw Tina, who I had assisted with her chain in the
Sequoia Century.  We
chatted for a bit while climbing, and I learned to my chagrin that her
chain had given her more trouble later on that day.  After hangin'
with her for a bit, I pushed on ahead.  Shortly thereafter, Ed
caught up with me, and the two of us finished climb #2 together. 
At the rest stop on top of Monitor, we saw Chad, and the three of us
replenished our supplies.

Next on the agenda: descending Monitor Pass again, only this time,
descending the face that we'd started the day climbing.  Ed and
Chad and I started out together, but Chad decided to take his time, so
Ed and I went ahead.  This was another great descent, and I got up
to 50.3 mph!  (This is not an incredibly fast speed, but it's
reasonably fast, and it's certainly faster than the likes of me tends to ride, except perhaps on
really nice downhills on my tandem!)  Shortly after attaining this
speed, I passed a cyclist at the side of the road who'd apparently had
an accident and was being attended to.  Although the cyclist
didn't look too damaged, I
nevertheless found inspiration to take it easy on the rest of the

Once Ed and I reached the bottom, we started climbing up Ebbetts
Pass.  On the Death Ride, Ebbetts is a similar deal to Monitor:
climb the front side, go down the back side, turn around, climb the
back side, descend the front side.  After ascending for a bit with
Ed, Ed noted that I seemed to be slowing down (sho' nuff!) and ditched
my ass.  I finished the climb on my own, and then caught up with
Ed at the rest stop at the top.

After a brief respite, Ed and I headed down the back side
together.  Ebbetts is windier (on both sides) than Monitor, so
it's not as rapid a descent.  I managed to make it more exciting,
however, by having my front tire go instantaneously flat partway
through.  This is actually something that some cyclists (like me!)
worry about a reasonable amount, but in this instance, I had no serious
trouble.  I didn't lose enough steering control to have any
problems, and I stopped the bike fairly quickly.  Ed was long
gone, of course.

After changing my front tube, I noticed that my rear tire seemed a bit
mushy, too, so I did what I could to top it off.  Then I was back
on the bike and down the hill.  Some time before I reached the
bottom, I saw Ed [ascending], and I yelled "big flat!" at him as I
zipped down.  When I saw him much later that day at South Lake
Tahoe, he confirmed that he had managed to parse my utterance, but only
after half a minute of effort.

Since I had silly hopes of catching up with Ed again (if he took his
time at the rest stops!), I dispensed with the rest stop at the bottom
of the 3rd descent, and turned around and headed right back
up.  This is the shortest of the five climbs, but it comes after
enough climbing that it still takes a while to finish.  Around a
mile from the top, someone descending yelled out something like, "not
much longer!"  It turned out that it was Kekoa, and he was with
Lauren and Chad.  I yelled at all of them, greeting them by name,
but they didn't hear me.  (I thought at the time thought that
Kekoa was talking to me in particular, but in fact none of them noticed
me-- he was just giving a general message of encouragement to the
climbers.)  I have no interesting comments to utter about it,
other than that I was glad when I arrived at the summit!  I
stopped again at the rest stop, but not for too long, since Ed was
nowhere in sight and the official lunch stop was not too far off.

The descent down Ebbetts Pass's front side was nice, although I passed
another cyclist who'd had an accident (again, it didn't look too
serious, fortunately).  There was a rather long line at the lunch
stop, so I decided to skip it, since I'd been doing a pretty good job
of feeding myself so far, anyway.  I did grab a cup of soup, since
there was no line at the soup table.

The lunch stop was placed only 80 miles into the ride, which meant that
the last big climb somehow required 49 miles of riding from
there!  The first part of that is some light descending, and the
next part is climbing up through town and past Turtle Rock Park
(essentially, undoing the downhill from the very start of the
day).  There's no really steep climbing involved, but with
somewhat used-up legs and a stiff headwind, it's pretty slow
slogging.  I stopped off at my car to top off my stomach and my
tires, and discovered that I had some issues with my rear inner tube
(the valve extenders I have to use on my Zipp
rims are sometimes a big pain in the ass), so I ended up having to take
it off completely and reinstall it.  Not a big deal, but after 90
miles of so of the Death Ride, even little deals start to seem like Big

A few more miles brought me to the Woodfords rest stop, which more or
less marks the base of the final climb up Carson Pass.  I made a
somewhat extended stop here, topping off my fluids and hanging out--
just girding my loins, I suppose.  But eventually I had to get
going, especially since I was contemplating doing the optional 6th
pass this year (an extra 24 miles and 1,200' of climbing, but it
involved a cut-off: I had to make it somewhere by 5:15pm). 
(Although I wasn't exactly jammin' by the time I got to the Woodfords
rest stop, my legs and butt still felt pretty good, so I thought this
would be a good year for tacking some "extra" on to the ride.)

The first bit of Carson Pass is another big grind.  It's a
middlin' steep hill with a big headwind, and it's just really really
slow.  Five miles up, I suddenly started hearing hissing, and
watched as my rear tire went completely flat.  Curses!  Given
my troubles so far with my tires, I seriously considered calling it a
day right there.  But for better or for worse, I had another spare
tube, so I slowly changed the tube, slowly straightened my aching back,
got back on my bike, and continued climbing the last nine miles. 
Going through my head was the usual refrain, something along the lines
of, "My country did not send me 200 miles so I could style="font-style: italic;">start the Death Ride.  It sent
me 200 miles so I could finish
the Death Ride."  (See here
Hmmm-- depending on what source you believe, maybe I should change that
to "...did not send me to Tahoe...".)

At some point, Carson Pass leveled out significantly, and so I actually
hunkered down on my aero bars for a while and cruised at [relatively!]
high speed through the wind.  Things were taking long enough that
it was no longer clear that I'd make that 5:15pm cut-off time, but I
figured I'd do what I could.  Unfortunately, the last part of the
climb is steeper (and windier), and it took me enough time that I
reached the time at pretty much exactly 5:15pm, so the bonus pass was
not an option.  (Even though I was proceeding pretty slowly for
the last few miles, I felt pretty good about my performance, since I
had acquired a paceline of sorts whose members were eager to let me
fight the wind for them.)

A kid gave me a fudgesicle at the rest stop at the top, which was all
right, but a little poking around revealed to me that they also had
"Crunch" popsicles (vanilla ice cream with chocolate coating with
something crispy in it).  The latter really hit the spot, although
I wasn't sure it was a great idea to prep for the upcoming big fast
descent by cooling down with two ice creams.

After finishing stuffing myself with whatever looked appealing, I
headed out of the rest area and down Carson Pass.  This was the
big descent that I'd been looking forward to all day!  15 miles of
highway that I'd taken it pretty easy on last year, because I was
feeling totally fried.  This year I felt good, so I figured I'd
really make some of it.

Just a short distance (a mile?) down from the rest area-- before I'd
really had any serious straightaway to get up some speed, fortunately--
my front wheel started wobbling in a really scary fashion.  At
first, it was just a little wobble, but then it started getting rapidly
worse.  Braking made it get worse yet, but continuing on without
braking meant certain death.  It was bad enough that I actually
thought that I was going to die ride then and there-- what was
happening to me seemed to match exactly my understanding of what had
happened to Scott Lambert, who had the misfortune to become the first
ever casualty of the Death Ride in 2002.  Somehow I managed to
stop my bike despite the wobbling and shaking, and fortunately I wasn't
in the way of any cars or bikes on that stretch.

All of a sudden, I was no longer in the mood to do any more biking that day (let along
finish my 15-mile descent!).  I caught a ride back to my car from
a nice Carson City family (the husband was also bailing out of the
Death Ride at that point-- he had just had his third flat tire, and so
he decided to call it a day).  Back at my car, a note from Chad
explained that everyone else was done riding, and that they'd see me at
South Lake Tahoe.  I walked over to Turtle Rock Park and had a
quick dinner there, and then I drove back to Caesar's to meet up with

I was still pretty shaken about what had happened, and I babbled a lot
about it that evening.  (Actually, at the time of this writing,
still somewhat shaken (and my
bike is in the shop for a tune-up and "safety check").)  The most
likely possibilities any of us could come up with for the source of my
woes were that I caught some kind of horrid crosswind or that I was
gripping my handlebars too tightly.  Neither of these
possibilities smells 100% right to me, but who knows?  I didn't
find anything wrong with the bike in my [admittedly somewhat hasty]
after-the-fact bike check.  I really hope that the shop will find
something seriously wrong (but fixable!), like a missing wheel or

Ed was the only one of us to do the entire ride (I did the five climbs,
but I skipped a rather major descent, plus the interminable rolling
hills at the end).  Chad and Lauren and Kekoa called it a
day after the first four passes, and of course I wish that I had,
too!  Apparently, Lauren and Kekoa were riding together until the
third ascent, at which point things were taking long enough that they
didn't think
there would be time for them to do all five climbs.  So Lauren
told Kekoa to go on ahead of her, since it would be a shame
if he didn't manage to do the entire ride because he was hanging back
with her.  Kekoa started cranking it, and was soon out of
sight.  But at the top of Ebbetts Pass, Lauren saw him with Chad
at the
rest stop, and both of them were looking distinctly unhappy. 
that rate-- after already having done so much work over the course of
the day-- had burnt Kekoa out.  I congratulated Lauren on her
brilliant use of the classic "Tortoise vs. Hare" strategy.  (I
believe that the three of them stayed together from that point until

The five of us went out for an Italian dinner (it turned out that I was
able to consume a second dinner), and then spent the night at
Caesar's.  The next morning, we hot-tubbed and had a big
breakfast at the Red Hut Café on Kingsbury Grade.  We all
went to the airport where Ed's plane was parked, and Lauren and Kekoa
and I watched Ed and Chad take off for their enviably short and
pleasant journey back to the Bay Area.  Below are two lame
pictures of Ed's plane taking off.  Ed's plane was decidely not
eager to gain altitude very quickly, since it was already way high up
in the mountains on a hot day!

Ed's plane taking off

Ed's plane taking off, bis

2004 June 13: San Jose International Triathlon

This was the first race I ever ran that was organized by J&A Productions
It's almost an Olympic
distance triathlon-- the swim leg is 1.25K instead of 1.5K for some
reason (probably because it takes place in a fairly small lake), but
the bike and run legs are official Olympic distance (40K and 10K,

I'd been looking forward to this race for a while because I wanted to
erase the memories of my Wildflower 2004 debacle from my
brain.  (I've also just generally been thinking that maybe Olympic
distance is the "correct" distance for me to be racing.  Or at
least that Ironman distance is almost definitely not the correct distance for me,
and that half-Iron distance is quite likely not the correct distance for me.)

Sunday morning, I drove to the race bright and early (the race started
at 7am!  Considering that it's a [sub-]Olympic distance race, it
would have been kind of nice if it had started a bit later in the
day.  On the other hand, it's nice when a race finishes before the
day gets too hot) with Ambarish, who was competing in his first ever
triathlon.  We had plenty of time to prepare ourselves for the
race, except that I had left my swimcap behind at home, and so I went
over to the registration tent to get another one.  I waited for
around 15 minutes in line there, getting progressively more antsy,
until the woman dealing with the line said, "Anyone who needs a
swimcap: just come around the table and get one!"  So I grabbed
one and walked back to the transition area, where I discovered that I actually hadn't left my
swimcap at home-- I had just put it in a different part of my bag than
I had remembered.  Ah, well.

Chris Gregory had parked his bike right near mine and Ambarish's, so we
chatted a bit with him. Since he's a young 'un, he was starting in the
second wave of racers (the first wave was for the pros).  He
wasn't thrilled about that, but you gotta do what you gotta do. 
The three of us left the transition area and split up to perform our
own personal little pre-race rituals.

The beach was friendly enough and the water was warm enough that I
actually went in some minutes before the race (I don't normally do
that).  When my wave started, I took off at what I hoped was a
reasonable pace, swimming counter-clockwise around the lake.  The
swim course was vaguely Pac-Man shaped: swimmers were supposed to pass
every buoy except the last one with the buoy on their left, and then they were supposed
to head towards the center of the lake where they would pass the final
buoy on their right and then
head to shore.  With the bright morning sun, it was kind of tricky
to see where I was expected to swim, and I actually passed the
penultimate buoy on the wrong side, because I thought that it was the
final buoy.  Pretty much everyone around me did the same thing,
and none of us really shaved any distance off the course, anyway. 
No biggie (it's not like I was gonna get first place because of this!).

Into the transition area and onto my bike.  On the way out, I saw
and exchanged greetings with Mizuki, who was volunteering for the race
by helping to direct traffic flow in the transition area.  (She
was originally going to race, but she took ill a few days beforehand,
and was still recovering.)

The bike course was said to be very flat, with only one hill of about 1
mile.  I felt pretty good at the start of the ride, and was
passing a reasonable number of people without being passed much by
other folks.  At first I was passed so infrequently that I counted
each instance; I remember thinking, "I've been passed by only four
people so far, and three of them had a disc wheel!"  Somewhat
later on the course, I found that plenty of folks were passing me (I
was still passing other folks, too).

There was one out-and-back turnaround on the bike course.  Somehow
it felt like I was fighting the wind on the way out, but after I turned
around, it became pretty clear that I had it all backwards: the return
trip was significantly harder and slower.

The advertised hill was even easier than expected, since it was only .6
miles or so (plus it wasn't too steep).

I finished the bike ride surprised that it took me so long, but feeling
full of energy.  I decided that although the first two legs of my
triathlon had been somewhat leisurely, I was really going to kick me
some butt on the run.  I stepped off my bike and wham!  I realized that my
lower back was really killing me.  It had felt great until the
moment I dismounted, but as of that moment, I was in some real
pain.  I gingerly racked my bike and bike gear and changed into my
running shoes, and then gimped my way out of the transition area. 
I was pretty sure that after a little running, I'd loosen up and feel

Lamentably, I was wrong.  My back pain stuck with me for the
entire run, and so my planned 25-minute 10K became a 45-minute
10K.  (OK, in reality, there is of course no way in hell that I
could ever run 10K in 25 minutes (according to this,
the current world record appears to be 26:20.31, and that doesn't
involve swimming and cycling beforehand) .  But as long as I get
to make up the time here, I might as well make it something ridiculous,
no?  I might as well also say that my back pain slowed my bike
ride down a lot, even though I was unaware of its existence until I
stopped biking.  Who knows?  It might even be true.)

En route I drank some water
and whatever the fitness drink of the day was.  I also grabbed a Red Bull from the Red Bull stand
around 3
miles (?) into the run, reasoning that if it truly did give me wings,
that could help me through the pain.  Maybe 4 miles in we ran
around a very oddly colored pond-- it looked like its contents were a
huge raspberry slushy (or maybe the pond was a gigantic toilet bowl
whose contents were colored by one of those bluish toilet bowl
cleaners?).  In general, because of my back trouble,
I was pretty unhappy and unexcited for the entire run, and I didn't
even feel like putting on any kind of a kick at the end.  Too bad,
since for once, I had plenty of energy!

After doing some post-race grubbin' (I ran into Chris again, too), I
sat around, hanging out with Mizuki and Radhika.  When Ambarish
finished cycling, I hobbled back to the transition area to see if he
needed a hand preparing for the run.  He looked to be in good
shape and rarin' to go, so he did; my only assistance to him was to
make him hand me the bag of trail mix (or similar substance) in his
jersey pocket before starting the run (running with a bag in there
make it bounce around and generate no end of annoyance).

