Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day Run - 2012 Edition

Consistent with my new thing that no one else cares about tradition, I went for a run on Christmas day. I'm glad I made it out considering the snow that fell here in Northern Colorado last night. I guess it takes a special kind of compulsion commitment to go out when it's only 25* and there are three inches of fresh powder on the ground.

With three layers on top, two on bottom, hat and gloves, I hit the Poudre Trail going east and managed to get a few shots of the scenery:

As you can see, mine are the only tracks on the path. No one else wanted to go running today? Huh. Why not?

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Catching Up on the Shortest Day of the Year

I haven’t posted in a while because there really has not been much happening with me. That said, a few other things are going on so I though I would comment.

Racing Underground sells the Stroke-n-Stride to Without Limits

My guess is that this will be fairly transparent to participants, but it does mean that the two major open-water swim events in metro Denver will both be run by the same company.

I’ve had a fair amount of experience with Without Limits and I think they’ll do a good job. The smaller Aquaman Series has always been fun and generally well organized and I think the Summer Open Sprint triathlon is a top-notch race. While I’ve never participated in the Harvest Moon half iron distance event, I also hear positive things about it as well.

HITS (finally) Announces the 2013 Colorado Event

Unfortunately, it does not work well with my schedule. The race will be in Grand Junction in May. I’m sure it will go over well and I’m also sure it will be well-received by the people Western Slope. Too bad it’s the same weekend as SOST. Driving to Longmont for a sprint is pushing it. Driving all the way to the Grand Valley? Uh, no! Dare I suggest that Colorado would support two events, especially if one of them were on the Front Range?

Ordinary Mortals moves to May

According to comments on their Facebook page, the Ordinary Mortals Tri will be May 11 instead of about a month earlier. Personally, I would prefer the earlier date but from an organizer’s standpoint, the move makes sense. That’s less than a week after I’m running the Colorado Marathon but I think I’ll still be able to do it.

IM 70.3 Boulder Announces a New Bike Course

No longer a two-loop event, this race now consists of a single loop way to the north, part way into Larimer County. I think this is an excellent choice and my Google street-view preview of the course looks encouraging. You spend most of a race on the bike so it’s nice not to have to repeat. The only place this course goes back over itself is on 51st Street in and out of the Reservoir. Since it’s the only paved road into the area, that’s understandable. I’m really glad I signed up not just for this event but for the three race series. No question that I’ll get to know the venue quite well!

It’s only December, but seeing these changes make me excited for the 2013 season! Much, much, much more training is still needed, but I can already sense it!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Rock Canyon Half Marathon

Only the short days are providing a clear indication that winter is nearly upon us in Colorado. The weather has been nothing short of beautiful. In truth, we could use moisture very badly, but it's also very nice when you're trying to train and race.

As you may recall, my race a year ago was something of a war story with snow, wind and bitter cold. This year: just beautiful In fact, in a long-sleeve technical shirt, I was perhaps overdressed. I might have been a little more comfortable in short sleeves. Did I mention that the race is in December?

Organization and execution are hallmarks of this race and they continued to demonstrate them as I picked up my bib and technical shirt with no issues. Better still, we had an on-time start and soon the field of 600 plus was on it's way. You'd expect things to run well when it's the 26th running of an event, but it's still nice to see it happen.

My brother is doing Maffetone training which you can read about here. I went with him at a slower pace than I had originally planned but it felt good and I really had no concerns about getting a PR at this one. That was never really in the cards and does not go with easing up during the off-season. Eventually, cardiac drift caught up with him and at mile 3, he stayed disciplined to his training and I went ahead.

I figured I'd feel tired after going at around 8:00 pace for a mile, but I still felt good. As the miles continued to peel away, it felt a little bit like I was running downhill. Things were just clicking, so I went with it.

There was a bit of a breeze, but it really did not factor much as I ran into it. If anything, it helped keep me cool on the unusually warm day. Water and Gatorade were plentiful the entire course and while I felt warm a few times, I never felt parched. You've got to love a well-supported race.

Since the first two miles of this race a run through Pueblo's City Park,the out and back along the trail that parallels the Arkansas River create a sort of false half-way point. What I mean is that when you make the turn below the dam that creates Pueblo Reservoir, it feels like a half-way point, but is actually around the eight mile point. That makes for a much more enjoyable return trip.

Unlike last year, the wind was at my back and I felt pretty good almost all the way back. Almost because just before mile 13 is a nasty hill. It's about a 6.5% grade and right before the finish. A higher heart-rate and slower pace are almost a guarantee. In my case, these were accompanied by pain in my left IT  band that was so profound that I actually hobbled and stopped to a walk a couple of times. I don't recall it hurting and it has been a very long time since it hurt that bad, but it really did. I didn't stop by choice, it was completely reactionary. Fortunately, shortening up my stride to almost baby steps got my up the hill and back on to level ground.

From there, I pushed it just a little bit to try and bring in a finish under two hours. As I ran into the chute, I sensed someone coming up on my left side. At first I figured, fine, let them have it. I don't care. Then I thought, I let too many people get me at the finish. I think I'll turn it up and sprint to the finish. That didn't work and whoever she was, she blew by me. I've never been a sprinter. Maybe I'll work on that. Nah.

Officially, I finished at 1:59 about which I'm pleased. Under two hours was beyond my wildest dreams a year ago. This year, it seems just about right. That's not hubris, just recognition that I've made some improvement.

Next Time
Course: This is a good race in so many regards, but I really think the course should be improved a little Far too much goes along a trail that is full of places to trip. Loose rocks, ruts and all manner of other injury creators exist throughout. This when the paved trail parallels most of the course. I love tradition and continuity too, but even the legendary BolderBoulder has changed its course over the years. I know they put "trail run" on the t-shirts, but having a half Mary in December is novel enough. Seriously, make the course safer.

Timing: This is not a race put on by a large company, rather just by the local running club. However, it makes sense to invest in a chip timing system. It's like any other big ticket item, save your pennies. With innovations like bib-bases timing becoming more prevalent, this is tech that is becoming more affordable all the time. It's not a deal breaker, but it will make for better-run races in the future.

The Good
Organization: Top notch. Registration, results, volunteers, course marking, all of it. Just very well executed and indicates just how practiced the organizers are at running this thing.

Results: Despite running the timing on the old-fashioned bib tear-tag system, results were up quickly (by the afternoon on race day). That's always nice to see. In this day and age, there is no excuse to wait.

