Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Two Hands on Facebook

I've been having fun getting a Facebook page going for Two Hands Wines. Now we just need to get the word out that it's a great source for interesting and entertaining content. Post a link!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Yankees

My feelings about all the cash the Yanks are throwing around? "Whatever." I hardly pay attention to baseball anymore. Honestly, it fairly bores me. I haven't sat down and watched a whole game in ... I don't know how many years. Is it the money that has turned me off? I guess that's a factor, in the sense that it confirms that baseball has mostly become just another entertainment. And I don't sit for three-hour shows of any variety. I am amazed that so many people are willing to see their tax dollars go to support the billionaire owners who pay millionaire salaries. All those stadiums (stadia, yeah, sure, whatever). And I'm amazed that so many people are willing and able to pay the ticket prices that help finance the salaries. As for the players, I certainly don't expect them to turn down big money. But I can't help but marvel at how consistently they will choose, say, $14.4 million a year over $13.7 million a year. The biggest number seems to win 99 percent of the time, even when the runner-up number is beyond even many a Wall Street banker's dreams. In many ways, these days, that's baseball.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Did You Hear About that New Triathlon Blog?

Off to a roarin' start.

PDX Snow Data

Courtesy the KPTV Weather Blog, posted there by Steve Pierce, who got the info from Clinton Rockey at the NWS:

1" on the 14th
1" on the 18th
1/2" on the 19th
7" on the 20th
2" today (as of 6pm)
PDX December 2008 snowfall total as of 6pm Sunday Dec 21st = 11.5"

Historical notes ---

* The largest December snowfall total since December 1968.
* The 4th largest seasonal snowfall total in 30 years, falling behind the winters of 2003/2004, 1992/1993 and 1979/1980.

Historical Seasonal Snowfall Totals at PDX -

1978-79 8.4
1979-80 12.4
1980-81 0
1981-82 4.1
1982-83 0
1983-84 2.4
1984-85 7.6
1985-86 10.8
1986-87 0.1
1987-88 3.5
1988-89 3.2
1989-90 8.3
Decade Average (in.) 4.0

1990-91 1.9
1991-92 0
1992-93 14.1
1993-94 2.6
1994-95 5.4
1995-96 6.2
1996-97 0
1997-98 8.2
1998-99 2
1999-00 1
Decade Average (in.) 4.1

2000-01 0.1
2001-02 0.6
2002-03 0
2003-04 12.3
2004-05 0
2005-06 1.9
2006-07 3.5
2007-08 0
2008-09 11.5
Decade Average (in.) 3.3

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday Morning's Mini-Adventure

All the frozen stuff pretty much melted overnight and it was 34 and school was on for the day. So Niko and I head out, notice a few flurries in the air, get in the car, start driving, and the precip gets heavier and heavier. By the time we're to school (6 miles and 15 minutes away), it's damn near white-out conditions. By the time I got back home, there was a fresh inch on the ground. Freeways were in good shape but I was slippin' and slidin' the couple of blocks from the freeway to Danko Manor. Funny thing is, Portland schools closed yesterday and got all kinds of grief for it because the temps warmed up and all it pretty much did in town was drip in that typical Portland fashion. Today, schools are open and we're getting dumped on.... Glad I have the option of taking MAX to pick up the lad this afternoon.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Triathlon: Keeping the Economy Afloat

Interesting story out of San Diego about the surge in triathlon participation and spending on the sport. No doubt the last couple of years have seen amazing growth, but will it hold through 2009? I've got to figure there will be some flattening of the spending curve. Just this week I set out to sign up for Wildflower Long Course. This is a great race on a great course and the timing is perfect for me as a lead-in to IMCDA. But after filling out all the forms, when it came time to press the button to make it happen, I instead closed the browser. It wasn't so much the $220 entry fee that gave me cold feet, but all the other costs that turn a six-hour race into a thousand-buck extended weekend. Planes, car, gas, bike transport, food.... With Coeur d'Alene already costing twice as much, I just couldn't justify the expense. So instead I'll stay home and build my own half-iron race that weekend. I'll head up to Klineline in Vancouver so it's a real open-water swim. I'll have my gear with me and have bike and run courses from there all mapped out. It won't be as intense as Wildflower, probably, but it'll get the job done. And that thousand dollars saved? Oh, I spent it already on a Computrainer.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

May He Long Dribble

Five years. Man, was there even an Internet five years ago?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

In the Kitchen

There was grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, pasture-raised pork and free-ranging goat from Deck Family Farm at the Hollywood Farmer's Market on Saturday. I went for the goat. Never had goat. When I got home I put the frozen package in the fridge. Today I made stew.

I started by cooking a whole mess of garlic in some olive oil.

Took the garlic out and browned up the meat, which I'd tossed around in some flour mixed with salt, pepper, cumin and crushed coriander.

Took the meat out, then put the heat to some chopped onion, followed by chopped carrot and parsnip. Oh, and a little grated fresh ginger, too.

From there, it was just a matter of throwing the meat and garlic back in the pot, adding some white wine, water and the small amount of vegetable broth that was nearing its end date in the fridge. I slipped the pot into a 250-degree over while I skittered off for a long, vitamin D-producing walk around town. Upon my return two hours later, I tossed in some Kalamata olives and a can of garbanzos. Let that cook for another hour.