My back was actually getting worse, so Mizuki managed to talk me into
visiting the medical tent, where a chiropractor evaluated me, iced my
back, and gave me some advice.  While I was getting iced, Ambarish
finished racing and went to the food area.  Mizuki's husband, Tom,
showed up, and the two of them baby-sat me for a bit during my medical
tent stay and thereafter until they headed out.

When Ambarish was ready to go, I felt pretty ready to head out,
too.  Ambarish and Radhika talked me out of driving myself home,
so Ambarish drove me home in my car.  By the time we got to my
place, I was pretty glad that I hadn't been driving, because my back
was so bad at that point that I couldn't really even stand up. 
After doing a bare minimum of post-race cleanup, I basically lay down
on my back  for the rest of the afternoon.  Lauren came by
with an ice pack and tried to talk me into visiting the emergency room,
but I would have none of it-- things would clearly improve on their own
in short order.

Later that afternoon, after things had gotten yet worse, Lauren came
over and brought me to the emergency room.  I was a pretty
pathetic sight!  Lauren had gotten some of my old ski poles out of
my garage, and I used them to sort of
get around, although my preferred mode of transportation was crawling
on all fours (Lauren had also gotten some volleyball pads out of my
garage, since my knees weren't so happy about crawling).

This is getting to be my life's story, rather than just a quick trip
report, so I'm going to sum things up here.  The doctor at the ER
prescribed a bunch of medicines (muscle relaxant, anti-inflammatory,
and pain reliever) for me, and my friend Christina was kind enough to
help me fill the prescriptions (and run some additional errands) the
next day.  One of the prescriptions was unholily (I just checked
to verify that that's a real word!) expensive, and
Christina tried hard to talk me out of squandering my money on it, but
I refused and stupidly emptied my wallet for something I didn't really

By Monday night, I was doing significantly better, and I could stand up
somewhat.  Thursday I was able to hit the gym for some cautious
exercise (exercycles, elliptical trainers, and swimming), and didn't
have any serious issues.  And by today (Saturday), all I have is
some minor lingering pain.  It's a miracle!  I'm cured!

My performance in the actual triathlon (have you forgotten yet that
that's what I'm writing about?) is here
If I can avoid future back troubles and improve my swimming, biking,
and running speed, I'll really be able to get somewhere!  (Well, I
should probably trim a little time off my transitions, too.  A
small matter.)

Oops!  I forgot to mention that my stupid expensive Polar heart
rate monitor was totally useless.  It tracked my heart rate while
I was swimming, but I was unable to look at it at that point,
naturally.  It had no signal for either the bike or run.

2004 June 6: Sequoia Century

Even though Lauren and I aren't going
out anymore, we did this ride together.  We didn't ride the
tandem, though, which doesn't really mean anything either way, since we
weren't going out when we rode the 2004 Stawberry Fields Forever
, and we did that one on the tandem.

I'm going to interject the fact that Ed is a Western Wheeler (the club
who organizes the ride) member, and he had volunteered to provide SAG
services for the ride, so we figured we'd encounter him somewhere en route.

That's enough foreplay; it's time to get this trip report going. 
So: the ride left the VA hospital in Palo Alto and started by going
southeast on Foothill Expressway all the way into Cupertino and then up
the classic Redwood Gulch climb to Route 9.  All this was familiar
and pleasant territory, and the weather coöperated to make a nice
start to the day.  When we got to Route 9, we turned right and
headed up to Skyline, which is a medium-length gradual climb that I
think I've only travelled once before.

Somewhere on Route 9, we encountered an unhappy couple with bike
issues.  The woman's bike was upside-down, but this was more of a
symptom than the actual problem, of course.  Her chain had gotten
really wedged between her small chainring and her frame, and she was
exquisitely miserable, and kept saying things like, "I'm not really a
biker.  I don't know how to deal with this kind of thing" and "Oh,
I've damaged the frame" (there was indeed some superficial scraping
from the chain) and "I'm ruining this ride.  You should go on
without me" (I wasn't sure whether this last was addressed to me or to
the man she was riding with).

Close inspection revealed that the chain was so wedged that it was not
going to be willing to be pulled into place, so there were two
possibilities: remove the crank, or dissassemble the chain.  Since
I don't carry crank removers with me, the latter option was much more
appealing, especially after I was surprised to see that her bike had a SRAM chain.  SRAM's chains can be
easily disassembled and reassembled without even using tools, so I did
just that to fix her bike.  For good measure, I tweaked one of the
limit screws on her front derailleur so that it (hopefully!) wouldn't
cause any more trouble.

It turned out that these two were doing the metric double century ride,
which surprised me, given how unhappy the woman was and how she was
apparently only biking because she couldn't run (she called herself an
"injured runner").  Anyway, I wished them well and got back on my
bike and headed up to catch Lauren, who had gone ahead when I stopped
to play good samaritan.

I caught up with Lauren right at the first rest stop, where I proceeded
to really chow down on the plentiful fare, especially the Hobee's coffee cake.  There
were also some little frosted cookies with sprinkles, some pink and
some white, that hit the spot.

Lauren at the first rest stop

I kind of forget the details of much of the route from there.  We
climbed a bit more, and then we ran across a woman, Tina, who had
broken her chain.  Lauren went on ahead while I helped fix her
bike.  She also was running a SRAM chain, but she was somehow
missing half of her chain's PowerLink (the PowerLink is the magic that
makes SRAM's chains easy to assemble and disassemble).  I'm not
sure how her PowerLink let go, but when it did, half of it apparently
flew off to God-knows-where.  We looked around for a while, but we
just couldn't find it.

I used to carry PowerLinks
around in my under-the-seat bags (they take up no space and weigh nothing), but I
stopped doing it at some point for some (or no) reason.  Perhaps
I'll start doing so once more!  Anyway, as we walked back to our
bikes, we started asking passing cyclists if they had any spare
PowerLinks, and we struck gold!  A passing tandem had half a spare
PowerLink of the appropriate type, and so we were able to fix Tina's
bike.  Afterwards, a SAG wagon gave me water and paper towels to
wash my hands (the SAG wagon had showed up a bit earlier, but he didn't
have any PowerLinks).

All this had taken some time, so I cranked it up a bit to try to catch
Lauren again.  It was a while before I caught her at the next rest
stop, and she had already been there for some minutes.

Rest stop #2

All right, now I really forget the route details.  I remember
thinking that the whole route into Santa Cruz was really nice-- I liked it a lot more
than any other route I've ridden.  Once in Santa Cruz, we rode for
a bit on a paved trail that had some very dicey sections that were very
steep and that had a lot of pine tree debris.  This trail was in
some park (Henry W. Coe State Park?), and so was our lunch stop.

Lunch was basically sandwiches.  I fared a lot better than Lauren
did, because a vegetarian sandwich there basically meant a cheese &
lettuce sandwich, which is less than exciting.  There was some
other food available (maybe only 'tater salad, actually), but no other
real main courses.

As soon as we left the shade of the lunch stop, we found out that the
weather had turned hot.  Not fry-eggs-on-pavement hot, but
definitely somewhat-excessive hot.  Again I find that the
particulars of our journey elude me, but I remember a rather long,
gradual climb very reminiscent of the redwood forest of Tunitas
Creek.  Along the way, I saw a guy just ahead of us very rapidly
lose all the air from one of his tires, so I stopped to see if I could
be of some assistance (Lauren went on ahead).  He ("Robert") had
apparently had four (!) flats, was now out of tubes, and said that he
was just going to abort at that point.  But he jumped at my offer
of a tube and pump and said that he really would like to finish the ride if
possible.  Given his record at that point, I decided to do the
tire change for him, instead of just giving him a tube and running
off.  I did so with no issues (his rim and tire looked pretty
clean to me!) and resumed my climb, catching up with Lauren at the
water stop at the top of the climb (which was on Skyline, I believe).

Lauren headed out while I stuffed down a granola bar and refilled my
water bottles, which had both reached a more-or-less empty state. 
Then I caught up with her and we eased our way along Skyline to the
last rest stop, which was at the same location as the first rest
stop.  More coffee cake, etc.
Lauren was low on sugar, and so she was stuffing down a lot of simple
carbohydrates.  I suggested that she try some coffee cake, and was
distressed to hear her demur, saying, "I don't like coffee."  I
educated her on the meaning of "coffee cake", but I think she still
didn't try any.

The last rest stop

Last rest stop as viewed from atop a 2' stump

At the rest stop I was glad to encounter the couple I had helped out
early on in the ride.  Seemed like they had done OK; they were
almost done with their metric double century!  The woman seemed a
lot cheerier than she had earlier, but she was having a little trouble
with her front brake rubbing her rim on one side.  I adjusted it
for her, but now I was in a quandary: how could I tell the likes of Ed
that I had helped out four
people, when two of them were the same person?  "I helped four

From this last rest stop, we went a few more miles along Skyline. 
We finally saw Ed, and we chatted a bit with him as he drove abreast
us.  He had only managed so assist two people, so I was pretty
pleased with my record for the day.  Maybe I'll go join Mother
Teresa's gang-- I wonder if they need an "enforcer"?

At last we reached Page Mill Rd.  At that point, it was a very
nice (and mostly familiar) descent back to the ride HQ, where I had
some more 'tater salad and an It's-It
Boy, those It's-It ice cream sandwiches really hit the spot after
you've been doing some riding, don't they?!  They're one of many
foods I try not to eat under normal circumstances because I have to
watch my girlish figure.

This was my first ride carrying my fancy new digital
!  I managed to use my superhuman sense of aesthetics
and, over the course of more than 100 miles, I avoided taking even one nice scenic picture. 
Instead, I took just the few crappy shots at rest stops that appear
inline above.

2004 May 16: Strawberry Fields Forever XV

This was the 3rd time I did this ride (although the first time I only did the metric century, not the full century). Like last year, Lauren and I did this on the tandem. We were accompanied by Ed and Michael, and there were some other folks we knew doing the metric century: Ben and Diane (on Ben's new tandem) and Miz and Tom. (We didn't see Ben and Diane at all, and we only saw Miz and Tom when we got to the meal stop at the end of the ride.)

Things started out nicely. It's tough to climb quickly on a tandem, so Ed and Michael had to wait for us a lot initially (the single biggest climb of the ride comes pretty early on the course). Still, we made decent time, and we were comfortable and happy. The big downhill that followed was pleasant once the road cleaned up, but the first part of it was very low-quality pavement, and definitely not a pleasure to be on. As we rounded a corner, we came upon some emergency vehicles (maybe a fire truck and two police cars?) that were kind of blocking the road, and we waited for them to get out of the way. Although we don't have any certain information on what was going on, it seemed pretty likely that some cyclist(s) had had a nasty accident. Hopefully nobody got hurt too badly.

Later on, we attempted to make up for causing delays earlier-- there was a nice flat and slightly windy section of the course where we led a decent-sized paceline (maybe 10 bikes?) at a pretty good clip (well, it was a pretty good clip as far as I'm concerned!). That was pretty fun and made us feel useful (of course, if Ed and Michael hadn't been holding back to hang out with us for the ride, they would have been long long gone already). Then things got a bit hillier, though, and we kind of fell apart, of course.

The food was nice, as always. I ate lots of muffins (I actually love eating muffins, but I usually try to avoid them in the name of a healthy diet), a crêpe at the Russian rest station, and tons of things coated with peanut butter. Since we weren't in a big hurry, we took pretty long rest stops.

Well...initially we weren't in a hurry. But then we realized that we had taken so much time at the rest stops that if we didn't hurry up a bit, we were going to take longer to do the ride this year than last year! Even though this was a "ride" (as opposed to a "race"), we had some small bit of competitive fire in us, and so we didn't like the sound of that.

To make things a bit tougher on us, both of our butts were hurting us for the last 20-25 miles or so. It's funny how some discomfort that's really more or less unrelated to the muscles you use for motivating yourself can slow you down significantly.

Ed decided to help us out a bit on the hills: he rode alongside us and put his right hand on the tandem and helped push it along. I have to say that it made a pretty noticeable difference in our speed uphill! (It made a pretty big difference to Ed, too; he was sweating like a pig.) Now, I know that some of you might call this kind of thing "cheating", but since it was a ride-- and not a race-- I figure all's fair. And we did indeed finish [very slightly] with a faster overall time than we did in 2003. Next time maybe slightly shorter rest stops are in order...

As ever at Strawberry Fields, we had dinner and chocolate-covered strawberries at the finish. We hung out with Miz and Tom, who had arrived there before us.

2004 April 17: World's Toughest Half

My first "official" athletic event of 2004!

Although I had signed up for this event many months earlier, I somehow
let myself get pretty out of shape beforehand.  It was only in the
last two weeks before the race that I realized just how slow I was and
how much my workouts were taking out of me.  Too bad!

After mixing up some Cytomax with
Trader Joe's protein powder to
quaff during the bike and run portions of the triathlon, I drove up to
Auburn on Friday afternoon, intending to go to the pre-race seminar
presented by Gordo Bryn and Scott Molina
Unfortunately, I got going too late and chose highways unwisely
(despite carefully heeding traffic reports on the radio).  After
registering and dropping off my bike-to-run transition bag (this race
has two distinct transition areas), I reached the Canonview Community
Center just in time to hear everyone applauding the now-finished
speakers.  So I went to relieve myself in the bathroom, where I
heard my fellow urinators talking about how great the seminar was and
how great Gordo & Scott's advice was.  I stuck around for the
pasta dinner and chatted a bit with another participant.

Then I headed over to my hotel
I went out to the hot tub, which I was expecting would be chock full of
triathletes, and enjoyed a half hour of solitude when it turned out
that my expectations were completely off base.  Back to my room to
make sure everything was in order for tomorrow, and then to bed.

When I woke up, I was bummed (but not shocked) to learn that it had
rained overnight.  I caught a little drizzle as I loaded my car,
and I fervently hoped that the weather would improve for the rest of
the day.

The swim for this triathlon was in Lake Clementine, and participants
were instructed to park two miles from the lake and then bike down a
steep road with their gear.  I did this, and in doing so, I
realized that conditions were quite
cold.  By the time I reached the transition area, my fingers were
frozen (I was wearing typical cycling half-gloves).  I thawed out
somewhat, had my race number written on myself (I was lucky #123!), and
ranged around to prepare myself.  I learned that the lake
temperature was 56°, which struck me as rather unpleasant-- all the
more so because I had forgotten to bring my swim goggles, and so I was
going to be swimming with a naked face.

In biking down to the transition, a small amount of my Cytomax mixture
slopped out of my aerobottle, and my cyclocomputer (a Cat Eye Astrale) crapped out
immediately.  For most of my bike leg, it refused to give me any
information whatsoever.  It also craps out when I put it on my
in my living room, bike for just a few minutes, and drop a little sweat
it.  (In fairness, I will mention that my cyclocomputer crapped
out during the 2003 Wildflower Triathlon,
too.  (This was a different computer on a different bike.) 
But that computer gave a much better showing than this one did-- it got
really soaked before it gave up the ghost.)

OK, enough foreplay.  Let's skip ahead to the race.  I
entered the water with the rest of my cohort and experienced a fair bit
of thermal shock as I did so.  After just a few minutes, I felt
pretty good, though, and my limbs and my face were all reasonably
comfortable.  Thank God for my trusty Xterra wetsuit
and De Soto squid lid!

As usual, for a good chunk of the swim, my arms and shoulders felt a
bit tired from having to move against the unaccustomed resistance
provided by the wetsuit.  Probably I should do some of my training
swimming in the wetsuit.  Actually, probably I should just do more
swimming in general-- I only managed to go swimming three times since
mid-January (all three times were in the past two weeks).  In any
case, by the end of the swim, I was more or less in my [somewhat slow]
groove, and I was eager to get on my bike.