Venue: I understand that a lot of the races make use of their City Park. I can see why. It's a great spot. It's also adjacent to the Arkansas River trail which is probably among the most scenic places in all of Colorado to run. I've probably run on it half a doze times and I still am impressed by how nice it looks. One of these times, I'll have to get out there when there are leaves on the trees.

Overall: There are lots of opportunities to race in Colorado all winter long. But a half marathon in December? That's really unique.

Now it's back to my own heart rate Z1 training. More of my focus will be on longer time at easier heart rates. The 26.2 in May is looming large despite still being five months away. There's much to do to be ready for that one.

I also look forward to being just a little less run-focused. I enjoy my cross training an my body really appreciates it.

Thanks for reading and have a great week ahead.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

2013 Race Schedule

The season only ended a few months ago and it’s still several more to go before the new one start. But it’s not too early to start planning races. I’m ready for a big year and an ambitious racing schedule. After two seasons of this, I’ve come to the conclusion that I like to race. With that in mind, here’s what I’m looking at for 2013:

Ordinary Mortals Triathlon – April 14

My tri season will start earlier this year with this reverse order event. Run and bike are outdoors but the swim is at the CSU-Pueblo pool indoors. Time to work on my flip turns!

Horsetooth Half Marathon – April 21

I got beat up pretty good by the steep hills at the beginning of the race. Still, it ought to be good prep ahead of my 26.2 event. This is a fairly well run race and I’m hoping to improve on last year’s finish.

The Colorado Marathon – May 5

I’m going to take on the challenge of a full 26.2 mile race. I really have no idea how this one is going to go, but I’m guessing it will be good prep for a couple of 70.3 races. For more on this, see this post.

The Summer Open Sprint – May 18

Your first is always your most special and this was the first time I did a multisport event. I also have been impressed with how they do a race.
Here’s hoping that it isn’t plagued by bad water (2011) or nasty weather (2012). They’re due for some ideal racing conditions!

The BolderBoulder – May 27

Hands down, the best 10K race in the world. A scenic and challenging course through several Boulder neighborhoods and a finish into Folsom Stadium as if you were an Olympian. Rain or shine (and it’s often rain) I love being here on Memorial Day.

5430 Sprint Triathlon – June 16

The first of the three-race Boulder Tri Series. There’s no real format to a Sprint and this one is longer than others in terms of the bike which is 17.2 miles. But that’s okay. I’d rather have that distance longer as I move through the season.
One of the reasons for doing the series is the $350 early entry fee for all three races. It’s a little bit like getting the sprint for free when you pay full price for the Oly and 70.3.  

Lake to Lake Triathlon – June 22

Two races in successive weeks may seem a little excessive, but considering one is a sprint, I think I can handle it. I was at this one last year as a spectator and I think it looks like a fun race to do. It will also get me into the Olympic distance a little earlier in the season and like that as well.
They already have their maps up on the website and it appears that they've done some tweaking to improve the course. I've got to say, I’m pretty excited about this one.

Boulder Peak/5150 Triathlon – July 14

This turned out to be a really good race for me. I turned in a solid bike and had a great run over the fast, flat course. It was the first time I did a WTC-branded event and though I still have a few qualms with them, the production of this race was top-notch. It’s the second on the Boulder Tri Series that culminates in the IronMan 70.3 event in August.  

Ironman 70.3 Boulder – August 4

I thought this was going to be my first 70.3 race last year, but decided to do the HITS race instead. Since this is part of the series however, this one is on the calendar now.
If the quality of the 70.3 events is anything like 5150 events, I think this should be a good one.

Rattlesnake Olympic Triathlon – August 17

I was really impressed with this one last year. Aurora Reservoir is a great venue and the race was put together in top-notch fashion. What’s more, it also features a flat run which always favors me!
In addition to all of this, it’s on a Saturday which is always my preference and not offered very often.

TriRock San Diego Olympic – September 8

Yes, I’m going back after a year off. In 2012, the bike course was changed to go north along the harbor rather than south through more industrial areas. Being familiar with the area, I think this will make for a great ride. The run and swim were already good.Getting to race in the birth place of the sport is always a treat. With family in the area, I have a place to stay as well. Competitor seems to learn from past experiences and get better each year. I think that will be the case here as well.  

Ironman 70.3 Austin – October 27

Doing this race means my full season will be six months long. It also means a 7 week hiatus between TriRock and this one. Definitely new territory for me, but I think it will work. I actually think that some extra time before another big race is a good idea. I’ve mentioned multiple times about doing a 140.6 in the future. Having a six month season is another way to see if that is for me.

So there it is. Nine triathlons, a half marathon, a full marathon and a 10K. There may also be various and sundry “fun run” races depending on what’s available and what I feel like doing.

There are some races from last year that did not make it on this year’s list, for a variety of reasons.

I would actually love to go back and do the Greeley Triathlon, but I expect to be traveling abroad at that time (I have a 20 year wedding anniversary coming up). I’ll probably be back in 2014 for that one if I can swing it.

Sadly, it appears that HITS is also not going to be part of my 2013 Schedule. I’d like to do it, but as of this writing (mid November) no details about their Colorado race are available. I’m sure there is more going on than I’m aware of, but it’s a shame they don’t have things more clearly communicated. With the only date listed as TBD, I have to consider the real possibility that the race will not be coming back to my home state this year.

The Rock & Roll half marathon has become a race of which I’m fond, but it is a moving target. In 2011, it was an October race, then this year they moved it up three weeks to September. Now, they have October 20 as the date. That really won’t work if I’m tapering in preparation for Austin.

I would not be at all surprised to see changes between now and January when I start registering. If that’s the case, I will, of course, do an update.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A2A Indoor Triathlon Race Summary

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Pueblo to join my brother in the Addicts-to-Athletes benefit triathlon. The entire event was staged indoors at the Pueblo Athletic Club. That’s right, all inside. It is November, after all!

I mentioned Addicts-to-Athletes back in July when I did my HITS race report. I ran the last few miles of that one with Rob Archuleta. His is a great organization doing fantastic work and a benefit for them was an easy decision to make.

Since you can’t have dozens of athletes in a club all at the same time, we were broken into groups of four to six for each event.

Another novel feature about this race was that it was in reverse order so instead hitting the water first, we went to the upper level of the club and got on treadmills. All events were time, rather than distance based so that meant 20 on the treadmill. Your result was the distance you covered.

Despite having run slowly for the last several weeks, I still managed an 8:30 pace without difficulty and the 20 minute leg went by quickly.