Served over brown rice. Wow, the meat was great, falling-apart (but-still-together) tender and with a deep, meaty flavor. Yeah, kind of like lamb, I guess. And I liked the general stew flavor, with the big sweet roasted garlic and the salty olives playing off that. Only thing missing was a little heat. Maybe some red chilies of some sort...

Race Report: XC

We went all twisty-turny and up-and-down on wide paths through the woods next to Sandy High School yesterday morning. The sun shone and a breeze came from the east, warming as it came off looming Mount Hood and down through the canyon to the southeast edge of the metro area, where we raced.

Question: Is it a race if nobody passes you and you pass nobody? I was way back from the start as a hundred or so really skinny guys in singlets took off after it. This wasn’t a fund-raising fun run peopled by a cross-section of the running public. No dabblers or weekend warriors here (me excepted). This was strictly hardcore, and over 8000 meters of mostly mildly muddy terrain, there were, for me, no moves made nor challenges rebuffed. There was a lone guy about 20 yards in front of me the whole way, which was nice because I didn’t want to lose my way. When we doubled back I noticed four or five guys behind me. Thank goodness for those active octogenarians.

Yeah, I was trying to avoid running the entire month of November -- maybe next November? -- to give my irksome Achilles a chance to heal. And I came so close to not running today! I woke up at 6:30 and told myself I’d walk over to the farmers’ market instead. At 7:30, after oatmeal and coffee, I noted that there was still plenty of time to get out to the race. At 7:40 I got my running stuff together just in case I decided to go. At 8, I was on my way on the 40-minute drive to Sandy. What can I say? The day was too nice not to run.

Anyway, it was tons of fun, even being rusty as hell after not having run for two weeks, even being five (OK, 10) pounds overweight. Running cross-country races is kind of like doing an ultra, in that you’re get some variability of terrain, you get some woods, ruts, tree roots, rocks and puddles. But you only have to go five miles, not 50! Can’t beat that.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Live Wine Blogging!
At the Wineblogger Conference in Santa Rosa.
1: 2006 Small Vines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast: These guys are all about high-density planting and low-input in the winery. "Do as little to the wines as possible." No fining or filtering. Bright, alive, acidity. Shy fruit on the nose right now. Hiding?
2: 2007 Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay Central Coast: They want to make a wine that reminds you of the cupcakes your mom used to make. (Do I want wine to remind of cupcakes, in any way, shape or form?) Indistinct. Tastes like your standard mass-produced Cali Chard.
3: Kanzler Vineyards Pinot Noir 2007 Barrel Sample: Stephen Kanzler keeps talking about this as a "big wine." I guess I'm not too interested in big wines right now. To me, this was more a confection than a wine.
4: Lionheart 2007 Roussanne Santa Barbara County:
5: Sean Minor, Four Bears, Cabernet Sauvignon Napa: Great energetic articulate fun husband-wife team trying to make a Napa Cab for $17. Not bad, but I wish it were better.
6: 2004 Bonterra The McNab: 60 merlot 26 cab 14 petit from Mendo
I like this wine. I like the pretty nose of black and red fruits. I like the tannins.
7: Yellow + Blue: Trying to build a sustainable wine model. Ship to U.S. in insulated steel, packaged in tetra. 2007 Malbec in Mendoza. Certified Organic Torrontes coming soon. Not bad. You get a liter for $10.99.
8: Clos LaChance Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast: A ballsy Cab, can taste the French oak
9: James David Cellars 2008 Muscat (Dry - Barrel Fermented).: The guy's first wine. He got out of the banking business. (Good move.) Why don't more people make Muscat? Very appealing, in a simply, fruity, slightly tuti-fruiti wine.
10: Dark Horse Zinfandel Dry Creek 2006: I think it's OK. I also think I'm getting tired of tasting. I'm a three or four wines a day kind of guy. Seriously! Give me an hour or two with a wine, then I might be able to say something meaningful about it.
11: 2005 Bink Wines Pinot Noir Yorkville Highlands Mendocino Weir Vineyard: Might be my favorite Pinot yet. Nice wood/fruit balance, a firm streak of tannin running through it with the suppleness of Pinot Noir surrounding that.
12: Twisted Oak The Spainard 2006 Calaveras County: Mostly tempranillo, with some grenache and graciano I think I heard him say. Good stuff. But $49? Good luck.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Well Said
Iron Wil on eloquence, eloquently.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Race Report: Run Like Hell 10K
That’s it. (I think.) My last race of 2008. (Maybe.)

Run Like Hell is an annual mid-October event here in Portland, with – as the name suggests – a Halloween theme. (I saw people dressed as bumble bees, Ghostbusters and Dick Cheneys. I went as a middle-aged wannabe runner.) In the past, Run Like Hell offered a half-marathon and a 5K, but this year a 10K was added to the roster of races. That’s the one I picked, along with about 1,000 other people: the good ol’ 10K.

Once, 10Ks were the standard weekend-warrior race, right? My memory is a little fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure my first organized run, a quarter-century ago, was a 10K, at the Zucchini Festival in Hayward, Calif. And if you’ve ever been to Hayward, you’re as confused as I was then as to why it was home to a Zucchini Festival.