(The graphic below contains the altitude and heart rate information I
got from my Polar
heart rate monitor
.  It contains only the information from the
bike and run legs of the triathlon.)

Graph of heart rate & altitude

As is evident from the graphic, the ride starts out with a relatively
uninterrupted climb of 2400' or so.  There was an amusing road
sign en route-- it said something like "Loads of rubbage shall be
covered".  You may not find it amusing, but I found its Biblical
tone to be very funny.  Perhaps I'm easily amused.  My own
personal climb
actually was interrupted--
you can see that about 1:13 into the bike ride, I stopped moving
for 21 minutes.  I got a flat [front] tire, pulled off, changed my
inner tube, pulled a little chunk of glass out of my tire and patched
the inside of it, and then discovered that my little CO2
was completely unwilling to do anything for me.  So I
sat around cursing the manufacturer as people went by me on their
bikes.  This event had some roving mechanics who were patrolling
the bike course, and I figured it was only a matter of time before one
of them showed up.  A few racers asked me if I needed help, but I
waved them on, since I didn't want them to sacrifice their times for me
(if this event had been a "ride" instead of a "race", you can bet that
I wouldn't have behaved that way!).  Finally, a nice fellow named
Matt ignored my "well, I need a pump, but I'm just going to wait for a
mechanic, so carry on" shtick and lent me his pump. 
Whoo-hoo!  I was back on my way.

(Now is an appropriate time to mention that actually my CO2
inflator widget was working perfectly;
it was my brain that failed
to function.  I forgot how to use the inflator, and as a result, I
naturally couldn't use it correctly.  Today, in my garage, I tried
it out again (this time I followed the instructions!), and it was incredible-- it inflated my inner
tube in about three seconds.  Well, I'm not going to have that
problem again!  (At least, not with that particular inflator widget.))

There were only a few hundred feet of climbing left to get to the top
of things, and they went by pretty quickly.  I grabbed some liquid
sustenance at the mile 16 rest stop; ignored a solitary port-a-potty
(despite a somewhat distended bladder); started seeing riders coming
back the other way (which naturally made me wonder exactly how far
ahead of me they were!) and proceeded down, down, down.  How far
"down, down, down"?  10 miles until the turnaround, and then I
started back up the grade, carrying my now full bladder with me.

At some point (looks like it was around 2:21 into the bike leg), I
realized that there was no
chance I'd make it to that port-a-potty before I needed it, so I pulled
over to the side of the road to take a much-needed leak.  I
thought I had gotten a decent distance between myself and my followers
before doing this, but apparently not.  The first person to pass
me was a woman who grinned and said something to the effect of "I guess
you're feeling pretty comfortable!"  After finishing up, I got
back on my bike and resumed climbing (much more happily than before).

I'm in a hurry to get to the end of the bike ride, so I'll speed it up
a notch here (I'll also omit all further references to pit stops and
related fun).  Let's see: more biking; lots of great downhills;
kept trading places with a big dude (I would pass him on all the
rolling hills, and then he would totally blow by me on the downhills);
made really good time for the last 20 miles; started to feel like I
should be ingesting more calories (other than the energy drinks, my
only fuel input was a flask of Lava
).  Then I arrived at T2 at the Auburn Overlook Area and
started my run around 4:14 after the start of the bike ride.

On the way out of T2, I grabbed two packets of Gulp 'n Go, and upon downing one
of them, realized that it was the most delicious thing I had ever
eaten.  I think that was mostly because of the state I was in,
though; I felt identically at one point last year about Platinum
Performance Blueberry Crisp Bars

I felt really great at the start of the run, even though the beginning
of it was rather a technical trail.  Normally when I start running
after a bike ride, I have that leaden-legged feeling that I assume all
triathletes are familiar with, but I didn't feel that way at all. 
I figured that I probably should have worked a lot harder on the bike
ride (I had tried to save a lot of energy for what I knew was going to
be a tough run).  It turned out that I didn't have quite as much
energy in me as I thought-- although I felt great on the flats and
downhills, my legs felt like quitting every time I tried to make them
run uphill.  For a good chunk of the run, I forced them to run,
anyway, and I said things to myself like "Keep running unless you're
going uphill and someone who's walking that same hill is going faster
than you!"  That kept me going until about 53 minutes into the
run, a little ways into climbing the "Dam Wall", when I decided to save
my aching calves for later use.  From then on, I walked any really
steep uphills.

Around 9.1 miles in, I was feeling pretty low again, but the aid
station there had shortbread cookies, which sounded really good to
me.  I grabbed a handful while running down, hit the turnaround,
and ran and walked back to the aid station (now at 10.8 miles), where I
scarfed down some more cookies.  The shortbread gorging sounded
great when I did it, but it turned out to be a bad idea, as my stomach
felt uneasy about mixing all the shortbread with running.  I kept
on [mostly] running for the last few miles, expecting that I'd end up
walking up a really nasty 700' climb in the last mile of the
race.  However-- o happy day!-- the run course had changed (due to
some construction going on in Auburn, I later heard) from last year,
and so the last few miles of the 2004 course had no brutal monster
hill.  So I actually had little trouble finishing the race at a
decent (as far as I'm
concerned!) clip.

At the race end, I felt pretty good.  I could have continued
running reasonably well, as long as there were no uphills
involved.  Yeah, I was tired (and hungry and thirsty and not
particularly looking forward to having to drive back to the Bay Area),
but I had a fair bit of bounce in me yet.  I think I should have
worked a lot harder on the bike leg (in addition to knowing how to
operate my inflator!), since I already ended up walking up the steep

My sole claim to fame during the race: style="font-style: italic;">nobody passed me during the run
leg!  Now, it's true that I could have trivially arranged that by
ensuring that I started running after everybody else, and then doggin'
it all the way, but I didn't do that.  When it dawned on me that I
had passed a reasonable number of folks but not been passed myself, I
attempted to use a little strategy to maintain that invariant.  I
won't get into precisely what I mean here.  Instead, I'll just say
that any idiot (e.g., Forrest Gump) can run
like the wind forever and not get passed, but that it takes true
strategy to avoid getting passed when you're not running like the wind.

The results are up here
I must admit that my 6:53:57 is a pretty far cry from victor Tim
DeBoom's 4:28:52 (his wife, Nicole DeBoom, won the women's race. 
An impressive display of family unity!), and even subtracting my 21
minutes of sitting around
and cursing the manufacturer of an excellent product would only put me
incrementally closer.  Ah, well.

Hmmm.  Looking at the results suddenly makes it brutally clear to
me exactly how much slower than everyone else I was swimming. 
Gonna have to work on that a bit.

A few high-level words about the race: it was a lot of very hard going,
and it was (as advertised) a very beautiful course.  All the
people involved in running it were friendly and helpful, and there was
plenty of good sustenance available on the course.  I definitely
feel inclined to do this race again (somewhat faster?) next year.

2004 May 1: Wildflower Triathlon

A year older, a year wiser (and faster)?  The 2003
Wildflower Long Course Triathlon
was my first ever triathlon, and I was
figuring that this year, I'd do the race much faster.  I was
looking forward to some decent weather on race day-- the 2003 race's
made it a pretty tough event (following a pretty sleepless
night beforehand!).  Weather forecasts for 2004 indicated that no
untoward precipitation was expected.

I stayed at a hotel (a Motel 6!)
in King City this year, since camping out doesn't let me get much
sleep.  The motel was about 45 minutes from the triathlon site,
and I brilliantly decided to park a ways outside
the park grounds proper so that after I was done racing, I could effect
a quick and easy exit-- instead of having to wait in a long line behind
other cars to get out of the park, I envisioned a quick 4-mile bike
"cool-down" ride to my car, and then smooth sailing from there.

I reached the transition area with plenty of time to get myself ready,
mill around, etc. 
Fast-forward to around 8:20am, the start of my wave (the first wave of
30-34-year-old men).

I felt happy for most of the swim.  I felt like I wasn't tiring
myself out and I (rather erroneously, it
turned out) thought that I was swimming pretty quickly,
so what more could I ask for?  I didn't even suffer any
physical punishment from my fellow swimmers until near the end of the
swim leg, when some other guy and I kept trying to occupy the same bit
of water for some reason.  During the second half of the swim, I
started seeing some
people from the wave after me (the 8:25am wave) swimming by; that's par
for the course for me, though, lamentably.  I tried to focus more
on the people from the previous wave whom I overtook.

At the end of the swim, I ran up the hill into the transition area,
where I decided to take a glance at my watch to see how I was
doing.  Rats! 
Somehow I had done my slowest ever 1.2-mile swim (by several
minutes!).  No wonder I felt so full of zip at this point? 
(Actually, I always feel fine
after the swim
leg.  And I never do it
very quickly.)

After spending entirely too much time in the transition area switching
contexts, I hopped on
my bike and got out of there.

The ride started out well enough, but the day quickly heated up to an
extent that I apparently failed to appreciate until it was too
late.  I was drinking about one bottle of Gatorade each aid stop, although I
missed picking up a bottle at one aid stop.  (Technically, I
didn't miss picking up the bottle.  I got it and tried to take a
swig from it, but the safety seal between the bottle and the bottle top
hadn't been removed, so the bottle wasn't willing to part with its
citrusy golden bounty.  I didn't feel like removing this seal
myself while biking, and I wasn't going to stop so that I could do it,
so I just threw the bottle off to the side and mumbled something
unhappy under my breath.  By that point, it was too late to pick
up another bottle without turning back.)

To make a short story long (and then condense it back to something
short), I got totally dehydrated during the bike ride (much more
dehydrated than just a single bottle deficit!).  The real blow-up
came when I hit the largest monolithic climb, an 800' unsheltered hill
around two-thirds of the way through.  At the start of that climb,
I finally realized how hot it was and how slowly I was going.  I
slogged up the road, watching myself get passed by what had to be an
entire race course worth of people.  By this point, I had a nasty
headache that proceeded to get nastier over the remainder of my time on
the course.

I worked my way through the rest of the ride after that, but I wasn't
feeling very cheery, especially as I saw how far I was lagging behind
my time for the same event last year (which was my very first
triathlon).  When I got to the transition area, I took stock of my
situation and decided that to deal with my dehydrated state, I might
have to walk for a lot of the run course to finish the day in
reasonable shape.  (Since I had come to the triathlon site alone,
I had a 4-mile bike ride and a 90-minute or so drive that I needed to
be able to do after the race; it simply wouldn't do to be completely
wasted at the end of the day.)

So after drinking a bunch of water, I took off a-strollin' down the run
course.  The full heat of the day was upon us, and I have to say
that it seemed that a lot of
the participants were doing a lot of walking.

Walk, walk, walk.  Every time I thought about running, it took
only a few rapid steps to persuade me that walking was a better idea at
that point.  Some of the course was on a paved path, but much of
it was on a technical dirt trail that required one to watch one's
step.  Aid stations on the run course were placed every mile or
so, and at each one, I drank two big cups of water.  Even doing
that, I was still completely dehydrated.

At some point, some fleet-of-foot women started passing me.  Now,
given how slow and wretched I was (I was
walking the entire run course, after all!), it might seem like it
shouldn't have been too difficult to pass me, but it was pretty
impressive that these women managed to do this (long before the end of
the run course), given that they had started the race at least 50
minutes after I did.  (The usual way triathlon wave starts work is
that the pro men start; and then the pro women start; then the amateur
men start in a big slew of waves in order of ages; and finally the
amateur women start in a big slew of waves.)  I noticed that even
these high-powered amateur women (well, some of them, at least) were
doing some small amount of walking on the course-- there were some really steep spots that just
weren't worth trying to run up.

I saw some nice wildlife during the run (perhaps I should put quotes
around that word?), too.  There was an
I-can't-quite-remember-but-I-think-it-was-a-wolf-or-coyote I viewed
from a distance.  There was a deer that was hanging out right on
the side of the course.  I tried not to spook it, but it ran off
when I approached, even though I was only at a walking pace.  And
finally, I saw a beaver at the mile 4 aid station.  It was
actually a beaver of the two-legged variety: there's always an aid
station at Wildflower staffed in part by topless women, but this year
one of the enterprising ladies manning it was bottomless, too. 
All these hard-working females get a hearty thank-you from me for
giving me something to think about other than my headache and
dehydrated state!

A little more than halfway the run, the course ran through the
campground.  I took stock of how I felt (and how far I was behind
my in-my-dreams schedule!) and decided something along the lines of "he
who bails and walks away will live to bail another day."  In other
words, yes, I bailed out.  I walked down the nasty hill to the
transition area, handed in my timing chip to a volunteer (I had to work
hard to make my intentions clear to the helpful volunteer.  "I'm
gonna bag."  "Huh?
"I've decided to bail."  "What?
"I'm a DNF.")  After hanging out for a while eating and drinking,
I slowly dragged my bike and gear back up the hill, and believe me,
that felt like a brutal
climb.  Once I got to the road up top, I hopped on my bike and
started pedaling-- extremely slowly, again-- to my car.

Tragically, a mile or so into the ride, I noticed that my rear tire
seemed a bit mushy, so I decided to put in a new tube.  I very
unhappily did this, and then hooked up my CO2 inflator and
stared off into the distance for the few seconds needed to inflate the
tube.  I got sufficiently distracted that it didn't occur to me to
remove the inflator until a loud BANG
noise brought me back to reality-- and to the fact that I had just
exploded my tube.  So I put the original tube again, hoping that
it didn't have anything worse than a slow leak, and inflated it. 
I didn't go more than 10 yards on my bike before I heard another loud BANG, however.  The lesson to
be learned here is that even if you're in a hurry, and even if you
really don't feel like taking much time changing your tube, you should
nevertheless check to make sure you changed your tube properly before
you inflate it.  (I had a small section of inner tube protruding
from under the tire bead, which is very bad.)

That was the end of my tubes and my CO2 cartridges, so I
started miserably hoofing it.  Someone pulled up and asked me if I
wanted a ride, and because I'm a complete idiot, I replied, "No, that's
OK.  I'm just walking to my car."  I spent much of the next
40 minutes hitting myself in the head for uttering this automatic
response-- it turned out that the walk to my car was a lot longer than

Finally, someone else was kind enough to offer me a ride, and I leapt at the offer.  On the
way home, I ate lots more stuff, including things I got from a McDonald's: two McVeggie Burgers
(new on the menu.  Not bad, but I think people aren't very aware
of them-- they had to cook them specially for me (so I had to wait for
them), presumably because they're not a highly requested item) and a
parfait.  I have to say that Donkey (from Shrek) was right: that
parfait may have indeed been the most delicious food imaginable.

'Nuff said!

2003 December 7: San Jose Bike Club 4 Person Team Time Trial

This was my first ever bicycle race! I've done organized bicycle rides (where you're in no hurry to get to the end) before, and I've done triathlons before, but never a real bicycle race.

On Friday (December 5), Ed told me that the San Jose Bike Club was running a team time trial race on Sunday, and asked if I wanted in. The course was five laps around a 4.5-mile (or so) loop, and you ride with a team of four riders. Teams have staggered starts, and aren't supposed to draft off of each other. The time for a team is the time that the third rider crosses the finish line-- so a straggler or someone who gets a flat (especially near the end of the race) is likely to be dropped off the paceline (he/she should keep on riding until the end, though-- it's possible that one of the other three riders will have some problem, in which case the dropped rider has to cross the finish line to stop the clock!).

Ed and Arik were the experienced racers on our team (Arik does lots of races with this club), and Li and I were the novices. The day before the race, we went down to Morgan Hill (where the race was held) to do some riding on the actual course and work on our paceline technique and strategy. Chad joined us for the Saturday practice. I won't say much about the practice; it was nice, but the weather was kind of chilly and damp and foreboding, and I was definitely concerned about what race morning would bring us.