After leaving the treadmills behind, it was back down to the lower level of the club where a group of spin bikes stood ready for the second stage. They were geared very low so I was truly spinning and with almost no resistance. As a result, I ended up going 16.8 miles for the 30 minute ride. No question, on the road or even on my trainer, the distance would have been much less.

Finally, the third and final leg was a 10 minute swim in the 20 yard pool. This was an enjoyable experience. Unlike the chlorine that is prevalent in just about any pool, the lanes at PAC actually use saline. As a result, was not as harsh and I also enjoyed greater buoyancy. My Garmin 910 assumed I was swimming in a 25 yard pool, but once I manually corrected, I found I swam 560 yards.

None of this felt like much of a race, but I was actually happy with that. At this time of year, there is definitely more benefit in doing a good workout without going out and killing it like I might in a race.

Since this was such a different event, I don’t have a review per se. However, everything went smoothly. Transitions were fixed at 2 minutes and the schedule was adhered to closely. I even got a cool orange t-shirt for my trouble!

If you ever are looking for a fun way to get a little extra training in during the off-season, I’d recommend this.

Thanks for reading.

Final Numbers

20 Minute Run: 2.36
30 Minute Bike: 16.8
10 Minute Swim: 560 yards

Friday, November 23, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Improved Sleeping - Update

This seems like a good time to talk about my efforts to get more sleep—both from a quantity and quality standpoint.

After purchasing a Zeo clock and registering at their website, you’re given the opportunity to go through a 7 step coaching process. It’s not what I would call an intensive program, but it does make you stop and reconsider some of your assumptions about your lifestyle and how it affects your sleep.

Steps in the plan include evaluations of diet, pre-bedtime activity, bedroom environment and interaction with your housemates (pets, kids, spouse, etc).

With that all in mind, here’s how my scores look:

As you can see, the trends indicate that I've been more or less steady with an average “ZQ” score of 92. That score is based on several factors, but mostly on restorative sleep (Deep and REM).

What are not captured in any of the data are the techniques I've learned for getting to sleep sooner. I've managed to unlock a couple of the keys to getting to sleep sooner—which for me has been the major obstacle to getting quality sleep.

First, I've come to understand that I need about an hour to power down and be ready to fall asleep. For me, that means the TV, computer, etc, all need to be shut off by about 9:30.

Second, the human body produces melatonin in response to darkness. Likewise, bright light tends to stifle melatonin production. So during that last hour, the bright lights stay off. Most significantly, I don’t brush my teeth with the vanity lights on over the mirror. Light in the rooms around my bathroom sink are adequate enough. It seems like a small thing, but it’s making a difference.

None of this is to say that there still aren't improvements to be made. Eliminating all caffeine after 3:30 in the afternoon (as Zeo suggests) seems difficult for me. Also, since the weather has cooled, my younger dog has decided that I make a good hot water bottle and likes to hop into bed with us in the middle of the night. That’s not always a problem, but then again, it’s hard to pull the covers out from under a 65 pound Labrador!

At the sign in page for their website, Zeo says “The more you know, the better you sleep.” That resonates with me. Knowing not only how much, but also the quality of sleep I’m getting will be a key factor in a successful season next year. With plans to do two 70.3 races, sleep is an essential component of recovery.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be ramping up the intensity of my training slightly as I prepare for the Rock Canyon Half Marathon on December 1. My hypothesis is that I’ll see increased times for deep sleep as my body demands more physically restorative sleep. Likewise, I think I’ll see an increase as my long runs start to exceed 15 miles early next year as I get ready for the Colorado Marathon which is (gulp) less than six months away.

I’ll continue the periodic updates on my sleep improvement and we’ll see how these hypotheses hold up to objective testing.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I am (or maybe should be) committed. I registered for two races this morning. The first is the local Turkey Trot in Parker. Having confirmed that I will be in town for Thanksgiving, I decided to give this one a shot. I’ve lived in Parker for about 13 years but ironically have never done a race in town. This one will be pretty easy just a 5K out and back along the Cherry Creek trail which I know well. It ought to be nice not to have to drive down to Castle Rock or north all the way to Washington Park.

I did register for another, slightly longer race as well. On May 5 of next year, it’s my intention to run the Colorado Marathon

Yes, I did say marathon, not half marathon. This will be my second attempt at the distance, the first being the Rock & Roll Marathon in San Diego in 2006. That one was not bad considering it was the first time. I finished at 5:01:07 after struggling mightily during the last 10K. The course was fairly flat, especially in the second half and while the weather was a bit warmer and more humid than I expected, I managed it okay.

There were other factors that slowed me up that year including plantar fasciitis and a nagging case of IT Band Syndrome. I have no regrets about the race. Running 26.2 miles is no mean feat for anyone. But despite coming out of the race thinking I would do another, I never did. Training proved to be too grueling and time consuming and I just lost my passion for it. That didn’t really change until I discovered triathlon.

That brings up the question of what has changed to make me want to do this again. There are multiple answers.

First: Last year I saw my brother have a lot of success in our 70.3 mile triathlon, HITS after having done a full marathon in the early season. That’s not to say he had an easy time of it (he assures me he did not) but while most of us had slowed to a walk, he ran it in. I doubt I’ll be as fast as he was in my next half iron event, but anything that would shave several minutes off my 2:46 time would be good. Imitating the success of others is always a good strategy!

Second: I meant it when I said that I had no regrets about that first race. However, that does not mean that improving upon the time has not been bothering me. Nothing drastic, just the ability to put a 4 at the front of the time would be nice. I have a much better training plan now. I’m also more disciplined in my training. Furthermore, I’ll be about 14 pounds lighter on race day than I was back in 2006. All bode well for a PR.

Third: Last weekend, I caught the highlight show from this year’s Ironman Championship in Kona. Let’s face it; it’s a lot easier to watch people out there suffering than to do it myself. Nevertheless, I felt a desire to be one of them. Not a competitor at Kona (that would be nice but it’s unlikely) but to be able to call myself an Ironman. Most folks who read a triathlon blog understand. For anyone else, if I have to explain, you wouldn’t get it.  Running a marathon as a stand-alone event is hard. Running it after swimming 2.4 miles (over an hour) and riding 112 miles (over six hours) is almost surreal. If I decide I’m going to commit to 140.6, then I need to know I can run the distance. That’s still a very big if, but I am still willing to explore it.

So now what? Cast aside the biking and swimming so I can prepare for a run event? Hardly! If I learned anything from my experiences several years ago it’s that cross-training can help me reach the cardio needs of such a race and help prevent injuries. I’ve been able to work out six days a week because I vary what I do.