(That's the thing, these days. You can never leave a mystery a mystery. There's always the Internets. So here's what I found, after writing that last sentence: According to a 2006 Oakland Tribune story, back in the early 1980s, Hayward's politicos and power brokers - imagine that - had gathered to discuss ideas for raising money for struggling nonprofits. "When a plate of grilled zucchini offered during a brainstorming session led someone to jokingly suggest a zucchini festival, the idea got laughed off. But in the end it stuck, and the festival was born.” This was back in 1983, and amazingly, this summer Hayward celebrated the 25th Zucchini Festival. So the Zucchini Festival lives on, though without a race.)

There are still plenty of 10Ks, but there might be more 5Ks. And there are a lot more half-marathons than ever before. It’s as though the 10K runners graduated to longer races, like the half-marathon and the marathon, and the 5K became the more sensible race for the masses, a race pretty much anyone can do either walking or running.

A few months ago I myself couldn’t have imagined choosing a 10K over a half-marathon, but that was before The Injury Thing convinced me that short races might be a little painful, but long races could be dangerous.

* * *

I always try to go into a race thinking about how fast I might run it. That’s just the way I am. It’s part of what I love about racing. Having done a 19:41 5K last weekend, at Run Like Hell I thought I might have a shot at challenging my 10K PR of 41:35. Sure I hadn't been running much lately; but I think I needed the rest after a pretty busy season. And sure there was the injury; but as I've said, for short races it had been a minor factor.

Since it was held on typically busy city streets, the race began early, at 7:30, while most of Portland was sleeping in after staying up late guffawing at Sarah Palin on SNL, or hanging out listening to indie bands at clubs where 10 percent of the take went to Obama for President, or whatever it is non-runners do with their Saturday nights. I was out the door and into the darkness by 6:20 a.m., seeking the 6:30 Red Line train to Beaverton. It arrived at 6:32, a few scattered souls aboard but apparently not a runner among them, and dumped me out in the foggy, breezy, 40-degree downtown chilliness 20 minute later, a half hour or so before the race start. Just the right amount of time to hit the Honey Bucket a couple of times, jog for 10 minutes, strip down to shorts and shirt and check my bag.

I lined up near the front, hoping to avoid getting hemmed in by slower runners. It’s just the opposite of the strategy I employ for the swim part of triathlons, in which I go off to the side or the back in order not to get plowed over by faster swimmers. Getting to do this at running races doesn't quite cancel out the embarrassment that is my swim, but it's still kind of cool. The announcer guy said he would give us a 30-second alert before the start, then a minute of silence later he said, “OK, 15 seconds.” After a countdown from 10, off we went.

The course took us from Broadway, which runs more or less north-south seven blocks west of the Willamette River, down Salmon toward the river. It wasn’t a precipitous drop, but it was steady and real. Then we'd head north for a mile or so, staying near the river. We'd hang a left for a little detour into the north end of the Pearl District, and on through the the warehouses and industrial areas farther north. Then back toward the river, then south, finally retracing the opening 1.5 miles to finish the race.

Which meant we’d have to run up Salmon Street right at the end. Nice. (More on that in a minute.)

* * *

I’m always unsure of my pace until I start hitting mile markers. As we got off Salmon, maybe a third of a mile into the race, I figured I was just a little off my 5K pace from the weekend before – just right. And the first mile marker confirmed that (although you’re never 100 percent sure those markers are placed accurately): 6:37.

So I’m running along, working hard, trying to put in a performance that has meaning to me. And I’m thinking about things. I’m thinking about keeping it right there or maybe just a little faster, say, 6:35. I’m thinking about how this doesn’t feel too bad right now. I’m thinking about how it might feel after four or five miles and wondering what I’ll be willing to put myself through. I’m thinking that the damp morning air is cold, and we’re headed into the breeze, but it's not bad, it’s pretty good, it’s keeping me fresh. Before we make the turn at 9th I notice the 5K out-and-back turnaround. I deduce that we’ve now run 2.5 kilometers. One-quarter of the way. I was around 10:15 there. Often, my in-race calculating doesn’t work out too well; I lose the thread before I get a result. But this is easy: 10:15 times four equals 41 minutes. Shoot, I’d take 41 minutes.

I reach the Mile 2 marker in 13:10, giving me a 6:33 split. I’ve been hearing, barely, some runners behind me, and I periodically notice their steps, breathing and occasional words becoming more audible. And then they go past, four or five of them. I wonder if I’m falling off the pace. I am working hard. I try to concentrate on keeping my effort right where I want it – as hard as I can go while still ensuring I’ll be able to finish without falling apart. I pick my line carefully – What do they call it? Working the tangents? – and make sure not to get tripped up by railroad tracks and all the other hazards that come with Portland’s crappy roads.

There’s a bit of zigging and zagging, a turn here, a turn there. The couple dozen or so racers in front of me have woken up some homeless folk crashed on a loading dock we pass. I spend a few seconds wondering what they’re thinking, seeing us. Maybe they’re wondering what we’re thinking, seeing them. Fleeting and random, these are race thoughts.

Mile 3: I’m at 19:46, after a 6:36 split. I know 6:36 equals 41 minutes. I’m on that pace. Around 3 1/2 miles, we turn and head south on Front, parallel with the river again. Front morphs into Naito Parkway, a long crescent-shaped stretch that takes us all the way back to Salmon. I reach Mile 4 at 26:23, a 6:37 split. The woman in orange who had been 10 yards in front of me is now 25 yards in front of me. I feel like I’m hurting a bit. Well, I am hurting. I read somewhere that in a short race, if you don't constantly feel awful, you're not pushing hard enough. But this is a little different: My legs are beginning to tie up a bit. I tell myself to relax, run easy. It actually seems to help. Huh. Now I should be at Mile 5, but I see no marker. A good half-minute later, a lanky dude comes astride me. “Did you see a Mile 5 marker?” I ask. He says no, and speculates maybe we haven’t gotten there yet. I’m about to assure him we’re past five miles, but he’s already put distance between us. He’s gone.