I was surprised to learn that it was OK to have aerobars, etc., on a bike for this race. In fact, pretty much anything went, and racers could use full-on triathlon bikes! So for the actual race, I rode my tri bike.

Race day ended up being a little nicer than practice day, weather-wise. Still rather chilly, and we had a few minutes of annoying light rain during the actual race, but overall, it was OK. The night before the race I started having a sore throat, and if this hadn't been a team event, I probably would have bagged out (which would likely have had a positive effect on my health). But it was a team event, and I didn't bag (although I did have the sense to skip my ice hockey game that night).

The four of us wore our Google bike jerseys, and we registered as team #11, which meant that we would start five minutes after the first team's start. The race organizer gave us kudos for having very visible jerseys that identified us well and made it easy to track (he had to make sure we biked the right number of laps, etc.). Even without our Google jerseys we would have been fine, though, especially since Arik's wife, Naomi, was helping the race organizer with the timing.

We had determined that Ed and Arik would do most of the actual work during the race, since they were easily the stronger racers on our team. We held to that pretty well! Ed and Arik did a lot of pulling, and Li and I took much shorter turns at the front of the paceline.

We kept on trading places with a particular team. We'd pull ahead of them on the flats, and then, when we reached the single hill on the course, they'd pass by us. These were actually the team who started 30 seconds ahead of us, so we were doing pretty well to be hanging with them.

Despite my relatively short pulls, I started to get pretty tired. At the end of the fourth lap, it was decided that the other three racers would forge ahead, leaving me to finish in my own sweet time (in other words, they dropped my sorry ass). For a while (until they went out of sight), I watched them making good time pulling ahead of me while I struggled on my merry way. (I wasn't really dying or anything. I just wasn't going all that fast, either!)

Our final time was 1:00:40. I finished a minute or two after the other guys did, I think.

2003 November 27: Piedmont Turkey Trot

This is a Thanksgiving day 5K race in the little hamlet of Piedmont
(where my uncle and his family live).  Last year, lots of my
family members participated in the inaugural running of this race: my
uncle Steve; his two sons, Joel and Jonathon; and my two brothers, Dan
and Larry.  Due to minor circumstances, I didn't run last year,
but I was rarin' to go this year.  My brother Larry led the family
with some kind of pretty ridiculous time (18:40 or something) last
year, and so I was all set to take him down a few notches.  This
year, my brothers weren't around to run this race (so I wasn't really competing against Larry
directly), but my uncle and his two sons ran again.  Since the
race started kind of earlyish, I stayed with my uncle's family the
night before the race (Thanksgiving Eve).

Now, Piedmont's a hilly place, and I'm not accustomed to running on
hills.  But I figured that I could put up with anything for 20
minutes.  It turned out that I was kind of wrong-- I really should
do some more hill training, and (probably more important!) I really
should do some more speed
training.  (I don't run a lot of races, and the races that I do
run tend to be significantly longer than 5K.  Basically, I'm not
used to running fast!)

It was pretty chilly and windy at the start of the race. 
Everybody milled around, working hard to stay warm before the
start.  When the race started, it was a relief to me and (I'm
sure) lots of other folks.

I started out at a pretty good pace.  In fact, I went faster than
I should have up the very first hill, and I think I felt the results of
that for the rest of the race.  After a mile or so, I was a bit
ahead of my uncle, but then I started slowing down.  Folks started
passing me after that (it's a small race, so it's not like I got passed
by 1,000 runners!  Maybe every minute or two, someone went by me)
until the end of the race.

The last part of the course is a downhill back to Piedmont High School
(the beginning and end of the race).  I was able to speed up a bit
there, although I was worried about spending myself too quickly, since
I didn't have a good feel for how much was left.  At the finish
line, I was pretty winded, and after running like that in the cold, I
had a low-grade hacky cough for most of the day.

I ended up taking 19th place overall with a time of
20:11.  My uncle Steve won his age group and took 9th
overall at 19:13, and Jonathan and Joel came in in 23:something and
25:something, I think.  The race information page isn't up right
now, so I can't check on all this or get more details.

My aunt Carrie was waiting at the finish line to cheer all of us on.

This was a really nice way to start Thanksgiving.  It was a
pleasant suburban course, and there were lots of funny little prizes
for the top finishers in each division.  My uncle won a
subscription to the local paper and a bottle of fancy olive oil!

In comparison, on Thanksgiving of 2001, Larry and I ran the big Manchester Road Race but
I actually didn't enjoy it at all because of how many runners were
there.  It was so crowded that (unless you started near the front,
which we didn't) one could do little more than a slow jog for the first
three miles or so, and the view was for most of the race was pretty
much just a collection of jostling bodies.  (Despite this, I
somehow managed to pull a butt muscle that day, and it bothered me for
several months.)

2003 November 1: Treasure Island Triathlon

The day after Halloween, I did my first Olympic Distance
triathlon.  That means 1.5K of swimming; 40K of cycling; and 10K
of running.  The Treasure Island Triathlon is run by Tri-California Events, Inc.,
the same folks who run the Wildflower Triathlon.  I had been kind of mulling over doing this race
for a while, and finally, around two weeks beforehand, I actually
signed up.  As its name suggests, this triathlon is based on
Treasure Island, which is a small island off of San Francisco. 
(Officially, Treasure Island is part of San Francisco, I
believe.)  You can get to Treasure Island from the middle of the
Bay Bridge.

Since Treasure Island is only 45 minutes or so from my abode (if
there's no traffic), I decided to stay home for the night and then just
get an early start.  This worked out well, and I was on Treasure
Island in the cold morning with plenty of time for the start (waves of
racers started swimming at 7:15am, with a new wave every 15
minutes.  I was in the second wave, beginning at 7:30am).

The swim course was two laps around an equilateral triangle in the bay
that was presumably about 250m on a side.  A minute or two after
the first wave departed, my wave was invited to get in the water and
warm up.  Most of us did; however, I stuck one foot in there and
decided that I'd rather wait outside the water-- the official water
temperature was 58.4°!  One person (not me!) in our wave got especial notice from the announcer: "And look at competitor #468 (or some such)!  He's not wearing a wetsuit!"

A few minutes before our wave entered the water, the fast swimmers from
the first wave finished their first lap, rounded the buoy near the
start, and continued on.  At the pace they were swimming, it was
pretty clear that I wouldn't be encountering them in the water! 
However, much of the first wave would be just about finishing their
first lap when my wave started swimming (which means that we'd be
sharing the same water with them).

Around fifty seconds before the start of my wave, I got in the
water.  Not surprisingly, it felt pretty cold!  In addition
to my wetsuit, I was wearing a "hothead": a neoprene headcover under my
green swimming cap.  This was the first time I ever wore this
(other than testing it out in a pool), and I was glad to have it. 
By the way, since this swim was so short (compared to the swims in
previous triathlons I had done), I cleverly decided that I wouldn't
bother using lube to prevent chafing from my wetsuit.  Very clever
of me.

At the sound of the freon horn or whatever they use, we were off! 
A little crowded, but not too bad.  As soon as I put my face in
the (cold!) water, I realized something that I had somehow managed to
forget-- the Bay water is salt
water.  Not a big deal, but it did catch me by surprise.

The first leg of the triangle felt like it took a long time to
swim.  Over the course of the first lap, I passed some of the
slower first-wave swimmers (I swim quickly enough that nobody from a
later wave could pass me, but that's about as much as I can
claim).  No significant issues, and after a few minutes in the
water, I didn't feel too chilled (although somewhat warmer water would
have been great!).  With only relatively minor deviations from a
reasonable course (in the past I've gotten somewhat off-track in the
water!), I finished the swim.  Up the stairs and into the
transition area!

During my swim, the air temperature had warmed up somewhat and the sun
had come out more.  I was surprised at how warm I felt (except for
my extremities!), and so I decided to eschew all the potential warming
wear I had laid out-- no jacket, no arm warmers, etc.  I decided that it was
cold enough that I should definitely wear socks for the bike ride, and
I pulled myself together and took off.

The bike course was four laps with lots of turns around Treasure Island
and Yerba Buena Island.  Treasure Island is absolutely flat, but
then there's a climb to get to Yerba Buena, a short downhill, and then
another climb, followed by a somewhat harrowing descent (with bales of
hay at the bottom!) back to Treasure Island.  My groovy wheels are
currently in transit by UPS, so I was using some alternative wheels for
this ride, and I didn't have a speed sensor on my borrowed rear
wheel.  This meant that the only information my bike computer
could give me was my pedaling cadence-- better than nothing, I guess,
but definitely not ideal.

I took it easy on the first lap and even stayed seated for the climbs,
figuring that I wanted to have plenty of energy left for later. 
During the second lap, I sped up some (I think!  Without the
computer or accurate splits, I can't be certain!), and decided that I
should do some out-of-the-saddle climbing.  On the way down the
last descent (the harrowing one), I was kind of stuck behind some
slowpokes, and two people whizzed by us in fairly close quarters. 
I was a bit irritated at them for doing something that I'm too
conservative to do, but I guess I don't have a legitimate beef with

Somewhere around the third lap, my bladder started to feel pretty
full.  I figured that the whole triathlon was short enough that
I'd just press on without stopping, though.  I reached the end of
the cycling leg without any incident.

The run course was two laps around an out-and-back on Treasure
Island.  Since Treasure Island is wholly without hills, so was the
run course.  This was the first time I did a triathlon and started
the run without having my legs feel pretty much wasted, so I was rather
happy.  The only thing was that my bladder was really started to bug me. 
Since I figure it takes me somewhere around 40 minutes to run a 10K, I
decided once more that I should just suck it up and not stop to take a
leak.  To avoid inviting further trouble, though, I didn't drink
at all during the run.

After around 10 minutes, I reached the turnaround at the far end of the
course.  No problems there.  Actually, the rest of the run
was pretty uneventful, so I'll skip to the end:  ...and this time,
instead of turning around for another lap, I went off to the right and
through the finish chute.  Got my timing chip taken off, got a
medal placed around my neck, grabbed a bottle of water, and walked
quickly over to the port-a-potties.  What a relief!

I really liked the run course.  The fact that it was an
out-and-back-and-out-and-back means that there were concrete things to
look forward to that didn't take all day to reach.  After 10
minutes of running, I got to the turnaround, and I could think to
myself, "Already a quarter of the way through!"

After ingesting some pasta and other stuff, I decided I'd head
off over to the car and stash my bike and gear.  Lamentably, I'm
not gifted at navigation, and I ended up meandering aimlessly for a
bit.  I was walking my bike on the sidewalk along the bike course
when I heard a scream.  I looked up and saw a racer hitting the
curb on the other side of the street and flying off her bike and onto
the ground.  I laid my bike down and ran over there, arriving as
the first bystander at the scene of the accident!  The woman was
lying on her back, not moving much, and seemingly pretty aware of her
situation: "I think I broke my collarbone.  I can't lift my
arm."  At last, my first aid training would come in handy! 
Well, it could have, I guess,
but I it didn't.  All I did was tell her not to move, and I moved
her bike and
paraphernalia off the street and out of other racers' way.  (A
race volunteer had already called to summon an ambulance, and other
people who knew her were taking care of her.)  After a bit of
time sitting aroung and doing nothing, I left the scene of the accident.

When I got to the car and started shoveling stuff into it, the back of my neck felt like it was on fire.  Two possibilities:

  1. Sunburn.

  2. Chafing (from my wetsuit).

Since I was pretty good about using sunblock, I suspected the latter.  Indeed, that's correct; the back of my neck is really raw and yucky because I was too much of a clown to bother to use a bit of lube.  Man did it hurt when I finally got home and took a shower!  Never again will I make that mistake!

My final time
was 2:41:28 (33:32 swim; 3:16 transition to bike; 1:21:39 bike; 1:40
transition to run; 41:21 run).  This put me at 51st out
202 in my
age group (30-34) and 305th out of 1227 overall.  The
official source for this info is here.

I had plenty of energy at all stages of this race.  Indeed, it's
clear that I should have gone faster during both the bike and the run
(probably the swim, too!).  I just didn't have any idea how much umph to save for the end, since I
had no previous experience with triathlons of this length.

From now on, when I have to take a leak, I'm gonna take a leak! 
Sure, it costs a minute or so, but afterwards, you can actually
concentrate on the race at hand!  I felt pretty silly finishing
the triathlon with everything except my bladder feeling great.

2003 October 26: Dan Burger Points Race Series #5

This was the final event in a series of five 50K inline skating races
Cañada Road
in San Mateo.  Because of my extremely hectic schedule this summer
(if you know me, you might be aware that I'm being facetious here!), I
had only been able to attend one of the previous skates (write-up here).

The previous race I had skated had been seven laps of a slightly
abbreviated course (it was abbreviated because some other event was
going on on the southern part of Cañada Road).  This time
we used the full course, which meant that the race was five laps of a
5K out-and-back.  Because the bulk of the hills is on the northern
part of the course, I was expecting overall times to be faster than
they were for the previous race.

Instead of starting at some ridiculous hour (7am, I think), this race
started at 9:20am.  It felt even later because race day morning
was the day that daylight saving time ended, too.  There was
plenty of time to get there and prepare for the race. 
Unfortunately, things were a bit warmer than would have been ideal (but
not so warm that it was a serious factor).

I started the first lap in a paceline with some folks, but it
splintered rather soon and I let them get ahead of me.  At the end
of the last downhill on the first half of the first lap, I pulled out
my water bottle, but I dropped it and had to go back for it (well, I
suppose I could have just let
it go and picked it up after the race.  But I didn't).  By
the time I got going again, the guys I had been hanging with were
pretty far ahead, and there was no way I felt like sprinting to catch
up to them.

At the very end of the first half of the lap, I hooked up with a
Russian dude, Vladimir.  We ended up sticking together for much of
rest of the race (at some point, he dropped back, but we had other
people with us then, and I didn't notice that he was gone).  For a
little while it was just the two of us, and we each did our share of pulling (after the first race I did, I didn't feel like giving out any more freebies!).  After a bit, two other guys joined forces with us, and we caught a few individual skaters who then joined our paceline.

At the start of the 2nd lap, I was leading our
paceline.  We came to the first downhill of the lap, and everybody
tucked in tight.  I thought
I heard someone say something like "Go to the right", and I figured
that someone had seen a bad section of road ahead, and so I went to the
right a little bit.  Instead of staying in my lee, though,
everyone else just kept on going ahead, and the whole train of folks
went zooming past me.  I tucked as tightly as I could, but by the
time I reached the bottom of the slope, they were a ways (50 meters?)
ahead of me.  Cursing them all under my breath, I had to sprint to
catch up with them, since I figured that if I lost them, I'd lose them
for good.  I learned a definite lesson there about how much ground
you can lose in a hurry on a good downhill!

(I still don't know if someone really did
say something to me about going to the right.  It's very possible
that I misinterpreted a comment that wasn't even directed at me. 
Communication is pretty bad in a paceline!)

After having had to sprint to make up time, I felt a bit of
recuperation was in order.  So I stayed back in the paceline for a
while, instead of doing any pulling.

Somewhere on the 3rd (I think) lap, we caught up with a guy
("Jeff") who was wearing a De Soto Sports triathlon jersey, and he
us.  For the rest of the race, he and I pretty much alternated
leading the paceline.  The group seemed pretty friendly; Jeff and
I received lots of thank-yous for the ass-kickin' job of
windbreaking that we were doing, and lots of kudos for the pace we were
setting.  I remembered what happened in the last race,
though.  Every time I got a "thank you", I responded crankily with
something like, "Yeah, I know how much that means!  I know you're
just going to try to blow by me at the end!"