This is a big step. Deciding you are going to run 26.2 miles always is. However, I feel like I’m going in the right direction on my path as an endurance athlete. If that path does not lead me to a full Ironman event, so be it. If it does, well, very few people can call themselves an Ironman. I would be honored to be one.

More to come on this one including training progress, deets about the race and how my 43 year old body holds up.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Take on Lance

Seems like everyone has an opinion on Lance Armstrong so why should I be any different? Plenty has been said on this subject so I’m going to try and keep this short.

Unlike seemingly everyone out there, I’m not a Lance hater. I wasn’t before and I’m not even now when it’s become fairly clear that yes, he did indeed take performance enhancing drugs while competing. Much as I hoped he was not, it does seem likely that Lance is guilty as charged.

Regrettably, our society tends to revel in the falls from grace experienced by others. I hate to be a cynic, but it often seems that the whole reason for building up our heroes is only to enjoy knocking them down again. The phenomenon is known as schadenfreude: pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. It’s not exactly humanity at its best.

Make no mistake; I believe Lance Armstrong deserves the punishment he is receiving. Cheating is always unacceptable and actions have to have consequences.

But I’m not happy about it. As one who typically eschews hero worship, I have to admit to being nonetheless, an admirer of the man and what he’s accomplished both on and off the bike. Cancer has affected many people I know and Lance has served as an inspiration to so many who have been sick. Indeed, I’ve see it throughout social media, those who are cancer survivors, or those close to them all still carry a lot of respect an admiration, doping charges notwithstanding. It is no stretch of the imagination to understand that to someone who’s taken strength and solace from his triumph over cancer is not going to throw away their yellow LiveStrong band because of the doping scandal.

In time, this will pass from our freshest memories though I expect the stain it leaves on the world of competitive cycling will take decades to fade. I hope that all of the parties involve work diligently and thoughtfully to clean up the sport and allow those who inspire us to be heroes worthy of the name.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Short HR Update

I spent a few agonizing minutes last Friday to test my MHR on the bike. It was not the warmest of days so unlike last year, I did the test on the trainer. It was loud enough to be heard the next county over, but I think it gave me a good read:

That big spike is 152 bpm which is only 2 bpm below last year’s results. That sounds about right to me.

A year ago, I also did a test to estimate my MHR in the pool. Absent any real testing equipment such as a Finis Aquapulse I’m going to stick with last year’s number. In truth, I don’t really pay too much attention to HR in the pool. I’ll swim easier while I build a base.

Right now, in addition to just getting in the long workouts, I’m also working on my flip turns. At the moment, they are more like somersault turns but maybe that will improve.

For now, I’m happy to be doing just some basic workouts with no pressure for an upcoming race.

Thanks for reading and have a upcoming weekend. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Fall Ride

Shorter days and cooler temperatures usually make me less than thrilled about this time of year. But temperatures in the low 80's and scenery like this make me appreciate it all again:

I haven't been on the bike in a few weeks. It's good to be back!

Monday, October 1, 2012

MHR Test - 2012 Edition

After a well-deserved week off, I broke my respite to test my maximum heart rate--at least the one that applies to the run.

The process is simple, but not easy. After a warm-up, run as fast as you possibly can until you just can't anymore. This will typically be accompanied by your heart rate reading maxing out.

First things, first. Being a Sunday, the track was completely empty. Just me and my wife doing the photography.

It seemed like a good chance to use the panorama feature in the iOS6.

For years, many of us have been told that we can learn our max heart rate using this formula:

MHR = 220 - age

So for a 43 year-old like me, that would mean that my MHR is 177 beats per minute.

The reality was something else, however.

Not the kind of plateau thing to the right-center of the chart. That's the point where I was in pure hell loosing oxygen and feeling just awful. In other words, this was as fast as I could make my heart beat.

The first two laps were great, just a nice easy stride at 8:30 - 9:00 pace:

At the end of that second lap, however, I began to pick up the pace and when I came back around to this point, I was running at about 4:30 pace. See...I'm so fast that the camera blurred!

That peak number turned out to be 166 bpm. That's also 5 bpm lower than a year ago:

I'm a little surprised that I would be nearly 3% lower, but I also feel reasonably certain that I could not have pushed that number any higher. Believe me, I really tried!

There's always the possibility of testing again, but for the time being, this will serve as my baseline for my off season training which should be at at about 60% - 75% of the max or 100 - 125 bpm.

Since the bike typically produces a lower max, I'll test it in the near future as well and report those results.

For now, I have the baseline for my plan. 

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Improved Sleeping – Getting Started

I've mentioned on a few occasions that I’d like to be a better sleeper. Most of us can tell that our performance is better when we are well rested. If I work out on a Friday afternoon, it’s probably not as good as the same workout would be on a Monday morning.

In order to know where I need improvement, I needed to know how bad a sleeper I really am. To me, the best way to learn about this was with a Zeo Personal Sleep Manager. This is an alarm clock, but not any ordinary one. With its wireless headband, it actually measures and records your brainwaves during sleep to determine what kind of sleep you got and how much.

If you want the really fine details, you should read this post on DC Rainmaker. You should read his blog any way, but this is specific to the Zeo.

Got all that? Good.

Zeo is more than just a system to measure your sleep. Included with the purchase of the machine is a sleep coaching program that evaluates your data and, along with your answers to some questions, recommends a plan that will help with overall improvement.

My first steps, involved just understanding what a typical night looked like for me. Here are the results from my first night with the machine:

As you can see, there are two elements to restorative sleep: Deep and REM.

As most people know, REM or rapid eye movement is generally the state in which dreams occur. It is also the period of mental restorative sleep. Deep sleep is the period for physical restorative sleep.

Research available through the Zeo website indicates that adults will experience between 30 minutes and 2 hours of deep sleep a night. I seem to fall in the middle of that grouping (the results above are typical of most of my nights). I had wondered if I might need and therefore experience more deep sleep as a result of training. Since I didn’t get the system until after triathlon season ended for me, I don’t really think I have the answer yet. Logic would suggest I’d be in need of more restorative sleep during a longer or more intense training week.

REM, on the other hand is something that is needed pretty much everyday. To varying degrees, I’m in a profession that requires a fair amount of brain usage so it didn’t surprise me that I was getting around 3 hours a night of REM sleep.

As far as total sleep, I seem to be averaging around 7 hours, 45 minutes on weeknights (Sunday – Thursday) and 8 hours, 28 minutes on weekend nights (Friday and Saturday).