Past the Fremont, Broadway and Steel bridges, I notice orange-shirt girl coming back to me. Ha! That’s what you get for trying to defeat Pete when there’s still so much race to go! But wait: We’re finally to the turn back up Salmon, and orange-shirt girl is continuing straight – with the half-marathoners. Ah. So she’s kicking my ass even though she’s running twice as far. Got it.

* * *

Up Salmon. And I do mean up. MapMyRun puts the climb at 100 feet of elevation gain. I’m not quite buying that. Still, it’s unyielding, and after nearly six hard miles, it’s a sinister seven blocks. I think about the Mount Tabor hill repeats I did on the bike on Friday. Those were harder and I killed them! I try to tell myself that if Obama loses a key state – Ohio, specifically, comes to mind – it will be because I wimped out on Salmon at the end of the Run Like Hell 10K. Do it for Barack, for the country, I tell myself. I push the button on my watch at the Mile 6 marker but don't take the time or energy to look at it. (Afterward, I saw: 39:40, so the previous two miles - remember, no Mile 5 marker - were covered in 13:17. Off the 6:36/41:00 pace by a few seconds.)

Finally off Salmon and toward the finish, just a half block after the turn onto Broadway. I go as hard as I can through the chute. Crossing the timing mat, I hit my watch and see: 41:01. I walk forward, catching my breath, and offer my left shoe to a girl sitting on a chair with a milk crate in front of her with a scattering of timing chips in it. “I need your other foot,” the girl says, giggling hysterically. You see, my timing chip was on my right foot! I guess you’ve got to pounce on your opportunities to be amused when you're clipping chips off a few thousand shoes.

Run Like Hell was a hell of a good race. Notice what I didn’t talk about much? The Injury Thing. Barely noticed it – and, in fact, at the end, it felt better than it had in two months. Maybe the cure for what ailed me was a hard 10K. I think that’s pretty funny. May it always be the cure for what ails me.

The official data...
Time: 41:01
Pace: 6:36
Age group (M45-49): 3/21
Men: 24/266
Overall: 25/751
Full results here.

(By the way, isn’t it interesting that there were 485 females in the race, and 266 males. I don’t even have a theory about that.)
Maybe John McCain is right. Maybe we do need to talk more about those allegations of voter registration fraud. Let's start here and here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Blind Pilot

The Portland band Blind Pilot is terrific. I've been listening to them constantly the last few months. Finally cranked up the Googler to find out a little bit more about them and how cool is this: They just finished a West Coast tour and they did it on bikes. For the second time. Awesome.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blue Oregon, Red Oregon profiles the Oregon electorate.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hey, Look Over There
At the narrow column on the left side of this page, I mean. See the first entry on that roster of PRs? Notice the date? That's right, I got a new one this past weekend! (The old 5K PR was 19:57, established in August this year.) And Niko was great in the kid 1K. Pictures and a few details later this week.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Abbreviated Race: Report
Would it be a DNS or DNF? I'd known for a while that, barring a miracle, my 2008 Portland Marathon would be one or the other: I'd either sleep in and the race would go in the books as a Did Not Start, or I'd give it a go and end up with my first Did Not Finish. Clearly, this Achilles/ankle/heel injury was only going to get better with an extended break from running (among other therapies). I kept testing it every week or so, only to find the pain rearing its head – yeah, just like Putin in Alaska's air space – after five or six miles.

Today, I felt pretty good through eight miles. By nine miles, there was aching in the ankle. By 10, the Achilles was stiffening. By 11, my stride was off-balance, my Achilles hurt, and it was time to go home. There was no point to putting my long-term health at risk in order to turn in a mediocre time. I'm not wigged out by the letters DNF, the way some runners are. I want to keep doing this stuff for many years and a torn Achilles (or whatever) would be very bad indeed.

I jogged the two miles back to the start line to fetch my clothes, then jumped on the train for the quick ride home. Along the way, I gained some clarity about what I want out of athletics in the next year. I want to run a faster marathon. I want to run a 3:10. That wouldn't win me a prize or get me on a podium but it would be nearly nine minutes faster than my current best, and it would be a fine personal achievement at age 46. I really want it.

So that means:

(1) Mixing regular cycling in with the running, because over the past couple of months that did help my injury. I'd always feel better the day after a ride, and even better after two consecutive days of riding. If I'd been on the bike exclusively during the time period, I'd probably be fully recovered by now.

(2) No ultra running. That 50 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail in July was fun, but on top of everything else, was too much. Next year, after Coeur d'Alene in June, I rest for a few weeks, then spend the latter part of July, all of August and the first half of September completely and totally intent on getting ready for Portland. That doesn't mean running like crazy. It means three or four keenly focused runs each week, mixing tempo running, speed work and a long run, along with two or three stints on the bike. Yep. That's the ticket. I can't wait!