Eventually we began the last lap.  We were making pretty good
time, and if all went well, I thought we were looking at finishing with
a time of
around 1:53.  We stayed together through the first half of the lap
(after last race, I was leery of having everybody suddenly drop me with
a burst of speed, but that didn't happen).  Going up the climbs
back to the start, we all continued to stick together.  Finally,
at the start of the last climb, I decided to make my move.  I
pushed hard with each step, speeding up substantially.  To my
surprise, when I reached the top, I saw that I had opened up a pretty
large gap behind me-- apparently the other guys with me hadn't saved as
much juice as I had.  A little more quick footwork on the final
bit of flats saw me finishing well ahead of the rest of my paceline, in
a time of 1:53:01 (more than 10
minutes faster than I had done in my earlier race, despite the
heat!).  The official results are here.

2003 October 5: Mount Diablo Challenge

This is an annual race up Mt. Diablo in Danville (where Chris Lieto and family are
from!). It's 3300' of climbing over the course of 10.8 miles.

Lauren and I decided to do this ride on the tandem. We drove to
Danville bright and early with Ed, who had narrowly missed achieving a
sub-hour time in
2002, and was extremely eager to remedy this in 2003 (if you manage to
do this, you get a T-shirt that proclaims your speediness to the entire

We parked at a public park a few miles from the bottom of Mt. Diablo
and biked over to the start. There were a lot of cyclists milling
around! Things had warmed up a bit more than we had been
expecting, so we removed some of our gear and put it in cardboard boxes
that would be brought up to the top of the climb. I can't
remember the start signal for the race, but at some point it happened,
and we were off.

Ed charged forward through the crowd. Since a tandem's not
especially maneuverable (or fast at climbing!), Lauren and I took it
somewhat slower. It wasn't too long before things thinned out
somewhat and the climb proper began.

There's not a huge amount to tell. Lauren stood out of her saddle
a lot of the time (possibly for a third of the entire climb, or maybe
even more!), and we kept a pretty good pace the entire way (well, it
felt like a pretty good pace to us,
anyway!). No interesting wildlife (the only previous time I climbed Mt. Diablo, I saw two tarantulas) to report. The climb is pretty steady without any real killer steep sections (except for the very last bit (maybe 200 yards?)).

Eventually we reached the top. It took us 1:28:29, as seen here.
We're listed under the somewhat curious name "& Sidney Baptist".

We hung out at the top for a bit, trying to figure out where the food
we had been expecting to see was. Eventually we realized that we
had to head down a tiny bit and then over to a different area. We
did this and immediately found Ed. We sated our appetites and
slaked our thirsts and sat around for a good long time. Sitting
around like this was actually mandatory-- you can't descend until the
race is over, and it's not over until everyone has reached the
top. After our quota of sitting around, we headed down and came
back home.

Ed got his T-shirt with a bunch of minutes to spare, by the way.

2003 September 7: Ironman Wisconsin

This was it! My first ever Ironman competition! 2.4 miles
of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and a full marathon-- all taking
place in or around Madison, WI. Race HQ was at Monona Terrace,
just a mile from where Dan and Naomi live.

The ultra-skinny summary is the following:

  • Swim split: 1:24:04

  • T1 (swim-to-bike transition): 9:04

  • Bike split: 6:23:26

  • T2 (bike-to-run transition): 5:43

  • Run split: 5:49:32

  • Total official time: 13:51:48

All the official details on me are here.

Now for the real trip
report. Where to begin?

Overall trip parameters

This was a three-legged trip. First I flew from the Bay Area to
Ottawa to visit Jeff, Adele, and Rachel (David was already back at
school) for a few days; then I flew to Madison; then (after the
triathlon!) I flew back home.

The Ottawa trip was great. I got to see the family, ascertained
that the bike case I borrowed from Chad did a great job protecting my
bike, and got to do a little running and biking in Ottawa.

Madison was awesome, too. I spent a week-plus with Dan and Naomi,
did some swimming/biking/running, etc.
My only two gripes are that the temperature was a bit out of control,
and the triathlon itself took a long time. Lots more on both of
these shortly!

I didn't have to pay anything to have my bike on the plane, which was
great, since I could conceivably have had to pay $80 on each of the
three legs. My USA Triathlon membership came with two free passes
on United, and those worked perfectly for the first and last legs of
the trip. (There were some minor complexities on each of these
legs that made me worry a bit that the airline wouldn't take the
passes, but I ended up with no problem.) Going from Ottawa to
Madison was actually an Air Canada flight, and they didn't even ask me
about the bike. Whoo-hoo!

The pre-triathlon in Madison

I arrived in Madison on September 1, so I had plenty of time to rest up
before the race. Local forecasts were indicating that race day
would be a touch hot, but not too bad. Unfortunately, pretty much
every day, the race day temperature forecast was bumped up a few
degrees. The actual day of the triathlon got up to 90 degrees and
over 80% humidity-- yowch! But I'm getting ahead of myself...

I spent my first few days in Madison chillin'. When Iron Week
started on Thursday, I made the most of that-- spending lots of time
looking at the Ironman Expo, swimming out on the swim course, etc.

Two particularly interesting things on display at the Expo were PowerCranks and Endless Pools. The
PowerCranks dude had a stationary bicycle equipped with PowerCranks (of
course), and Dan and I (and plenty of others) gave it a whirl.
Even a short test spin was pretty good at convincing you that these
babies really will help smooth out your bicycle stroke. However,
the claims that PowerCranks makes (in 6 months, we can increase your
40K time trial speed by 2-3 mph, and we can also take a minute of your
mile running time!) are pretty strong stuff, and I'd be pretty amazed
to see them borne out. I'd like to get a pair of these, but
they're a bit pricy (the base model is $690).

The Endless Pools folks had an endless pool set up, and they let people
in there for a 10-minute (or so) session. While you were in
there, they coached you on your stroke. Because the pool had a
mirror on the bottom, you could see yourself in real-time, too.
Finally, they videotaped the session, and after you climbed out, they
viewed the tape with you and gave you more pointers (we got to keep the
tapes!). Very cool! I'm pretty sold that an Endless Pool
would be a great thing to install in (or outside of) one's house.

Friday night was the pasta banquet before the race. It was basic,
but good. All the pasta you needed, plus rolls and
potatoes. Nothing fancy (and no dessert, either). They
showed some videos to kind of pump everyone up, and I have to admit
that I felt pretty inspired. They were nicely done and had
exciting soundtracks, and given that I was already feeling some
adrenaline flowing, that was enough to get me wired about coming events.

Saturday I picked up Lauren from the airport and then went to the
mandatory pre-race meeting where they review the rules and stuff like
that. They also showed a helpful video that instructed us on how
the transition areas were set up.

Since this was the day before the big race, I knew that it would be
important for me to "tune up" my racing instincts. I therefore
spent a chunk of the day playing Mario
Kart: Super Circuit
on my Game Boy Advance SP. Indeed, I
managed to score a previously unattainable rank of "B" on a difficult
Grand Prix race circuit; I felt that this augured most auspiciously for
the events of the morrow.

That night I had a lot of pasta. A whole package of
whole-wheat pasta, in fact. Admittedly, it was only 13.5 ounces
dry (not a full pound), but it seemed like a lot, anyway. Shortly
thereafter, off to bed!

I didn't sleep too well. The transition areas opened at 5am, and
I got out of bed and started preparing at 4am. The first thing I
did was start eating my official pre-race food-- figure that the sooner
something goes in, the sooner it goes out. I had two bananas and
two Clif Bars, and nothing else. Then I pulled myself together
and biked (I borrowed Dan's bike, since the bike check-in occurred the
previous day) over to Monona Terrace, where all the action was.
There, I spent a surprisingly long time milling about from this part of
the transition area to that part, and moving something from this bag to
that bag, and putting sunblock on, hitting the Porta-Potties, and that
kind of nonsense. Despite never sitting around with nothing to
do, I only managed to hook up with Lauren and Dan around 6:30am (they
were both there to see the 7am start; Dan was also one of the race
volunteers). We hung out for a bit before I threw on my wetsuit
and entered the water. Plenty of bodies out there already (about
1800 people total raced)!

At the entrance to the lake, there was a guy with some kind of anti-fog
stuff for goggles. This sounded like a good idea, so I had him
squirt some into my goggles. He told me to make sure to rinse it
off the lenses well before putting the goggles on, and I really wish
that I had obeyed his instructions better (at the time, I thought I
had)! More on this shortly.

I seeded myself more or less in the middle of things (a little towards
the back), figuring I'd swim a 1:10 or 1:15. There was actually a
surprising amount of space between folks at the start; I guess that
other people don't like to get kicked in the face, either. After sitting
around in the water for a while, the cannon fired, and we were off!

The swim

Pretty much from the get-go, it seemed like there was something
irritating my eyes. I didn't know what to make of it, other than
that it hurt! Because of this, I swam the majority of the course
with my eyes closed. This worked out OK on the first lap of the
two-lap course, because there were enough other folks right near me
that it was more or less impossible to go astray. But on the
second lap, I started to have trouble. On the first leg of lap
two, I tried to determine my trajectory by keeping the sun at the
corner of my eyes (I was viewing the sun through my eyelids and
goggles). But I kept on getting distracted by thinking about my
stroke, and I guess my stroke pulls pretty hard to the right. In
any case, I lifted my head and saw that I was heading straight for
shore, which was 90 degrees of course. I corrected myself, but
this kept on happening during that lap (although never that far off-course again!).

I also received one decent kick to the head near the end of the first
lap. It was nothing much, but it was enough to make me let out a
yowl that probably only the Lake Monona fishes got to hear
properly. Apparently one person took a sufficiently hard kick
during the swim that he called it a day after that (I have no idea
whether or not he exited the lake on his own steam).

Later on, during the bike ride, I
realized that I probably hadn't rinsed out my goggles very well, and
that that was the problem during the swim. The anti-fog stuff was
pretty viscous. Too bad I was in no shape no think about it
during the swim, or I could have stopped for half a minute to
rinse. Ah, well.

My swim time (1:24:04) was a lot slower than I'd expected. I
certainly sacrificed some time to the randomness in my course, but that
probably doesn't account for all of it. I should have swum
somewhat harder, figuring that it wouldn't matter too much if my upper
body was kind of tired out. Next time!

(On the bright side, I exited the water feeling happy and energetic.)


The swim-to-bike transition at Ironman Wisconsin involves covering a
fair bit of distance, including running up a helix that normally serves
as an entrance and/or exit for the parking area. That's why
everyone's transition times are pretty slow.

The general procedure is as follows: First, you exit the water
onto a fake lawn carpet. Then, volunteers peel your wetsuit off
and you head up that helix. You're directed to the room where
your transition bag is stashed, and after grabbing it, you go to the
changing room for whatever gender you're racing as. You exit the
changing room, go off to your bike, and head out of T1, starting the
ride by descending the helix at the other end of the parking area.

That's pretty much what I did. Lauren and Naomi cheered me on
over near the wetsuit-stripping area, and then I ran up the
helix. In the transition bag room (where he was doing volunteer
work), Dan told me to go faster (actually, I can't remember the words
we exchanged). Now, my transition bag had my sunglasses (which I
wanted to wear for the bike leg and maybe the run leg) in it, contained
within their protective case. But when I opened the bag up, in my
haste I thought that the sunglasses case was the case for my swim
goggles, so I didn't bother opening it up. As a result, I didn't
ever put on my sunglasses. Very silly, and I realized my error
just after exiting the changing room. But at that point I figured
it was too late, and I didn't want to make a scene and/or obstruct the
traffic flow out of the room. At least I remembered to slap on
some more sunscreen (figuring that a lot of the stuff I applied before
the swim had disappeared); if I hadn't, though, I could have gotten
some from the volunteers outside..

I took a leak in a Porta-Potty, went to my bike, and started the ride
at about 8:30am. This was the last time I went to the bathroom
until 10pm (!).

The ride

I rode my new Softride triathlon bike with fancy wheels (Zipp 404 rims
(OK, they're clinchers, not tubulars) and really noisy Chris King hubs).

I started the ride feeling great, even though I missed my sunglasses a little (later on, when things were even hotter and sunnier, I missed 'em more). During the Half Vineman, I had maintained an average pace of just under 21mph over the bike course's 56 miles, and with my fancy new aerodynamic wheels, I thought that maybe I could do something comparable here. What a fool I was! The weather in Wisconsin was ridiculous, the course was much hillier, and (probably most important) the course was twice as long.

I did indeed start out happily biking around 21mph with no troubles. But as the day wore
on and on, things...got slower. The course is all rolling hills,
none of which is particularly huge or steep by itself, but which work
together to inflict some pain. I saw my average speed go down to
19mph, and I thought to myself, "Hmmm. I think I can maintain
that, and I'll get in just under 6 hours." But as I got hotter
and hotter and more and more tired, I saw that 19mph was definitely not
the lower limit for me (my overall average speed on the bike ended up being 17.5mph).

I saw one fine display of projectile vomiting on the course.
Judging by the sheer quantity of stuff that this guy threw up, he was
doing a better job of drinking during the ride than I was.

I also had a Close Encounter of sorts with urine. I myself am
pretty highly toilet-trained; indeed, I have a sneaking suspicion that
when I got my SCUBA certification, I become the first person ever to do
it without peeing in his/her wetsuit.

Anyway, on the bike ride, this guy I've been seeing a fair amount of
(you're not allowed to draft in triathlon, but there's likely to be a
few people who you'll see repeatedly over the span of many miles-- you
pass them, they pass you, you
pass them, etc.) confides in
me, "I'd like to piss myself, but there's a crowd of like 30 people
behind us." A few minutes later, there's not really anyone else
around, so he says, "OK, heads up-- I'm gonna let fly." Now, I
had imagined that peeing in one's bike shorts would be a private
thing-- figure they're already kind of wet (from sweat and perhaps
Gatorade that slopped on them somehow). But fortunately I had
given the guy some extra distance, because he stands up on his bike and
a ton of liquid comes out, drenching the back of his bike, the bag
under his seat, and perhaps even the drink bottle behind his
seat. Yecch!

Needless to say, in response to this, I have strengthened my opposition
to peeing on the fly (maybe
it'd be OK to do it if you're a guy and you manage to "whip it out", as
the idiom goes. Maybe).
I suppose that if it's a close race and a minute might actually make
the difference between first place and second place, I might change my
tune. Thankfully (well, sort of) that wasn't the case for me on
this race.

My feet hurt me for a fair chunk (maybe more than half) of the course--
I got these "hot spots" on the bottom of my feet where the cleats on my
shoes are. I assume that if I get shoes with a stiffer sole
and/or I switch from SPD cleats to something with a bigger platform
(say, Look or SPD-SL), then things will improve significantly.
Maybe I'll do that. Maybe not.

I've certainly done rides of this length with the very same shoes and
pedals without this kind of foot pain, but I guess it makes a
significant difference that:

  • I didn't take any breaks (the other long rides were "just" rides, not races).
  • I was kind of in a hurry (again, the other long rides weren't

My butt hurt a bit, too, by the end of the ride, but it wasn't too
bad. Perhaps installing a tri-specific saddle like Selle San
Marco's Aspide Triathgel would be in order. We'll see.

I finished the ride feeling not too bad (except for my feet) but, well,
kind of tired. And not looking forward that much to running a
marathon. And it was still really hot and humid.