Overall, none of this would suggest I’m a bad sleeper, but I’m still struggling with waking up in the morning. This will become more of an issue when I start swimming early in the morning later on in the winter. More than once, I skipped my workout to sleep more. That’s enjoyable, but it doesn’t really help me prepare for an upcoming season!

I’m still working on that one, but in the meantime, I’m also following the coaching the Zeo site is giving me. For example, I’m trying to limit caffeinated beverages after 3:00 pm. I’m also seeking to reduce the amount of bright light I’m exposed to during the last hour before going to bed. Both seem to be having a positive effect.

This is an ongoing process so I’ll post from time to time on my progress and any other nuggets of information I gather.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Components of an Off Season Training Plan

Just over a month after my last Tri and, at soonest, still 29 weeks until my next, I’m already thinking about 2013 in its entirety. What can I say? I’m a planner. In fact, I’m a pretty good planner. To be so, you have to follow some basic rules:

The Rules of Good Planning

1)      Be flexible. Field Marshal von Moltke first said it and it’s true for lots of things outside of the military world; no plan survives first contact with the enemy.
2)      Use past experience as a guide, but don’t expect years to be identical. I’m only getting older and the fact is that I’ll eventually not be able to do some of what I set out to do.
3)      Be ready for multiple drafts. Even before I begin its execution, I’ll go back in and re-write whole sections of the plan. This is particularly true as it pertains to training for 70.3 events.
4)      Picking races is like going through the all-you-can-eat buffet. Everything looks good when you are in line, but actually competing in and completing them is another story all together—to say nothing of training for them.
5)      A training plan should be joined at the hip to a training log. In fact, in my case, they are one in the same document separated only by tabs on a spreadsheet.

Alternating Long Weeks

I don’t recall whose plan it was that recommended this, but I’ve adopted the strategy as my own. Just like the sequence of a race, I start with the swim, followed the next week by the bike and finally by the run. It keeps things mixed up and interesting and also gives different muscles a break.

That’s not to say that I don’t do all three sports each week, but just one gets my extra focus. I also seek to avoid two-a-days. They have their place, but there’s not much reason for it when my main goal is laying down a base.

Heart Rate Zone I

I mentioned last year that much of my strategy for off-season training was based on the things I learned in the book Heart Rate Training by Roy Benson and Declan Connolly:

 Their strategy involves the classic pyramid approach but with far more information than I had regarding heart rate and the energy systems the body employees at each rate. Different schools of thought set up between four and five zones for heart rate, but the four they use work well with the pyramid:

If you want to know about all of them in detail, I suggest reading the book. For the time being, my focus is on Endurance. That’s distinct from Stamina in that Endurance refers to how long you can keep going, without consideration to speed, whereas Stamina refers to how long you can maintain at a specified pace.

Endurance training is nearly 100% aerobic which means using fats rather than carbs (in the form of glycogen) as fuel. Your endurance heart rate, Zone I, is about 60% - 75% of your Max Heart Rate (MHR).

This means slowing way down on runs and rides and going a little slower in the pool. There’s not a good way to get your HR in the water without buying additional equipment which I’m trying to avoid. But since the HR strap works just fine on the bike or on foot, I keep a close eye on it when training.

Each week, I’ll be adding more time to my long workout, whatever it may be at that time. The goal on the run, for example, would be to eventually be doing long runs that would be at or near the time involved for a slow full marathon.

Doing this is harder than it seems. I found myself going at painfully slow speeds when I started out last year. My ego kept insisting that I looked like a slow poke out on my training routes, but I knew that it was serving a greater purpose.

Time vs. Distance

Distance is not a factor in my off-season plan. I do everything for specific time periods. For the purpose of tracking everything, I record how far I swam/rode/ran after I’m done, but the plan simply calls for X minutes at a particular activity.

This is nice in that I know more or less how long I’ll be training each week. It also ensures that I can’t just go faster to complete a workout. An hour is an hour whether that’s 6 or 6.5 miles, it’s not going to go by any faster. Using my Garmin Connect account, I’ll set my goals around how many hours of each activity I’m aiming for each month.

MHR Testing

Since all of this is predicated on knowing your maximum heart rate, you need to test it. The formulaic approach is 220 – Age = MHR. That’s pretty weak however and not suitable for a serious endurance athlete.

After spending the rest of the week resting and recovering from last Saturday’s adventures, I’ll be heading to the track this weekend to see just how fast I can get my heart going before it plateaus. Last year that was 171 beats per minute. I’ll be interested to see if I get a similar result.

More on the test after it happens.

In the mean time, if you're interested in the plan I have for the off-season, I've put it on Google Drive here

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Race Report: 2012 Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

My anticipation for this year's Rock & Roll has been growing for a long time. One reason is the time that has passed since my last race. The Rattlesnake Tri was five weeks ago, though it feels like much longer. I've also had this one mentally circled as a "goal" race since early in the summer. With all of that time, today's race really could not get here soon enough for me.

My confidence in my ability to run the distance was bolstered after last year's race which I completed in 2:06:53, a PR. Considering I had done previously done the course twice before in my 30's, setting a new record at 42 felt pretty damn good!

Since then, however, I've struggled a little bit at the distance. Last December, I ran the Rock Canyon Half Marathon in Pueblo. I had no illusions about doing that one in PR time. It was a snowy windy day and a course I really didn't know. However, despite being on pace for a 2:07 goal for most of the race, I hit the wall in the last 2.5 or so. Truthfully, I was glad to finish.

Four and a half months later I was in Fort Collins for the Horsetooth Half Marathon. This time I thought I might PR. I had been training well all winter long and we were blessed with a nice running day. Indeed, I felt pretty good even after climbing the big hills at the front of that course, but alas, one last big hill, a stiff breeze and very sore muscles pushed me down below that goal as well.

When I did HITS in July, just completing that hot, exhausting and utterly difficult course was enough. I'm not a strong enough runner that I would ever hope to run the third stage of a 70.3 at record pace.

All of that brings me to today, the fifth time I've run 13.1 in the span of a year (last year's race was on October 9). Despite my struggles with the half mary, I've had a better year running. With that in mind, I aimed to complete the race in under 2:00.

As suggested by the race organizers, I picked up my packet at the expo on Thursday, leaving Friday for the out-of-towners. Apologies in advance for the camera work. I'm shooting with a new phone and am--obviously--still getting used to the camera.

Competitor Group is very proud of this series. And they reflect it in their pricing:

I registered early and saved a whopping $20 of that price. As I recall, when I did the Rock & Roll San Diego in 2006, the cost was about half of that $195. Ouch.