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Morning After
During the primaries I wrote some political posts. I took them down because, well, I wasn't impressed by them. Just more spouting off in a world long on opinions but painfully short on wisdom. I'll probably come to see this fresh rant in the same vein, and it may be gone before any of my three or four readers sees it. But ridiculously, right now, it is important to me....

Nothing that happened last night wasn't anticipated. His performance, her performance, the reaction ... it all fell easily under the heading Most Likely Scenario. And the net result is that our hope -- that Obama will win and we'll have a sane Democrat in the White House -- is just as viable now as it was before the debate began. And yet I find myself profoundly depressed. And here is why: Once more, the public and the press are carrying on as though the past seven years didn't happen, as though the election of a "plain-spoken" president who "connected with regular people," talked mostly about the need for lower taxes and "getting government out of the American people's way," all the while demonstrating little curiosity, depth of knowledge about issues or sense of how America's place in the world is changing didn't lead us to disaster.

I see everyone earnestly joining in on the debate after the debate, trying to determine whether Sarah Palin for 90 minutes pulled off looking sort of like someone who could (if we make sure to keep the answer period short, and don't ask follow-up questions) play the part of world leader. I'm aghast that none of the endless number of experts on the post-debate analysis shows -- CNN alone must have had a dozen -- climbed onto the desk in front of him and shouted, "Have we all lost our minds? Does anyone really think this woman truly has the depth of understanding to lead our country in a time of grave crisis? Does anyone really believe that John McCain showed good judgment in selecting her to be his vice president? The winks and nods, the scripted little zingers, the regular-gal shtick -- whether it was appealing to you or not -- how does it have ANYTHING to do with anything? Even now, at this juncture, are we STILL unable to behave seriously? Am I living in an alternate universe? Our country's future is not assured, OK? And we reporters and pundits, by playing the ridiculous games we play, are as responsible as Wall Street, Congress, Bush and the public for the state of the country. Do I have to say it again: We are in financial meltdown. We are fighting two hopeless wars. It's not simply that we're not addressing the social problems that for years have plagued us; no, we have gone so far and so quickly in reverse in the past seven years that simply staving off utter disaster appears to be the best we can hope for. And we all sit here and happily play the role of TV critic? This is reality, people, not a reality show." And with that, our hero falls to his knees and holds his head, his face the very picture of defeat, now dissolving into tears.

Am I done? Not quite.

What infinite power of pretending does it take for David Brooks in the New York Times, to write, "She was surprisingly forceful on the subject of Iran (pronouncing Ahmadinejad better than her running mate)." How is it that I even have to say, the question cannot be can she spout a few talking points and pronounce the name of a practically irrelevant Iranian politician. The question must be -- for our future depends upon it -- "Does this person have an impressive, nuanced read on the world that inspires confidence that the choices she will make will keep us and the world safe?" Right? Isn't that what we desperately need to know? Or are we going to go through the same stupid, devastating, deadly charade we've gone through since 2001? I guess we are. I guess we are.

F--- you, David Brooks. F--- you, all the punditocracy last night and this morning. You pontificate about Congress failing us, the president failing us. F--- you. You have demonstrated again your complete and utter lack of courage and sense of obligation. None of you deserves or has my respect.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Up in the Air
Damn, I'm finding it difficult to give up on running the Portland Marathon this coming Sunday. I'm signed up and paid up. It's right here in my hometown. I've got to run! But I'm injured. It's "the Achilles thing" I mentioned several weeks ago. Except, now I'm not so sure it's the Achilles. Might be a "posterior heel thing." Whatever: I run for a few miles and there's pain and weakness. The pain isn't excruciating; I can keep going. But I can't run very fast. And my fitness has clearly fallen off. So what would be the point of getting out there on Sunday and risking further damage? I don't know. It's just hard to let go. I was thinking PR for Portland. Bummer!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Goodbye, Summer
A dreary, drippy day in Portland today. Where did a boy's summer go?

Fourth of July Weekend Trip to San Jose

Atop Mount Tabor

Harry (Potter) in the Hammock

Late August at 6,500 feet on Mount Hood

Columbia River Gorge

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Market Bounty

Per Saturday custom, I walked over to the Hollywood Farmers' Market today. Couldn't wait to roast those eggplant.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Race Report: City of Portland Triathlon
Just the other day I was telling Niko, in that Dad-teaches-boy tone that he must really love, that not all failures are bad. "If you think about what happened, you can learn from the experience," I said, after he got scared, nearly fell and ended up dejectedly walking his bike down a short, gravelly descent. I could have stopped there, but if you're going to lecture a kid, why not belabor the point? "You can dwell on failing and never get better, or you can figure out what went wrong and improve," I added. "Your choice, but I think you'll be a lot happier if you learn how to learn from failure."

After Ironman, I did a few races that were fun and fulfilling. I didn't zero in on them in the way I did Coeur d'Alene, but when I got to the starting line, I had a good idea of what to expect of myself. Today, I had no clue. I bobbed in the Willamette, waiting for the start to the City of Portland Triathlon, coming up empty in my search for a point to the race. I finally asked myself if there had to be a point – couldn't just having fun be good enough?

Well, sure. But even if it's "just for fun," you have to lay the groundwork. You have to bring the race into some focus.