Nothing too remarkable happened in the bike-to-run transition. I
put on more sunscreen, tossed down a banana, and got out of there.

The run

Then I started running. Unfortunately, the "running" didn't last
too long. I ran maybe a mile or two, but my feet were hurting
enough that I said to myself, "Maybe I should just walk for five
minutes or so to give my feet a chance to be happy, and then run from
there." As is somewhat evident from my run split (5:49:32), I did
not end up running the bulk of
the marathon, though!

Instead, I hooked up with someone else who was walking. I met a
Canadian woman, Susan, who was also feeling rather disinclined to
run. We walked together from around the three-mile mark until
perhaps the 11-mile mark, at which point we decided to inject a small amount of running into the
proceedings (Susan wanted to make sure (or at least reasonably sure) that she'd break
14 hours). From then on, we ran for one minute (hey, baby steps,
baby steps, right?) and then walked for four minutes, repeating ad nauseum. Most of those
one-minute runs felt OK (pretty impressive, huh? Don't be
thinking that we were running very quickly, by the way), but a few of
them definitely aged me.

I felt rather lame for walking the whole way, but what the hell, my
feet really hurt me, and I didn't exactly feel what I'd call a "fire in
my belly" to do it at a run. My chest was a bit sore from
spending the bulk of 112 miles in an aero tuck, so taking deep breaths
was uncomfortable, too. Excuses, excuses...

Plenty of other folks were walking (or running/walking), too. I
expect that's a pretty standard thing at any Ironman, although the
weather conditions of this particular day presumably made even more
people do it than usual.

I saw Dan and Naomi on the run, and they cheered me on. Then I
started seeing a whole bunch of chalk graffiti on the road directed at
me, and I figured that they had written it there just before. It
turned out that they hadn't, though! One of Naomi's grad
students, Sarah, and her boyfriend, Ted, had done it, even though
they'd never met me! I met them very soon-- they saw the
name and number I was wearing, and they introduced themselves and
cheered me on. Then I saw them again. And again!
Naomi talked to them later, and apparently they were a little worried
I'd think they were stalking me (since I had never even met them
before). Apparently they had started out writing Dan's name on
the street a few times, but then they realized, "Wait a minute.
It's not Dan who's doing the
triathlon, it's his brother, Ray."
To "make up for" this appalling error, they went wild with the chalk in
name. It was pretty cool! During something like this, you
definitely appreciate seeing people who know who you are and who
address their exhortations at you.

Lauren had been waiting forever on the run course to see me (I was
going a fair amount slower than I had cavalierly claimed I would before
the race!), and I finally saw her. We talked briefly, but I was
worried that if she walked alongside, the referees would have a cow
(officially, spectators can't accompany participants for more than 15
seconds). She ran around to meet with me a few more times-- even
though I was the one all decked out in running gear, and she was most
definitely not, she was certainly going faster than I was.

Throughout the run, I was drinking water and Gatorade and chicken broth
pretty liberally. I was also pouring water over myself and wiping
myself down with wet sponges and ice. At some point, I got my
right sneaker pretty wet from all this, and it was pretty uncomfortable
from then on. In fact, my most lasting bodily souvenir from the
day is a big ol' blister on the bottom of that foot that was caused by
the wet shoe.

Finally the finish loomed, perhaps a quarter of a mile away.
Susan and I decided we'd maybe run the last little bit at our own
individual pace. She did that, but after a short run, I decided
to walk a bit more and then only sprint the very last bit. So I
did. Now, for much of the "run" I had been figuring that as I
crossed the finish line, I'd put on an anguished, lopsided smile of
pain and say, "Adrian! Adrian!" But I finally decided that
that would take too much energy, and besides, the whole "Rocky" thing
had no doubt been done to death. So I didn't do anything too
special at the end.

Immediately afterwards

Lauren and Dan were at the side of the finish chute, and we made
contact soon. Naomi was in the area, too, although I didn't catch
sight of her at the finish chute, and the four of us hung out on a
bench while I ate pizza and a sandwich and drank. Then Naomi
drove me home while Dan and Lauren biked there on Dan's and my bikes.

The awards banquet

The next day was the awards banquet. While I didn't score any
awards (I know-- I was shocked, too!), I'm always up for free grub, and
I wanted to see what else would go on. The food was reasonable (I
would have eaten it anyway, of course!), and they had made a video of
the race and a video of the volunteers; they showed them both. It
was rather impressive how quickly they managed to produce these
videos! Unfortunately, because of how many different age groups
there are, the awards part of the banquet took a long time. Given how
exhausted I was, I should perhaps have called it a day. Instead,
I half-slept at the table until the conclusion. Then I left the
room, picked up my copy of the videos, and bought some cheap
memorabilia of the previous day.


  • Sign-up for Ironman Wisconsin 2004 (taking place September 12,
    opened at 10pm (I think that
    was the time) on race day. In only four days, the 2004
    race filled to capacity
    . Timing is everything in triathlon!

  • It's fairly impressive that the first-place finisher managed a
    time under 9 hours on that course under those conditions.

  • I'm not yet sure whether or not I'll do another of these (perhaps
    my destiny lies with shorter distances). If I do, I plan to train
    differently (better!). (I plan to swim/bike/run better, too!)

  • Other than that blister from my wet sneaker, I was pretty much OK
    (still a touch dehydrated) two days after the race. I haven't
    exercised yet since (it's Thursday right now), but I probably will
    start doing so tomorrow.

  • I think I must have used up most of my racing mojo playing Mario
    Kart: Super Circuit the day before the race.

A few pictures taken by Sarah and Ted during the run

I don't know anything about making nice HTML pages or scaling pictures
up or down, and I'm in a hurry to be down with this write-up, so I'm
sticking them in here raw. Please note that I'm posing in some of
these-- I don't necessarily look that
funny when I'm walking! My companion in all of these is Susan.

Susan and me

Me going so fast that ordinary rules for seeing things don't apply

My ass, moving in a blur

Susan and me

Me and Susan struttin' at night

Me and Susan continuing through the darkness

2003 August 9: World's Toughest Mountain Bike Ride

It's difficult to know where to begin to describe this event!

Cedric, Ed, Lauren, Maureen, and I drove up to Auburn in a VW bus
Cedric borrowed. Cedric and Ed and I were doing this organized
ride, and Maureen and Lauren were going to do their own unorganized
Tahoe-area road ride along part of the Death Ride route.

After we all spent the night in Auburn, Maureen drove the three of us
and our bikes to the start bright and early. After an initial
scenic descent, we pushed along on a semi-technical (medium-sized loose
rocks to deal with) fire road. This went on for a while until we
hit a real road, which we had been forewarned that we were going to
stay on until we had done a total of 60 miles or so. The majority
of these miles would be uphill, although not brutally so.

Cedric and Ed and I started out together, but then Ed went off up ahead
on his own. I figured I wouldn't be seeing him for a long time. Cedric and I
stayed together for most of the road ride, although he spent a good
chunk of it up ahead of me. The miles went by pleasantly enough,
although by the time the initial 60 miles were over and we had arrived
at the trailhead for the real
mountain biking, my butt and feet were hurting me (I had never before
ridden anywhere near 60 miles on my mountain bike!). After taking
a bit of a breather there, we set off on the trail.

From the very start, the trail was rather technical. It wasn't
long before we had to carry our bikes over a particularly hairy
section; little did we know how accustomed to this we would grow before
the day's end!

About two miles into the trail riding, Cedric realized he'd left his
Camelbak at the trailhead, so he headed back. Since I was the
slow one, I decided to push on ahead alone (instead of waiting for him
or going back with him), figuring that after a while, he'd catch
up. It turned out that we didn't see each other for a rather long
time after that-- while I was on my own, I took a wrong turn or three
that cost me several miles (much of it unbikeable!), and Cedric got
ahead of me during that time. I kept on going and going and
going, gradually spending a larger fraction of my time carrying or
walking my bike (partly because the terrain got more technical, and
partly because I became less and less able to deal with technical

At one point, I found myself going down an almost unimaginably bumpy
fire road consisting of medium-sized rocks. It was totally
brutal! I was looking for a left turn off of it, but I never
found it. I and two other guys found ourselves scratching our
heads and looking around at the terrain and at our maps and trying to
figure out where the hell we were supposed to be. After a bunch
of false starts, we ended up painfully bushwhacking part of the way
around a lake to where there was a bit of slickrock. We still
weren't certain that we were on track until we started talking with
some of the folks around there (who, without exception, had gotten
there via Jeep), who said that a bunch of crazy cyclists had been
through that way some time earlier.

At this point, one of the two guys I was with motored on ahead, and the
other dropped behind. I continued on the trail, which seemed like
more of a hiking trail than a biking trail. At a particular
ridiculously hairy turn, I came upon Cedric. He was hanging out
with two women who were on the ride, and he was pretty unhappy.
Apparently he had taken a rough tumble a while back and gotten banged
up. He and I stayed put for a while before convincing our butts
to get back into gear, but it would be some miles before we really had
a chance again to bike--
things were that tough.

We were on the Rubicon Trail
for part of the time (carrying or walking our bikes), and we saw Jeeps
driving through terrain that, until that day, I would have considered
completely unpassable by anything less than Imperial Walkers.
These Jeeps had practically no air pressure in their tires, and they
crawled along at a pace that rivaled ours (walking and encumbered
by bikes though we were). They managed to go over boulders more
than two feet high.

Eventually Cedric and I reached a point we could could actually
bike! We did so, relatively happily, until we came to a place
where we weren't sure whether or not to take a left turn. The
left turn seemed to be marked with a sign that was more or less in
accordance with our ride instructions; however, if we didn't take the
left turn, the continuation of the main route was adorned with several
little pink markers of the sort that were supposed to mark the
trail. What to do? While we debated, the two women Cedric
had been hanging out with earlier caught up with us (we had passed them
at some previous point while hiking). We initiated them and
another guy who showed up into our quandary.

Because the left turn was downhill and the main trail was more or less
flat, we decided to take the main trail. We knew (unless we were really lost, which was certainly a
possibility) that our left turn should be within a mile or so (not that
any of us had a cyclocomputer on our mountain bike! Ed did, the
bastard), so if we didn't see a better-looking left turn reasonably
soon, we'd turn around and take this one. If, instead, we took
this left turn initially, we'd be really cranky if we had to turn
around, since we'd be in for a good climb.

So we headed forwards. After going for a while, we decided that
we should've taken the left turn, after all, and so we turned
around. Just as we reached it again, though, we encountered Brad,
the race organizer! After everyone had reached the trailhead, he
had packed things up and joined us on the ride. He said that we
were supposed to follow the flags (i.e.,
that we should not take that
left turn!), and so we turned around again and headed forwards, glad to
have had this ambiguity settled, and relieved that we didn't make a
serious wrong turn.

We never did find that left turn, though. We kept on biking (with
Brad) until we got to the final rest
stop. Cedric and I were pretty happy to reach it, because we had
both run out of water, even though we had been good about refilling our
Camelbaks at the rest stops. The previous rest stop had been at
the trailhead (a long ways back), and it had been a lot of tough going
since then.

We relaxed for a bit at that last rest stop, but I had literally never seen mosquitos as ferocious
as the ones that were there, so I didn't want to hang out there too
long! Even though I continually walked around (I didn't dare sit
still!), I kept looking at an arm and seeing three or more mosquitos on
it simultaneously. We were told we were pretty close to the end--
just a few miles of mild (and relatively non-technical) climbing, and
then a nice descent to Lake Tahoe.

We did the advertised climb, but at that point in the day (we were now
racing to avoid nightfall!), it didn't feel as mild as it really
was. Cedric got a ways ahead of me, but when things flattened
out, I caught back up with him. We finished the climb and sped
down the descent, milking gravity for all it was worth. When the
slope petered out, we had around two miles of flat, smooth riding
before we burst out on the shore just before the sun went down.
What a relief! We had some chili and other stuff to replenish our

Ed had been there for a long time already. He had ridden most of
the trail all alone, and part of the reason for this is that he was
pretty much the only person who managed to stay on course and not get
lost! Particularly amusing (after the fact, that is!) is that the
person who marked the trail for the riders got lost! When Cedric
and I couldn't figure out whether or not to take that left downhill,
and then Brad caught up with us, it turned out that we actually should have taken it (as the ride
was originally conceived, at least), and that the pink markers should
have gone down that way. Ed did take that left turn, and took the
correct route, but that meant that he didn't come upon the final rest
stop, which wasn't actually located in the originally planned
location! Ed was also out of
water, by the way, so I'm sure he was happy to reach the end of the

Once we were all there, we called Maureen and Lauren, and they came and
picked us up. We stayed at the Village @ Squaw Valley, which was
pretty nice. We went hot tubbing for a bit and then tried to get
some food, but all the restaurants at Squaw Valley were already
closed. I was totally wiped, so I (and Lauren) went to bed while
the others went shopping.

In the morning, we all went over to the Resort at Squaw Creek for some
big breakfasting. We Googlers have our annual ski trip there, and
breakfast on the second day is an excellent all-you-can-eat feast, so
some of us had been thinking that going there was just the ticket.

Here are four pictures that Brad sent me and Cedric. The cheery
dude behind me in the big picture is Cedric, and the guy in the
polka-dot climber's jersey is Ed.

Cedric & me

A happy Ed

Me posing with Cedric (I think!) behind me

Ed and Cedric at the finish

2003 August 3: Half Vineman Triathlon

My second triathlon! And my first triathlon on my new triathlon
bike, a Softride Qualifier. Info on how I did is here.

Because the bike shop only had time to get my bike put together on the
Friday before the race (which was on Sunday), this was really my first
ride of any sort on my new
bike, other than 2-3 miles I put in on Saturday to try to tweak various
aspects of it and make it comfortable. (If I were a more
reasonable person, I wouldn't have ridden a completely untested bike in
a 56-mile ride as part of a triathlon. But I'm not a more
reasonable person.)

Lauren and I drove up to wine country Saturday afternoon. We
encountered heinous traffic, both in San Francisco and north of it, and
so the drive took way way longer than it should have. In fact, I
started getting somewhat nervous that we wouldn't arrive in time to
take care of the registration paperwork.

We finally got there, though. Outside the registration room there
was a table where you had to check in by showing some ID and your USA
Triathlon card; another guy arrived there just before I did. He
told the woman at the table that his name was "Paul somebody-or-other" (I didn't catch
the surname at the time), and the woman responded with, "Oh, any
relation to Chris?"
Paul replied, "I'm his older and slower brother." When Lauren and
I heard that, we started mouthing at each other, "Chris Lieto?!"
It turned out that, yes indeedy, this was the brother of Chris Lieto, who won both the
Half Vineman and Ironman Wisconsin in 2002. Further observation
revealed that Paul Lieto was in the same age group bracket (33-34) that
I was in. Very exciting!

Well, on to the event at hand. Such is the popularity of the Half
Vineman that unless you book accommodations for yourself many months in
advance, you won't be staying very close to the race start.
Indeed, Lauren and I had a 30-minute drive to get to the start.
Now, in all the written material for the race-- and in the athlete's
meeting the night before the race-- the race organizers stressed very
strongly that you should only park exactly
where the official race parking is, and that it would be well-marked, etc. We drove through town,
and there was no marking whatsoever. I don't know if there had
been signs earlier in the day, or if the official parking lot filled up
and the organizers decided that latecomers were on their own, or
what. But we parked where we could (it wasn't a huge problem),
and I was rather irritated with the organizers about not following
through on something of which they had made such a big stink.