To their credit, they got us through packet pick-up with ease. Not that it should be hard, but I was through the pick-up section in something under five minutes and then out onto the expo floor.

I've been to so many of these things that I don't really find them all that interesting anymore. Maybe I'm just getting old, but getting a free granola bar just doesn't hold the same thrill it used to. What's more, most of the stuff there is for sale rather than for free. Sports Authority, the marquee sponsor of the Denver event actually sets up a store inside the expo. Here's a blurry (sorry) picture of that.

If actually R&R merchandise is more your thing, you can get that as well. You can even try on clothing in one of these "dressing rooms":

I really hope that they were never used for anything else prior to serving their purpose here.

I think I made it for a whole 15 minutes before hitting the road back home. Outside, I felt compelled to take a picture of the giant blue bear peeking in the window of the convention center. Why? It's a giant blue bear peeking in a window!

Then it was time to wait for race morning. For me that started at 5:30 this morning and it was pitch dark outside. It was also cool and would stay that way for the rest of the morning. Having done so much training on hot summer afternoons, I was especially appreciative of this fact.

No doubt, part of the cost of this event is the downtown venue. This includes the benefit of having the staging area, including the start and finish lines in Civic Center Park.

The gear check is still part of the deal as well so soon after arriving I checked my bag with post race clothing, etc. and was ready to kill some time before getting to my start corral.

It's a this point that I feel compelled to say something about starting in the right place. Though no doubt you, friendly reader, already know this. You don't help yourself and only mess with the race of fellow athletes by either signing up for the wrong time or just not starting with your assigned group. I spent much of the first mile dodging and weaving around people who were walking or were clearly not ready to run a race in the 2:05 time assigned to our group. That's right, my goal was 2:00 but I signed up for 5 minutes slower out of respect. If I catch you after mile 6, fine, you just weren't having the day. But you, the jerk walking right next to the corner I'm trying to tangent, you're a disrespectful, clueless idiot and you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Whew! I feel better now.

Running through downtown Denver is indeed a unique experience. It's part of what makes this race so special and part of why I'm willing to fork over my hard-earned cash for it. That doesn't mean it isn't without some hazards. Downtown streets are still covered with cracks, bumps, dips and other obstacles that make it easier to trip or twist an ankle. Still, it's a really cool experience.

I felt just the slightest twinge of fatigue early on. Hard to say why, but I managed to shake it off and just kept putting the miles behind me. It's always a great feeling to notice how fast each mile goes by. 4.75? Wow, it feels like I just passed the 4 mile mark! Cool!

There's something of an altitude gain between the LoDo section of the course and last section of downtown on Broadway, but it's subtle and you don't really notice it. That all changes at about 3.6 miles in. As you make the turn onto 17th Avenue you are faced with the steepest, biggest hill of the course. It's always amusing to notice how all of the little conversations stop in places like this. But soon enough the hill is behind you and then it's a cruise down 17th all the way to City Park.

Turning off of York Street and into the park itself, you're greeted with a group of cheerleaders. I don't know which high school they are from, but I'm guessing it's Denver East since that's nearest. I can't say why, but they're awesome! I guess they just have some energy in their routines or their voices or whatever, but it always gives me a lift.

The park seems like it would contain a lot of choke points, but it doesn't. The whole race was crowded, but I had plenty of room to move, pass and get passed without feeling like I was going to crash into someone. I also started making some good time through this section. Indeed, miles 6, 7 and 8 all of which are in or partially in the park were at 8:18, 8:30 and 8:22 respectively. I started to think I just might hit my goal, but then again, there were still several miles to go.

I figured I needed to do at least 75% of the course at under 9:00/mile pace if I wanted to finish in under two hours. If things got slower after that, well that probably wouldn't throw me off. But it didn't happen. Even though I was feeling tired, I also kept my pace pretty consistent.

As I entered Cheesman Park for the last section before heading back to the finish, I felt a pretty strong pain in my left knee. The left has given my trouble on and off over the years and now it felt, well worse than normal. I knew I had the cardio and strength to finish but damn, you can't really beat an injury. I hoped I could just run it off and not have to limp or drag my left leg behind me and miss my goal time as a result.

I didn't feel bad about not being one of the full marathoners turning south at this point. I still like the idea of doing that distance, but today was all about the goal and I was starting to feel every one of the 11.5 miles or so I had completed at that point.

Cheesman is home to the last real hill of the course. It doesn't look to bad as you approach it, but since it's late in the race, you definitely feel it. But then its over and down the hill you go, the finish line less than a mile away.

I sort of recall a euphoria doing that section last year. Probably because I had no goal and was just thrilled to be so far in front of where I expected to be. This year---eh, not as much. Being that it's a downhill run, I felt pretty good, but I also was ready to be done and my achy knee was continuing to make intermittent appearances. But then it was right onto Sherman Street and then left right away onto 14th Avenue and then down hill (more or less the same big hill at 3.6 miles) and into the finish. Despite feeling sore and I tired, I gave it a little kick.

And my time: 1:53:37! I never imagined I could do it that fast. For a while during my training through the late summer, I began to question whether or not I could even break 2:00.

This report is already getting pretty long so and I gave a full review last year so I'll abbreviate this one:

On the positive, the race is an event. It's large in scale and the production quality is world class. Bands on the course, tons of support and a great venue keep me coming back. They also learned from some of last year's mistakes such as not parking a semi-trailer in the area where folks line up to drop off their gear. As I mentioned before, Civic Center park is a great place for both the pre and post race activities. In some ways, it's Denver's version of the National Mall albeit much smaller.

This one is getting to the point that there's really only fine-tuning needed. I could complain about price, but if people are willing to pay it--and based on today's crowds they are--I can't fault the business model. I chose to participate. In fairness to everyone who is trying to run at a specific time, I think they should be a bit more strict on corral enforcement. No one gets to move up to start at a faster time. Period. Moreover, I think that anyone aiming a time of 2:10 or less in the half should be required to prove they can do it. Setting qualifying standards, as is done for the BolderBoulder might be worth consideration.

As I was heading back to my car, I was pleasantly surprised by a text from my brother who just happened to be in town with his family and were having breakfast nearby. I got to enjoy a little time with them before heading home for a much needed and dare I say, deserved nap!