* * *

The swim was exactly like last year, starting south of the Hawthorne Bridge and heading around the west pillar of the Morrison Bridge. Is this swim really just 1.5K? Man, I'm slow (39:05), although who knows how much of that is running to the bike transition. I didn't notice where the timing mats were placed. One thing I noticed this year was that it was way harder swimming into the Willamette's current than swimming with it. Duh, but last year that didn't seem to be the case.

I lollygagged in T1. Why? Great question. It's as though I thought I should, or had a right to, because this race wasn't important to me, or maybe it was, or maybe I just suck, or maybe I just want to watch the scenery. Sheesh!

On the bike, I went half-assed up the big hill that eats up about half of the 8.3-mile loop, which we were to do three times. I did start to get into the race on the downhill. I noted that the road was pretty wide and the turns fairly gentle, and that I'd be able to stay in a good, fast aero position for loops two and three.

Oops, maybe not. The one negative about this bike course, much-improved over last year's inaugural event, is the rough patches on Naito Boulevard, along the west side of the Willamette. Another reminder that Portland has a billion dollar backlog in road maintenance, and a hazard for cyclists: Toward the end of the first loop I whacked a big crevice and heard my bike make a sharp noise. A few seconds later, I noticed that my right aero bar extension was broken, just past the arm rest. I guess the extender fits onto a base pipe, though when healthy it looks like a single piece, not a long piece fit over a shorter piece and glued on. With this loose, threatening-to-fall-off extender, I didn't ride much aero the rest of the way, and certainly didn't take the downhills aggressively. (Somehow, that seemed appropriate on this day.)

As I finished the bike with a mediocre time – 1:23:49, 58/113 male racers – I was itching to get at the run. I hadn't run in 10 days while nursing this little Achilles tendon thing, and was really missing running. For the run, I had some focus. I went out strong and stayed strong. I didn't push it completely; I read somewhere recently that a rule of thumb for racing short-course triathlon is that if you don't feel like quitting, you aren't going hard enough. I didn't feel like quitting. But I ran well, turning in a 43:58 for the 10K, an Oly-distance run PR.

So that was it, my Portland Triathlon. Crappy swim, so-so bike, excellent run. Pretty much a failure. Lesson learned: Every race needs and deserves some mental prep.

BY THE WAY: Thanks to Jeff Henderson for putting this race on. I hope it survives for another year. It's a great event. Thanks, too, to Dave and his Killer Bread – a free loaf for every finisher – and the Deschutes Brewery for their great organic ale … and all the other sponsors and contributors, and the volunteers. All terrific.

My results; full race results here, just click on "Olympic" in the pulldown.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Your Action News Team at 5, 6 and 11

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cone of Silence
I'm excited to see how Ryan Hall does in the marathon, which started 20 minutes ago in Beijing. But of course because I live on the West Coast, I have to wait until after it's over to watch a tape of the race (and then probably suffer through lengthy cutaways). Anyway, until then I'll be doing my best to avoid hearing any news.
UPDATE: Ha! Getting it live and uninterrupted on the amazin' Internets. Wish I understood more Italian....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Phelps Perspective
As the mainstream "analysis" of the amazing Michael Phelps inevitably gets silly, the boys at Science of Sport offer perspective:

Beware the mythological physiology

One thing that we can be sure of though, is that as sports fans we must be careful not to portray Phelps as being a physiological superman. We saw this happen with Lance Armstrong where sports pundits and even Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwin kept the myth alive by gushing about Armstrong's larger than normal heart, bigger than normal lungs, lower than normal lacate concentrations, and his remarkable weight loss after cancer. None of these characteristics were ever measured or proven, and in fact his "remarkable weight loss" was disproven in a scientific paper in which his weight was measured yearly both pre- and post-cancer, revealing that actually he weighed slightly more post-cancer.

The reality is that the usual explanations are completely unable to explain why one athlete is dominant - when you put these athletes in a lab, there is NOTHING that can be measured that proves why one athlete is superior to another. In cycling studies, for example, a Pro-Team will be measured, and the best guy is often the one with the smallest heart and lowest VO2max!

So is Michael Phelps a great athlete? Indeed. Does he train hard? Most certainly. Harder than his competitors? Perhaps, yes. Is he motivated? Maybe more than anyone else in the pool. But this speculation about how his toes are so long that they wrap around the starting blocks and give him an advantage? Or that he is double-jointed in his knees and that gives him a better dolphin kick? Or that his heart is extra large to pump blood (so are the other 7 guys', incidentally)?

Come on, people, let's keep it real here. Until those things are measured and shown to be true, let's just say he is a great athete with a strong will to win who so far has done everything right, including wearing a Speedo LZR Racer (and he has even been a bit lucky, too).

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Race Report: Crawfish Crawl 5K
I'd done a lot of long, fast walking, plus a gentle mix of easy running, swimming and cycling, since the 50-miler a couple of weeks ago. Everything seemed in working order. So on Thursday, it occurred to me that I was recovered enough to do a short race this weekend. There were a couple of local possibilities—a smallish 10K just over the West Hills in North Plains, and a little 5K 10 miles south of the city in Tualatin.

Typically, I go for the longer option, but there's only one way to run a 10K: hard. And a hard 10K on a hilly course just two weeks after a 50-miler—that seemed a little unfair to my legs and wouldn't leave me in an improved position to do some quality training runs in preparation for the Portland Marathon in eight weeks. The 5K, meanwhile, was flat and, of course, only 5K. I could imagine going hard and not hurting myself, while also benefiting from reminding my legs what it's like to run (relatively) fast.