There were some hefty lines for the Porta-Potties, so I barely had time
to take care of my "pre-race prep" before it was time to get in the

The swim was pretty uneventful. The race started with "waves" by
age group (instead of a gigantic mass start), and the start waves
weren't too big, so I had a reasonable amount of water to myself for a
lot of the time. That was a nice change from the Wildflower (which had also had start
waves, but they were really big or something, and I was never alone in
the water).

After the swim, I left my wetsuit and goggles by the bike rack, put on
my bike stuff, and started riding. An interesting thing about
this triathlon is that the start and finish of the bike ride are in
different places, so that while you're biking/running, the Vineman
people transport the stuff you leave at the first transition area over
to the end of the race. (Alternatively, you can throw it to a
companion who's spectating. I should have done that, as it turns

The bike ride went well. It was hot, but flat and fast. I
kept an average speed of almost 21mph, which was pretty good for
me. I thought I was doing OK, drink-wise, but I had occasion to
change my mind later in the day. Still, I finished the ride in
good-ish shape, and somewhat looking forward to the run.

It turned out that the bike ride got me more wasted than I had
thought. Not too long into the run, I was feeling pretty
tired. Fortunately, it was mostly easy rolling hills, and so I
managed to muddle through without walking. It felt pretty slow,

All in all, the triathlon was a lot of fun. When Lauren and I had
had enough of the food at the finish line and wanted to leave, we went
to pick up my bike and transition stuff, including the stuff (wetsuit, etc.) I had left in the first
transition area. Curiously, the stuff from the first transition
area wasn't there! On Monday (day after the race), I told the
Vineman folks about the missing gear, and they told me they'd let me
know if it was found. The fact that they hadn't found it yet
worried me, though.

A few days later, someone contacted me. Apparently, some friends
or family of his had picked up his stuff without his knowledge, and
then when he went to get it, the volunteer on duty at the pick-up area
had given him my stuff, instead (his number was similar to mine,
evidently)! So we made arrangements for him to drop the stuff off
for me, and I got it all back. As a bonus, it turned out that a
buddy of his had taken some pictures of our swimming wave, and he sent
me the pictures, which are below. Because a big chunk of the back
of my Xterra wetsuit is yellow, you can actually identify exactly who I
am in them! (I'm at the very bottom of the second picture.)

Me swimming with a bunch of nameless people

Me swimming some more with a bunch of nameless people

2003 July 27: San Francisco Chronicle Marathon

Ben had been wanting to run a marathon for a long time, so he and I
decided we'd run the very convenient Chronicle Marathon. We did
some training together, although I didn't end up doing as many long
runs as I should've (not Ben's fault-- I was just never in the mood to run long!).

Lauren and Diane and I had pasta at Ben's the evening before the
race. Then Ben and Diane (who was running the Half Marathon)
drove up the evening before the race and stayed with a friend, while I
got as much sleep as I could down on the Peninsula.

Very early, I picked up Stacy (who was running the Half Marathon) and
we drove up the San Francisco. Finding parking was no problem,
except that I had drunk a lot on the ride up, and I had to take what
could only be described as a wicked
piss. I barely managed to mince my way over to a Porta-Potty,
wait my turn, and empty myself, after which I felt incredibly excellent (in comparison
to how I had felt before).

Things were crowded enough that I didn't see Ben at the start, so I
started out on my own (well, together with some hundreds of other
random people that I didn't know). After a few miles, Ben found
me, and we ran together for a while from there. The weather was
nice, and we were both feeling pretty reasonable.

At around the 11-mile mark, my left knee started to tighten up on me
(my IT band problem again!). It wasn't hurting yet, but it was pretty clear that
it was going to. I stuck with Ben until the halfway point, but it
had started to hurt a fair amount. Shortly thereafter, I told Ben
that I was going to hang back, and we parted ways.

From there, I walked most of the rest of the race. If you look at my race info,
you'll see that all the people who finished anywhere near my official finishing time of
4:20:52 had halfway splits way
slower than my split of 1:36:06. Ah, well.

I could have run a bit more without tweaking my knee too badly,
perhaps, but since it wasn't going to be a fast race for me anyhow, I
figured I should do what I could to save myself up for the Half
Vineman Triathlon
that I was going to do in a week.

After the race, I waddled to my car and spoke with Ben on the
phone. He had gotten a bit dehydrated during the run and finished
up it pretty bad shape (but with a pretty good time!), and he was glad
that Diane had been there to do the driving back to Mountain
View. The three of us did some thereapeutic post-race hot-tubbing.

2003 July 12: Death Ride

The Death Ride is a classic Tahoe-area bike ride. It's so classic, in fact, that lately it fills to capacity, and they hold a lottery to determine who actually gets to ride. In 2003, I was one of the lottery winners, so I got to ride (I lost the lottery in 2002).

The Death Ride is approximately 16,000 feet of climbing over the course of 130 miles. It's a pretty full day of work, really. It's 5 "passes" of climbing: first you go up Monitor Pass and down the other side; then you turn around and do Monitor Pass from the other direction; then you do a similar two-pass tour of Ebbetts Pass; and finally, you go up Carson pass to the top, turn around, and come back down. Making the whole endeavor more difficult than it would otherwise be is the fact that it's all done at altitude.

Friday afternoon (the Death Ride was on a Saturday), Lauren and Chad and I left the Bay Area and headed up to Tahoe. We were going to meet up with Ed, who had left in the morning so as to arrive with plenty of time to do some Friday Tahoe ridin'. Lauren and Ed and I were sharing a room for the weekend at David Walley's Resort, about 40 minutes away from the start of the ride; Chad was staying at the Woodfords Inn with some other folks just a few miles away from the start. Ed and Chad and I were going to ride the Death Ride; Lauren was going to do some unsupported Tahoe riding on her own.

The original plan was for the three of us to arrive at a reasonable time, go to Turtle Rock Park (where the ride starts and ends) to register, and then join Ed for a fancy dinner at David Walley's. However, traffic going up to Tahoe was really bad, and the drive stretched on and on. We barely made it to Turtle Rock Park in time to register that night (registration closed at 10pm, I think), so we just had the all-you-can-eat pasta meal provided at the Park for people riding the next day. We dropped Chad off at the Inn, and then went to join Ed at the Resort.

Ed was in bed, and had eaten long ago. We apologized again for our tardiness, and asked him how his meal was. "Well, I started out with the Antelope Quesadillas..." I don't remember the other items on his menu, but it definitely sounded like his dinner was a touch fancier than ours.

We all went to sleep. Ed and I got up plenty early (you can start the ride at 5:30am; plus they have breakfast at the Park before that). We decided to drive to the Park separately, since there could easily be a spread of hours between our finishing times. It turned out that Ed had unfortunately slept really badly-- he was on a pullout sofa with some really odd properties. Nothing for it at this point; I left the room, figuring that Ed would follow shortly thereafter. Ed and Chad and I had some slightly nebulous plans to meet for breakfast at the Park and then start riding promptly at 5:30am.

When I got near the Park, I started seeing lots of cars parked on the side on Highway 89. Figuring that I wouldn't be able to get too much closer to the Park, I pulled off to the side. I figured I'd park just like the car next to me, which was also a Honda CR-V. To minimize the amount of space we took up, we were both parked perpendicular to the road. Tragically, I pulled off the road just a touch further than would have been ideal, and so my front wheels went over the built-up "hump" of dirt along the road. It turned out that that placed one of my wheels into (or rather, riding the air on top of!) a big drainage pipe exit, and so my car was actually in a very tenuous position. I tried to correct this, but with no luck-- I was stuck. I managed to make things worse by going forward a few feet, and I finally managed to wedge my car completely in the ditch along the road on the other side of the "hump". So much for the magic of 4-wheel drive, I guess! There was absolutely no chance of my getting the car out without assistance, so I figured I'd just go do the ride and deal with it later. Given the way things were wedged, I barely managed to get my bike out of the car, but I did. I was sufficiently frazzled that I forgot to put on my biking sunglasses and gloves, unfortunately. I headed off to the park to grab a quick breakfast on my own (I figured that Ed and Chad were long gone). After some pancakes and eggs, I was off!

The Death Ride starts with a nice descent into Markleeville. This
was pleasant and fast and easy, except that I was a little cold.
I had started the day not wearing my jacket, and I didn't feel like
stopping to put it on. This was kind of silly; I ended up toting
it along for the entire day without wearing it.

Climbing up Monitor Pass was terrific. The weather was cool, I
felt fresh, the scenery was nice, and there were tons of cyclists all
around. I got to the top, whizzed down the back side, reached the
turn-around point, and started my way back up. Somewhere along
there I heard a "Hey, Ray!" Ed was going down from the first
climb, and he had seen me. Presumably I hadn't started before him after
all! Well, knowing Ed, I figured that it would only be a matter
of time before he caught up to and passed me, so I kept on going.
I was a little curious about where Chad was.

Pass #2 was easy enough, and I was soon bombing down the other
side. On to #3! At this point in the day, things were
already a bit warmer than I care for. I think it was around here
(between #2 and #3) that I caught up to Chad. We rode together
briefly, but he was going a little slowly, and he said that he wasn't
feeling so great, and was definitely considering bailing out before
doing the full five passes. This was a luxury he could well
consider, since he'd already ridden the full Death Ride four times or
so before! Since this was my first time out there, I figured I
was in it for the whole ride unless I was really feeling bad. In any
case, I was still feeling fine, although my legs were starting to
notice all the climbing I'd been doing.

The front side of Ebbetts Pass was a nice climb, although I was pretty
happy to see the top! I stretched out and chowed down before
heading down the back side. It was a nice descent-- quite steep
at times-- and I turned around at the bottom and headed back up.
At a steep part of this climb, my left knee started hurting me in the
same way it hurts sometimes when I go for a long run (I have some IT
band troubles), and I thought that I might have to bail out of the
ride. Instead, I shifted into my lowest gear, and the resulting
reduction in force did the trick-- my knee stopped hurting. I
continued slowly to the top. At one point on the way up, I saw Ed
coming down again, and we exchanged greetings.

Then down Ebbetts and on to the final pass: Carson Pass! For the
first four passes, the Death Ride organizers have managed to shut down
automative traffic on the roads, which makes for great climbing and
descending. Carson Pass is a bit too much of an access point to
the area, however, and so the last part of the Death Ride is done
amidst cars.

That last climb was a bear!
It wasn't incredibly steep (although it wasn't incredibly shallow,
either!), but it seemed to go on and on and on. No doubt some of
this was due to the speed at which I was operating at that point.
Whatever the causes, it was a pretty grueling ascent. The road
was nice and wide, and most of it had a good shoulder to bike on, but
there were some sections where I was a bit closer to the cars than I
would have liked (Route 88 is a highway, and cars go along it at a
pretty good clip when they can). At last, at the top, there was a
rest stop where we had been promised ice cream. All the way up,
ice cream sounded pretty good, but by the time I got there, the
popsicle they gave me seemed a bit heavy, and I didn't even end up
finishing it. After some rest, I headed back down to the
bottom. The ride down Carson Pass has some long straightaways and
is an incredible opportunity to go fast-- how fast just depends on you
and your confidence in your bike. At that point in the day, I was
pretty beat, and I worried that my concentration might not be 100%, so
I didn't actually go all that fast-- I think I topped out at only 45mph
or so. I saw some other cyclists zooming by me as though I wasn't
even moving.

When I got back to Turtle Rock Park, I had some food and drink, and
then realized I could put off dealing with my car no longer.
Naturally, my cell phone was getting no reception anywhere near the
Park. In fact, there was no reception to be had for much of the
ride, but because I had foolishly left my cell phone in automatic mode,
it had squandered its power trying to pick up analog reception, and so
it had no juice left.

I found a pay phone and called AAA.
They said they'd have a tow truck come over from a local garage within
the next hour. I went to the car and waited, taking in the
amused/awed looks of cyclists passing by who wondering how I'd gotten
into such a predicament. Half an hour later, a policeman showed
up. I started explaining my situation to him, but he cut me off
and said he'd been told about it (by the AAA or the local garage) and
that he was there to direct traffic while the rescue attempt was
made. Shortly thereafter, the tow truck came over, and the
operator was pretty impressed at how my car was wedged. He said
he didn't think he could get it out without scratching the hell out of
the bottom of it, but I didn't see that I had any realistic
alternatives, so I told him to go for it. With a bit of effort,
he managed to drag the car our of the ditch, and it somehow came out of
there all happy-- no scratches! I thanked him and the policeman

Then I started driving back to the Resort. I wanted to hook up
with Chad and bring him to the Resort for dinner with us, since if we
didn't manage to hook up there, I'd probably end up having to drive
back to the Park later on to get him when he showed up. Just as I
was driving by the Woodfords Inn (where he was staying), I saw Chad
coming up on the final stretch. He was kind of wasted, and he
talked me into throwing his bike and his gear (from his room) into my
car and driving back to the Park where he could get his "finisher"
pin. He reasoned that even though he wasn't biking the last few
miles, he had biked the very same miles that morning as extra distance
to get from the Woodfords Inn to the Park.

After getting Chad's pin, we headed to the Resort. Ed was there;
it turned out that he hadn't been feeling very good during the ride, so
he bailed out after four passes. He had had a massage (he had
booked that well in advance) and had been enjoying himself, just
hanging out.

Lauren showed up around the time we got back to the Resort. She
had biked up Kingsbury Grade, gone around all of Lake Tahoe, and come
back down the Grade. It was her first solo century ride, and she
was pretty happy about it.

We went to dinner at the Resort's fancy restaurant. The food was
pretty good, but Chad and I weren't in ideal condition to enjoy it
properly. I ate my food with less than my usual gusto and then
crawled back to my room to sleep and nurse my headache.

That night, Chad and Ed shared another room at the Resort, and Lauren
and I stayed in our original room. Ed left really early Sunday
morning, but the rest of us stuck around for a while. We
encountered the parents of Damon Kluck, who's on the US Postal
Team. Mr. Kluck had also ridden the Death Ride the previous day,
and it was the 11th time or so for him. We had brunch
with the Klucks, and then Lauren and I headed back out to the Bay
Area. (Chad was sticking around and meeting up with his family,
which was driving up that day.)

2003 July 6: Dan Burger Point Race Series #3

This was a 50K roadskate race. I had never done a skating race before, and I had always been very curious about them. So (despite the ungodly earliness of the hour) Lauren and I went up Cañada Road in San Mateo and huddled about, waiting for the race to start. It was extremely cold and misty, but I didn't wear a jacket, since I (correctly) figured that things would be heating up shortly.

The course was seven laps of out-and-back along Cañada Road. The "out" portion of each lap featured some downhill (which of course had to be climbed back up on the way back) that permitted some pretty serious speed.

When the race started, I was pretty much in the dark about how things were going to work. Was drafting important? What did people do downhill? I soon enough learned!

A few people started out pretty fast. I tried to hang with them at first, but I quickly decided that I belonged further back. For most of the first lap, I was kind of on my own; after that, though, I started hooking up with 1-3 people at a time and making a little paceline with them. Around the third lap, I hooked up with six people or so, and we formed a paceline of sorts that stayed together for most of the rest of the race. Because nobody seemed eager to do a whole lot of pulling, I took the lead for most of the rest of the race. Two of the other guys or so helped lead our paceline occasionally, but their contribution was pretty small compared to mine (if I say so myself, and I certainly do).