I'm now on my annual week off where I'll do absolutely nothing until next Saturday when I think I'll do a 1 mile max heart rate test, just as I did last year. Then it's time to slow down and build up my base. I'm leaning toward going back to Rock Canyon, as long as I stay healthy but otherwise, it will be nice to just train with no goals, pressure or worries. I don't doubt I'll be champing at the bit to get back into tri season next spring, but for now, I'm going to enjoy the down time!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Two Years In: What I've Learned

A little less than a year ago, I posted what I took away from my first year as a triathlete. There's no question that there were a host of things I leaned in the first year. Nevertheless, while there are fewer, there are still some nuggets of wisdom I think I managed to glean from my first non-rookie year. So here goes:

  1.  You cannot prepare enough! I didn't do a bad job of getting ready for my first 70.3 event. After all, I did finish it and actually was only 20 minutes behind my goal time. However, now that I know what the experience is like, I'll be more ready next year with more running, more biking and bricks. Yep, even though I sore them off earlier this season I think the shorter variety makes some sense. 
  2. Putting down a big base paid off. I spent a lot of my off season working out in Zone 1 which is 60% to 75% of my max heart rate. That base gave me a solid platform of endurance upon which I was able to build better stamina. I swam faster and ran faster during the season. I plan on putting down an even larger base this off-season
  3. I'm not good in the heat. Period. On the run portion of HITS I had the benefit of putting ice under my hat, being drenched with cold sponges and drinking plenty of water and energy drink. It helped. Indeed, it probably made the difference between finishing and a DNF, but it did not make me any faster. I may not be able to completely avoid hot courses (this is a summer event in Colorado after all) but avoiding temps in the mid to upper nineties is going to factor in to my 2013 schedule.
  4. Sleep may be the ultimate "X Factor." I'm not a terrible sleeper, but I could be a lot better. I read about Tour de France athletes getting something like 9 hours a night and it makes the 7 or so I usually get seem kind of paltry. I managed to train myself to fall asleep earlier on the night before races but I need to extend that to every day. I plan on talking more about that this off-season.
  5. I can't rule out a 140.6. That is not to say that I've convinced myself to train for the ultimate triathlon distance. Far from it. The time, energy, physical and mental toll that such an effort would require are sill very daunting. They're just not daunting enough to convince me that I don't want to join that elite club. It definitely won't be happening next year. But I may (will probably) put a full marathon on the schedule at the end of the off-season and see how that goes. I raced for close to seven hours at HITS. I ought to be able to run for five or so.
It's amazing how fast a season goes. Even with five races and months and months or training, it's still flown by faster than Alistair Brownlee in the Olympics! While part of me is sad the season and the summer have ended, another part is anxious to hit the reset button and focus on the good work that can be done in the off season. I've already got the beginnings of a training plan written and as soon as tomorrow I'll be back at the local rec center pool swimming laps. 

Additionally, I'm still training hard for the upcoming Rock & Roll Denver half marathon in just under three weeks. I've got a sub two hour goal in mind for that one. 

There's so much more I could say, but short and to the point always makes for a better post.

Happy Labor Day, thanks for reading and have a great week ahead!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Race Report: Rattlesnake Olympic Triathlon

My last race of the season brought on mixed emotions of relief that I was done with the rigorous training mixed with melancholy that this was my last race for 2012.

Nevertheless, I was happy to get up before the sun yesterday morning and drive to nearby Aurora Reservoir to race one more time. My last race had been the rewarding but particularly challenging HITS Sterling so it was nice to look forward to a distance with which I had experience and with which I could perform better.

Photos on this report are pretty light. The blog's chief photographer (aka my wife) was given the morning off after coming out for every other race I've done both this year and last year. I think she earned it!

Having done it four times already this year, I was able to set up my transition area with relative ease and even post this photo to my Facebook account:

While I had plenty of time to set things up and even swim a couple of warm-up laps, there was also decidedly less waiting around than I've had at other races. That was just fine with me. In short order, the national anthem was being played (by trumpet which was pretty cool ) and then it was time for the elites to start.


The Swim:

Like the Greeley Triathlon, this one was a time trial start with racers going into the water about every 5 seconds.  Similar to open water swim events, it was also a multi-loop course that involved a few feet of beach running in-between loops. While I like the time trial start, I'm less enthused about having to interrupt my swim to run and jack up my heart rate. But it is what it is.

I found myself at the front of the swim queue in short order and then it was time for a few high steps into the water until I was ready to take a dive and proceed forward. It's a pretty big field but the crowding was still decidedly less than it is in a mass start. Since it involves two loops I found myself at the far buoy quickly and was soon on my way back. This race is interesting since swimmers on the first lap go back on a line that is parallel with the one they took out. A rope stretched between the buoys forms a barrier that prevents head-on collisions. I ran into a couple of times and was glad it was there.

After my run around the orange buoy and entrance back in the water, my heart rate recovered quickly enough and I was back out to the far buoy in short order. At this point, instead of flipping a U-turn like before, you make a right turn and go across a short distance before making another right turn. It's there that you head for the swim exit which is just down the beach from the start.

Despite what this map shows, I really did start my transition on land. Google Maps just took the photo when water levels at Aurora Reservoir were much higher. A note on the water: the lake has a much deserved reputation for being clear and cool. Water is pumped in from mountain sources and it makes for a nice swim experience. However, I don't really think it affected my times.

Wetsuit strippers were on hand and I gladly took advantage of their services before heading back up to the parking lot transition area. All told, the total distance from shore back to my bike was about 0.2 mile so that lead for a bit longer in T1 than I would have liked, but it was not the worst thing either.

The Bike:

I was somewhat familiar with the bike course having done a few training rides in the area. There's no better way to describe it than rolling. For every up there was a down and vice-versa. It became apparent early on that the best way to handle the ups would be to spin in low gear and then recover on the down side. As a result, I stayed entirely out of the big ring. I suppose for 0.25 to 0.5 mile stretches I could have increased speed from 28 to 32 mph, but I doubt it would have made much of a difference on my time. I was also dropping a lot of folks on the uphills. I went back and forth with one guy a few times with him always passing me on the down while I went by him fairly quickly on the up. That told me I was doing the right strategy. I stayed ahead of him from about 1/3 of the way in and didn't see him again.

Wind was definitely a factor, but not a big one. A breeze that felt like it was gusting to about 15mph was coming out of the north. Fortunately, the bulk of the ride was on an East-West trajectory so while it was annoying to have a cross-wind, it didn't slow me up much. In fact on the way back as I climbed the hill back up to the reservoir, it was at my back.

The race organizers had a good police presence on the open-road course and that ensured that anyone driving by was nice and civil! The motorcycle deputy who went back and forth was no doubt helpful in that regard. All-in-all, I'd have to say the Arapahoe Sheriff's department did their organization proud. The last half mile or so was down hill to transition and that gave me a few minutes to try and soft pedal some of the lactic acid out of my legs in anticipation of the run.