So off to Tualatin I went for the Crawfish Crawl 5K.

It was pretty wet outside when I woke up a little after 6, but no rain was falling and the early-morning sky seemed to be tending toward lightening. The race start/finish was at the Tualatin Commons, a mid-'90s public/private redevelopment project. The architecture is uninspired, but with a big lake at its center, plenty of little public spaces, walkways and fountains, the Commons struck me as an interesting twist on the usual sterile, ostracized business park. Apparently there's talk of adding some ground-level retail, which would serve to make it even more inviting.

A few hundred people appeared to be on hand for the race, including a large contingent from the Portland-based Red Lizard Running Club. While waiting for a port-a-potty I met, very briefly, Red Lizard Wendy Terris, the remarkable woman who in April ran the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials on one day and the Boston Marathon a day later.

We couldn't have asked for a better August day to run: Mostly cloudy, in the low 60s. I edged a little closer to the front than I typically do so I wouldn't have to get past walkers and slower runners. And a little after 8, off we went on a course that was basically an out-and-back with a loop around the lake tacked onto the end. We were on city streets for a short stretch, then hard-packed gravel, then a paved bike path to the 180-degree turnaround. The only "hill" was the little incline onto the footbridge that carried us over the Tualatin River.

My running has been exclusively at slow pace for the past two months, so I was clueless as to how fast I should be or was running. It was all done on perceived effort, and the effort I perceived over the first mile was significant! I seemed to be straddling the line between aerobic and anaerobic and tried to stay on guard for any tightening in my muscles, indicating lactic acid buildup.

At the first mile marker, my watch showed 6:15. The turnaround forced us to virtually stop and restart, and coming out of that my commitment wavered just a tad. Then I got back into a grove and my second mile came in at 6:33. Heading back in, the "hill" to the footbridge felt like a hill. That took a bit out of me, but I recovered quickly on the downside.

It occurred to me about then that if I could hold up, I might break 20 minutes. That would be a first.

The route around the lake was a little tight and twisty, but with a pretty small field, I had no problems negotiating it. I hit the third mile marker on the backside in 19:20, after a 6:32 mile. By then I had pulled in front of the tall young woman I had trailed around most of the lake. I finished strong but she galloped past me with a nice kick. I hit the finish in an official time of 19:55.7. That was 46th out of 366 finishers, 40th among 165 men, and 6th out of 10 in the 45-49 age group (hardcore middle-aged dudes out there today!).

That was good fun and went off without injury or significant wear and tear. Perfect. It gives me a little confidence that with more rest and good work, I can make a run at a marathon PR in the hometown race in early October. It also makes me interested to see how fast I could run 5K if I really pointed to it with my training. But that's for another time.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Google Walks
Noodling around last night, I noticed Google Maps now has a walk option for directions. This eliminates the wacky routes the service often gave because it observed one-way streets and other car-specific restrictions. So before I set out for my walk to the Multnomah County Courthouse this morning -- no, they didn't finally nab me; it's jury duty -- I plugged in my route.

View Larger Map

Google told me this 4.3-mile walk would take 1 hour and 33 minutes. It was 97 in Portland yesterday and my house was a furnace when I got home from a trip last night. So when I set out this morning, just a minute or two after 6, the cool air felt great; I was content to walk at a moderate pace and enjoy the stroll. Even at that, I found myself arriving at the courthouse at 7:04 a.m.

I guess I walk faster than your average Googler.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Support Your Local Tri
I registered for the City of Portland Triathlon today, and noticed that with only four weeks until the race, just 152 people had signed up. I did the inaugural race last year and it was nicely run. And it looks like RD Jeff Henderson is working hard to make it even better. So where are the legions of local multisporters? There's room for 800 people. Let's fill it up.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Two Mount Hood Ultra Photos

Heading through the woods in the cool of the morning.

Making my way down the mountain later in the day.

Race Report: Mount Hood Pacific Crest Trail Ultramarathon

Around mile 14 in yesterday's ultra I thought about taking the 50K option.

Just two more miles to the turnaround (instead of 11) … and then a mere 15 or so miles to the finish (instead of 25 more).… Hey, 50K is pretty far, nothing to be embarrassed about. And coming just five weeks after Ironman, being slightly less ambitious is understandable…. Plus, these new shoes—the right one is digging a hole high up in my heel. That could get real ugly if I'm not careful.

Individually, these sounded to me like lame rationalizations. But add them all up and the result, well ... that sounded lame, too.

As much as I tried to push it away, the real reasons I might choose 50 kilometers over 50 miles kept coming back into my consciousness: It wouldn't take as long or hurt as much, during the race or a day or two later. It was the easy way out.

Well. I'm certainly not a guy who has not been seduced by the easy way out. In fact, sometimes I think I've built my life with the very concept as the foundation. Yet on race day, the stakes are so grave, the ramifications so stark! Because, after all, for whom do I run? A few scattered, blessed souls take an interest in my tales of middle-aged, age-group floundering, but really, this is all for me. The beauty of that is I get to feel stupidly good about myself with each challenge taken on; the flip side is that failure—and nothing would have defined failure better than the choice I was considering making around mile 14 yesterday—looms as worse than death itself.

So I ran the 50 miles. Heroic! Well, not really. It turned out there was no 50K option offered at the race this year. I didn't realize this until afterward—on the course, I just figured I somehow spaced the turnaround. Still; they ought to use this little anecdote in dictionaries to illustrate the term "moot point."