Now, mind you, I was quite aware of the fact that my doing all this pulling was quite possibly going to screw me in the end (this is a classic first-time bike racer mistake, after all, and while I've never done bike racing, I have certainly consulted the literature!). And indeed, that's what happened. At the end of the final lap's "out" section, the guys I was with suddenly went past me, and it turned out (surprise!) that they had significantly more umph left than I did. I finished a minute or two behind them-- I felt pretty wiped on the last uphill leg. Lauren had been biking in the vicinity during the race, and she caught up with me on the last uphill (she came back to see the spectacular finish). I drafted off her a bit, but rather ineffectually (her natural tendency on the bike was to go a lot faster than I felt like going at that late stage!).

My final official time was 2:03:40; more details are here.

It was interesting to see how racers handle downhills. We'd typically be in a paceline, and as the terrain started to slope downwards, we all tucked down low, and each person would have a hand on the back of the person in front of him/her. As I bitterly (I hope the bitterness comes through!) indicated earlier, I was typically leading my paceline, so I didn't have a chance to see exactly what other folks were doing. But it seemed to me that sometimes the person behind me was actually contacting me by sticking his helmet right up against my butt or lower back (the closer, the better, for drafting, of course). In any case, we flew down that hill! It would have been pretty nasty if someone in the paceline had a fall.

This race was the 3rd in a series of five races over the course of the summer. I was unable to attend any of the earlier races, but I'm planning on making it to the 5th race on October 26. Hopefully I'll be able to rein in my tendency to lead the paceline and end up with enough energy to beat everyone near me! I've been growling all summer about those leeches from the race who just coasted on my energy and then left me all used-up to fend for myself... In the meantime, I console myself with the knowledge that I got a huge workout than none of those guys did! After the race, my quads and back were really sore.

2003 June 29: Giro di Peninsula

This was an organized ride (not race).

It was a basic century featuring a lot of familiar terrain. Nice, pleasant. Lauren and I rode this on the tandem; we were accompanied by Misha and Cedric (the first century for either of them! And Cedric's first real ride on a road bike, too!).

Laura and Alysia did this ride, too. We saw them a few times at rest stops, but then our group started taking it easy after a while.

Riding the tandem down 84 towards the ocean was awesome! It was incredible about picking up speed, but it felt really stable and smooth, too. We also had a great pull a bit later on on the flats-- there was a stiff headwind, and you can't beat that for making a tandem seem fast! We pulled a very grateful singleton along in our wake for a while there, until we got to the next rest stop.

And I reckon that's about all I have to say about that.

2003 May 25: Mad City Marathon

My brother Dan and I did this marathon in Madison, WI (where he lives) a week before his wedding. It was a nice flat course (hey, it's in Madison!), and the weather was nice, too. We started out by walking to the start from his house, where we hung around until the start.

For the first chunk of the race, I felt good. Really good! (Well, maybe not that good. But plenty good enough!) I kept on feeling good all the way through the first half (around 1:35 elapsed time), and I was thinking that I'd finally got my little knee problem (I have an IT band issue that kicks in during long runs. As soon as I stop running, it stops hurting, but if I start running again, it hurts again) licked, and maybe I could speed it up a little bit for the second half and actually be around three hours. Ha! Around 16 miles in, my knee started hurting. From there on, I spent more time walking than running (although it's possible that I covered more distance running than walking).

I did manage a spectacular sprint for the last 150 yards or so, if I say so myself. My final official time was 3:43:12. More details here.

2003 May 18: Strawberry Fields Forever XIV

This was a nice organized ride (not race).

Lauren and I did this on the tandem. I don't remember a lot of details, but there was a rest stop that had some tasty crêpes. Two things of note:

1. The climbing fell short of the advertised 7,500'. There were only about 6,000' of climbing, in fact. As the ride went on, Lauren and I were steeling ourselves for 1,500' of climbing that would be accomplished in an increasingly short amount of pavement ("Boy, this last mile is really going to be a bugger, huh?!"), but it never showed itself.
2. The T-shirts were pretty weak.

This is a terrific ride, though. Not so far (from the Bay Area) that you have to stay anywhere overnight; well-stocked with good food (especially the chocolate-covered strawberries at the end!); scenic; etc. The ride goes past a lot of strawberry fields, and you can just smell the berries.

2003 May 3: Wildflower Long Course Triathlon

This was my first ever triathlon. I had been looking forward to it for a long time, in part because I had to register so many months in advance. (I don't remember how many months, but it was at least half a year!)

Wildflower is [self-]described as the "Woodstock of Triathlon". It's not "just" a race; it's a race and festival and entire weekend (a way of life?) at Lake San Antonio. Most of the participants camp at the festival grounds (if you don't camp there, you'll have to do a reasonable amount of driving before the race). Over the course of the weekend, there are three triathlons-- a long course (half iron-length), a sprint (Olympic distance) course, and a mountain bike triathlon course.

Lauren and I drove down Friday afternoon. It was rainy, and it kept on raining until mid-day Saturday. We camped out in a borrowed tent, and neither of us got much in the way of sleep. Early in the morning, I threw my stuff together and went to the starting area. Things were wet and muddy enough that the race organizers announced that they had re-routed the run course so that it was all on roads (instead of being largely on now-slippery trails). Dang! There went my secret weapon-- I was going to be running in fairly serious trail running shoes with very good traction.

The swim went pretty well overall. Prior to the race, I had been expecting that the 1.2 miles of open water would be more than enough for me to get some space; this turned out to be erroneous. There were enough participants that I was surrounded by flesh for the entire journey. This is kind of unpleasant-- being surrounded by people means that you're constantly being hit/kicked/crawled on. Despite the nastiness, though, things went all right, and I emerged from the water happy and energetic. Not yet victorious, mind you.

The bike ride was kind of tough. It was pretty hilly, and the rain kept on coming down. I muddled through it as best I could, drinking a fair amount of whatever the designated sports drink was. I have to say that they could have placed more Port-a-potties on the bike course! After around 16 miles, my cyclocomputer, a Planet Bike Protegé 8.0, decided it had had enough water and sports drinks slopped onto it, and so it gave up on me. (A day later, after it had had a chance to dry out, it was fine again.)

The most egregious part of the race (by far!) was the run. Somehow, in my training (or what passed for it) before the race, I had never gotten around to doing any bike/run bricks, where one goes for a bike ride and then goes for a run immediately afterwards. So at Wildflower, I started running, and it was instantly apparent that my legs weren't very fresh. Added to that was the fact that the run course was brutal-- there was a ton of very steep climbing to be done. (Apparently the usual course is much less hilly. Ah, well.) The (re-routed) course went twice around a circuit, so the first time around was a preview of the joys we'd get to experience yet again. Even the first lap I did some walking uphill, and by the time I got to the second lap, I decided that I would walk anything that was even vaguely uphill (and run the flats and downhills). That worked OK for me. Towards the end, I realized that if I didn't start moving a least a littlebit, I wouldn't break a time of six hours (overall), so I managed to start running a touch faster.

My final official time was 5:58:49. More detailed info is available here.

2002 September 14: World's Toughest Century

[This event has now evolved into the Auburn Century. In 2002, however, it was called the World's Toughest Century, and it was run by Brad Kearns. There were several course variants, and I decided to do the Superstar Loop" option, which was around 136 miles and 16,000' of climbing. Below is a slightly-modified report of a trip report I wrote and disseminated via email in the day after the ride (it's now more than 3 1/2 years years after the ride!).]

After this ride, my cyclocomputer shows 136.87 miles and a time of 11:09:49 (this is the actual time riding. I started the ride at 5:30am and finished at about 6:31pm). Maximum speed attained on the ride: 45.2 mph (could have been faster if I hadn't been conservative. And in pain).

I have not ridden every other Century course in world (actually, the only other time I've gone over 70 miles was riding the Livermore Loop with Lucas), and so I cannot vouch for the correctness of this ride's moniker. I will however vouch for the fact that it made for a really brutal day for the likes of me.

Around 5:00am I stepped out of the hotel to see what kind of overclothes (jacket? Tights? ...?) I should wear. Despite the early hour, it was warm enough that no such clothing was necessary. Probably a bad sign, I figured. But no turning back now! I decided to bring along a jacket in case I needed it, but I never ended up wearing it.

I brought along a large quantity of supplies. My Camelbak had a 100-ounce bladder filled with Cytomax and another 100-ounce bladder filled with water. In addition, I had a water bottled filled with Gatorade and some very large number of energy bars (and a bottle of HammerGel).

Around 5:10am, I left the hotel. It was a pleasant 4.6-mile or so bike ride (mostly downhill, too!) to the starting area. I checked in and was ready to start at pretty much 5:30am exactly.

With my really powerful new Light & Motion bike light, I made myself immediately popular at the start of the day. There were a few people sitting around who didn't have bike lights and who were just waiting to tag along with someone with a good light, so I had plenty of company at the start of the ride.

The first 18 miles of the ride are described as "steady climbing along [Route] 80". I guess that's mostly accurate. Nothing too difficult. There was supposed to be an aid station at mile 18, but I didn't notice it-- it's possible that it hadn't been set up yet.

After that was a big descent, followed by the first big climb (what goes down must go up!). The first two miles of it apparently climbed 1,600'. I hooked up with some guy named Steve, and we did this climb (and some further riding) together. A lot of the ride at this stage took place in a canyon; we would descend down to the small river at the botton, ride a little bridge over it, and then ascend up the other side. We did this a few times. Sometime during the course of this, things started to heat up. By late afternoon, it was hot like a bastard out there.

Since I had so many supplies on my person, I paid very little attention to the aid stations-- mile 50 was the first aid station that I really saw. I stopped and ate a bunch of energy food stuff (including JogMate, that protein stuff that comes in toothpaste tubes. As near as I can tell, it's basically chonklit pudding for 10x the price), a PB&J, some dried mango, etc. Many whiny people bemoaned the lack of bananas-- I think that only the last aid station (with 8 miles to go) had 'em. For my money, bananas are great, but there are plenty of other foods that'll do the trick just as well.

A cop stopping by the aid station warned us that today was the first day of squirrel season. Yeesh!

A bit after this aid station (miles 62-66): the "Corkscrew Wall". The first 3.7 miles of this climbs 2,000'. This is where I started having trouble. My calves and hamstrings started cramping after a while, so I repeatedly tried to anticipate trouble and stop and chill for a few minutes just before I got a serious cramp. I think I took six or seven rest breaks in this 3.7 mile stretch! That climb was steep like a bastard.

I exchanged a few words with a fellow rider, Elizabeth, somewhere around here. Whereas I had weighed myself down with a bathtub full of fluids, she was riding with just a single water bottle (not carrying any food, either!). She said she figured she could always refill at aid stops. Anyway, she went on ahead. I passed her later on, but then she (and many other people!) passed me on what is described as a "sneaky little 500' climb". I have to say that I did not find this climb "little"-- could it really have been a mere 500'?! I stopped three or four times on it when my legs seemed about to cramp up.

Then things got easier. I caught up with Elizabeth around mile 92. She was in kind of a bad state, and had had to ride with no water for an hour in the heat. She was also way hungry. At various times, some aid stations had briefly been out of water, and instead of waiting around for it to show up, she had just hit the road without anything to drink. I gave her some water and let her choose foodstuffs from my tremendous assortment of energy bars.

She said she felt dizzy and otherwise bad, so I babysat her up the hill until the next aid stop at mile 94 (it wasn't actually 94 miles for her, since she was "only" on the 105-mile century course, instead of the 136-mile "Superstar Loop"). She indicated that she used the Internet, so I asked her what her favorite search engine was, but her answer was kind of iffy, and I'm rather suspicious that she doesn't actually do anything online. She was like, "I dunno...whatever," and couldn't even give me a name. Plus she had never heard of Google! So I yelled out to a guy nearby, "Hey, do you do stuff online?" When he said yes, I asked him what his favorite search engine was. He gave the correct answer, naturally. It's possible that my Google jersey had something to do with it, but I doubt it.

I had to take a break to avoid my legs seizing up, so she pulled ahead and reached the next aid stop first. I believe she bailed out from there and got a ride to the finish.

From there to the end, there was nothing too brutal, but many of the rather small climbs felt pretty tough at this point! When I stopped at the 128-mile aid stop in the town of Cool, I just sat around doing nothing for a while. I didn't even eat or drink anything. I was pretty fried, although apparently not as fried as another guy I'd seen now and again on the ride, who was lying down and being treated for heat exhaustion. Also, apparently I had just missed witnessing a bike crash right there-- somehow a passing truck enticed two cyclists to collide. I'm not sure if it actually clipped one of them, or got one of them with a sudden burst of wind, or what.

That guy Steve was at the rest stop, and he left maybe five minutes after I got there. He gave me what I felt was a little too much friendly advice about what to eat, what to drink, etc. He was only trying to be helpful, of course, but I was in no mood to take anyone else's counsel at that point! Besides, I didn't feel like ingesting much of anything, anyway.

With 8 miles to go, I knew I was could finish (although I had time to think more than once about bagging out and getting a ride), but I was having a tough time getting going again. Finally I got up, filled my water bottle with Gatorade, and hit the road. My sunglasses were balls nasty from sweat, so I took them off to improve visibility. It was downhill until the final 2.5-mile hill into Auburn. I took my time on that hill, stopping a bunch of times. It wasn't a bad hill (although the shoulder was narrow and the traffic was unpleasant), but at that point, it felt pretty tough. Every time my legs started acting up, I stopped and chugged a bunch of Gatorade. Several sag wagons checked up on me to make sure I was good to go; one guy went so far as to ask me if I knew where I was. I was mentally fine (although physically exhausted), so no way was I going to accept a ride at that point!

At last I pulled into the parking lot just past 6:30pm. The course officially closed at 7:30pm, so I was really glad that they had changed the starting time for the Superstar Loop to 5:30am (it had originally been 6:30am)-- finishing in time would have been a dicey proposition if they hadn't! I sat around for a bit eating not very much and trying not to cramp up (by this time, my quads were also willing to cramp up if I gave them half an excuse). Man, was I dirty! Dirtier than usual, even!

A very tough ride, with some really great woodsy and canyony scenery. Other than squirrels running around (that's right-- they'd better run!) and birds a-flyin', I think that the only wildlife I saw were a dead deer, a dead mouse, and several dead snakes.

Although I felt like I was constantly drinking (I pretty much finished the 1.5 gallons of fluid on my back, plus I drank 3.5 additional water bottles worth of water & Gatorade), I probably should have drunk even more (I only had to take a leak once during the entire day!). Plus I probably should have figured out a good way to consume more sodium & potassium to prevent cramping. Turning in at the parking lot at the very end, there was a kid watching me, so I stuck out my tongue at him. Some muscle on the bottom of my jaw (or maybe that's just the location of the tendon connected to the muscle?) cramped up immediately. Yeesh.

I have no idea how many other riders rode the Superstar Loop with me; how many finished; when the first finisher finished; or anything like that. I'm pretty sure I was basically a straggler. But I can live with that!

Respectfully submitted,


Post-Smurf: I'm exceedingly glad that I took the time to take the cassette of the tandem and install it on my road bike! Doing this gave me access to a gear 28% lower than I could have otherwise used. With my "real" road cassette, I'd probably still be stuck out there somewhere now.

Obvious blogging crisis

So much for my blogging! OK, I'm now going to try to move some stuff (mainly my trip reports from races and bike rides and whatnot) into my blog and start keeping things a bit more au courant. We'll see if I succeed!

Since my last post (which was also my first post), I finished my French bike tour, went on a Chilean ski trip to Portillo, and went on an Irish bike tour with Stan the man. Other than the trip reports which [I hope] I'll be posting, that's absolutely everything that happened in the past 8 months or whatever, so you are now pretty up to date.

The trip reports through the 2005 Auburn Triathlon are going to be kind of retro-fitted, so they'll look a bit funny, but hopefully things are gonna look real spiffy going forward.