The Run:

There's no question in my mind that the run is the most difficult part of any triathlon. It's the point of the race at which you've already expended considerable energy and pushed your body to great lengths, often for well over an hour. 

Still, compared to what I felt coming out of T2 last year, I felt not bad. I don't know if that is just being lighter and in better shape or if I have become used to the difficulty of coming off a bike and powering on nothing more than my own two feet. Whatever it is, I'm grateful for it.

This one started pretty well. I felt relaxed and thanks to the cool breeze that was going, I never felt especially warm. I drank all 20 ounces of my nutrition bottle and probably about 1.5 quarts of water on the bike portion so I felt pretty good from that perspective as well.

This race's run portion involves an out and back along a paved bike trail that runs on the south side of the lake. There are some rises but nothing that I would call a hill. I was especially happy to be on a surface that didn't slip when I stepped on it (looking at you HITS run course!). Through four miles I felt good but also could feel fatigue starting to set in. I decided to go just a little slower on mile five and try and bring my heart rate back down. 

Time seems to pass more slowly when you're trying to finish strong and with the snaking course (it is called the Rattlesnake Tri after all), there was also the frustration of being able to see the finish area but knowing I still had closer to two miles to go. There were also a couple of those rises at the end that I could feel in my quads. I managed to power through and finish on a good sprint. I didn't realize it at the time, but I also hit a modern-day PR for a 10: with 50:47. Woot!


I've done my reviews in the past with the The Good and The Bad, but I've never been comfortable calling something bad unless it was just terrible. So starting now, I'm going to refer to these sections as Next Time as in next time the race organizers ought to do such and such and The Good as in they did this very well.

Next Time:

I'm not understanding the need to do a multi-loop swim. I know there are boaters and such but it seems to me that asking them to delay the start of the day on the water for an hour just a few times out of the year would be a good choice. Longer races (specifically a 140.6) present their own challenges for doing a single loop, but not here.

There was a three hour window last Sunday to do a pre-race packet pick-up. That's better than nothing, but I think it still makes more sense to allow folks to come to the venue and pick up their material the day before they race. Being able to do a race-day pick-up is always a good thing and I'm glad they did that, but I'd rather save time and have all my material before hand. But it was not a big deal either.

The Good:

This year marked the tenth running of the Rattlesnake Tri and they clearly have learned from past experience.

Venue: Aurora Reservoir is a great place to do this. There's lots of parking for both transition as well as participants and spectators, a beautiful lake and great spots for both the bike and the run. I did not realize until just this year what a good spot it is.

Pre-Race Communication: Top notch and excellent use of their Facebook page. I knew all about the event in advance. Maps were posted early on giving anyone who was so-inclined the opportunity to preview the course. I was very happy with all of the information I received. I even managed to get my bib-number online before race day which allowed me to be body-marked before I picked up my packet.

Volunteers: No one will probably ever come as close as the folks in Sterling, but these people still did a great job. I got a water with no problem at the bike turn around and they even set up a kids soccer net to drop your bottle. Water and Gatorade were at the ready at each mile on the run course. I'm sure it's one of the most tedious volunteer assignments to stand out on the bike course and hold traffic or point the way, but it sure is nice to see someone making sure you don't go off-course. These folks were all great and I really appreciate all they do to make races a success.

Finishers Medal: Probably the most unique one I've seen. It's a little bit like a military dog tag and it is also part bottle opener:

The slogan on the medal is Swahili for "Running Strong As a Lion"

Post-Race Nosh: Bagel sandwiches. cookies, carrots, fruit and best of all, beer! I've seen some pretty impressive spreads after foot races where you burn far fewer calories. This was the best line-up I've ever seen at a Tri. 

Barring conflicts with my schedule or other races, I'd like to think that I'll be back for many more of these to come. I walked away with a PR and a good race experience. If you're looking for something in Colorado later in the season, this one is fantastic. What's better, if you don't want to do the Oly on Saturday, there's a Sprint on Sunday. If you're a glutton for punishment or maybe just a little crazy, you can also do the Back-To-Back option and run both!

Final Numbers:

Swim: 27:06
T1: 4:19
Bike: 1:22:21
T2: 1:23
Run: 50:47

Total: 2:45:56 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Training and Drinking Wine

Since Tuesday, I've been here in Napa County balancing eating good food and drinking good wine with trying to get a few workouts in. The wine drinking and eating have gone really well. Fortunately, the workouts haven't been too bad either.

Tuesday I got a little of extra inspiration when we did our first tasting at a place called Velo Vino. That's right, it's a cycling-themed tasting room. The sign outside was enough to draw my attention:

Turns out this place was started by Gary Erickson who is the founder of CLIF Bar. Like so many others who have had success in other areas (Francis Ford Coppolla for example) Gary and his family decided to get into the wine business. 

This place was definitely unique from other tasting rooms. Sure, there's a variety of wines to taste. But there's also an espresso machine and and they also sell a variety of cycling nutrition products (CLIF brand, of course). 

It's a great place and one I'm sure I'll return to on future trips.

Flash forward to Wednesday morning and it's time to go for a ride on my rented bike. The LBS here in Calistoga is just down the street from where I'm staying which was convenient and helpful. There are lots of places to do some serious climbing around here but 1) the roads get pretty narrow and 2) I didn't want to.

Instead, I did a ride up and back on Silverado Trail which is the lesser used but more scenic highway that runs up and down the Napa Valley.

I felt pretty strong on the entire ride and even managed to pick up the pace on the last five miles or so. It was also good I got an early start. Though in the low 60 in the morning, afternoon highs are breaking 100* every afternoon. Uh..no thanks.

There's video of the ride coming, but it is going to need some pretty heavy editing. I'll post it in the near future.

I returned the bike after the ride and enjoyed the balance of the day first tasting and then enjoying some time at a local mud bath followed by a massage.

This morning, I knew it was important to follow-up the ride with a solid run. There's the Rattlesnake Triathlon coming up in just over a week and the Rock and Roll Half Marathon in about six weeks. The latter is perhaps not my "A" race but it is nevertheless the one with my most ambitious goal of under two hours.

I felt pretty good if not fantastic during my eight mile run around this area. It was a fairly flat course, but I also got after it pretty well  and ran what, for me, is a good pace:

I'm going to take the next couple of days off and then it's back for more open water swimming at Grant Ranch and the slow taper leading up to my final triathlon of the season on the eighteenth of this month. More to come soon.

Thanks for reading!