* * *

These long races hurt. OK, maybe they don't hurt some of the runners. After yesterday's race, I talked to one guy who's planning to do 13 marathon-or-longer races in 12 weeks. I overheard another guy saying he'd fill up a little bit of his remaining free time on the weekend by doing a 50K today. Me, I'm mostly cutting a path between the couch and fridge today.

I found this 50-miler way more challenging than last month's Ironman. It was an out-and-back from the Clackamas Lake Ranger Station south of Mount Hood, elevation 3,200 feet or so, up to the Timberline Lodge around 6,000 feet. The track was often dusty and a minefield of rocks and tree roots just waiting to send you flying forward onto your nose. Around mile 38 I announced to a fellow runner, "Eight near-falls, but no falls!" Within a mile or two, as I looked back to adjust a bottle on my belt, I kicked some evil rock or root and down I went. No big deal—it happened on some pretty soft ground, I landed and rolled it very deftly (if I do say so myself) and had only a few scratches to show for it.

Hazards aside, the most outstanding feature of the trail was the climb through the sand on Mount Hood. This is worth talking about not only because it's different and tough, but because it's on Mount Hood. OK, I've only lived here for a little over a year, so I have no idea what I'm talking about. Yet I'm prepared to declare that Hood makes Portland. It's not that without its majestic presence—classic volcano shape, bald cone capped by snow year round—Portland would be, you know, Eugene. But Hood takes Portland over the top. Sure, you can see other mountains from town, most notably Mount St. Helens. And that's an extraordinary mountain, no doubt. But it's not as visible as Hood—the sight lines aren't as good and the peak is often shrouded in its own weather—and, besides, it's in Washington, so whatever.

We had gone up quite a bit, and down some, too, through the forest to reach the last aid station preceding the climb up the mountain. Along the way, every mile or so brought something new and dazzling to ogle. We passed a meadow dotted with ground fog, then came views of Timothy Lake, which is big, and then Little Crater Lake, which is, yep, little. We reached Little Crater Lake by running for a quarter mile along wood planks and boardwalks over marsh and streams. (On the return portion of the run, some college-age kids were on the platforms alongside the lake, getting in and out of the water. I asked how it was and one said, "Great!" and another said, "Cold!" Then I let out a big Accelerade-induced belch and everyone laughed.)

My first unobstructed view of Mount Hood came around Mile 15, when we found ourselves on a ridge that opened up to the north. There was the mountain. I felt a rush of excitement and a tremble of fear. Four miles later we were climbing the thing. First we went through a forested stretch that featured patches of snow to step across and fallen trees to skip over. Then we got above tree line and finally onto the sandy portion of the day's program.

It was sandy and pretty steep. Slogging through the stuff—imagine going up a beach dune for a mile—would have been really hellish were it not for the views, including a startling waterfall at one point off to the right, and the distractions of running with company. I hooked up on the climb with three other runners, including one gabby—in a good way—woman. At one point a guy coming down said, "All right, almost there." Gabby Gal shouted back, "Don't say that! Tell me I look great even if I look like crap, but don't tell me I'm almost there!" Indeed, on this particular stretch "almost there" was an especially poor sort of encouragement. The Timberline Lodge was visible directly off to our left and not much higher up the mountain if at all—but it wasn't that close. We needed to go farther up, swing in the opposite direction of the lodge, then come back around and down to the destination.

I hit the Timberline aid station—halfway point, 25.0 miles—around 4:55 into the race, precisely on pace for a 9:45 run, according to the pace calculator I'd downloaded from the race website. This calculator was pretty cool: A guy who'd run the race several times did an Excel program based on his times at each of the race's ten legs from the start, to the five aid stations on the way out, back through the four aid stations on the return, and then to the finish. You could enter your goal finish time and the calculator would spit out your splits for each leg of the race. I didn't feel bound to the chart, but it did help motivate me.

I had fallen off the pace by two minutes to the first aid station (mile 6.1) and was still a couple of minutes behind until I caught up at Timberline. Then I gave back my gains by lingering too long atop the hill. Generally, I spent at least a couple of minutes at the nine aid stations. Maybe some of the time was wasted, but I never felt like I was lollygagging. I'd take two or three good bites of boiled potato and grab a handful of chips or some other salty thing. I'd refill my handheld bottle with water and top my concentrated Accelerade and/or Hammer Gel bottles with water or reload them from one of my drop bags, which were left at three stations, meaning they were accessible six times. (I also had three Mojo bars in the drop bags, and ate two of them.)

The Pace Chart
Station   Mile  Time
Start            0        0:00
LCrater     6.1      1:02
Road 58     9.3     1:41
Hwy 26    14.5     2:31
Hwy 35    19.1     3:29
TLodge    25.0     4:55
Hwy 35    30.9     5:53
Hwy 26    35.5     6:52
Road 58   40.7    7:55
LCrater    43.9     8:32
Finish      50.0     9:45

* * *

The run back to the finish from Timberline started out pretty slow, as I cautiously made my way down the hill, through the sand, snow patches and fallen trees. Then a guy passed me really trucking, so I picked it up a bit to stay with him. Oddly, he soon stopped and began walking on a flat. I passed him, and he took off running after me. Hearing his footsteps helped me stay strong for the next three miles through the forest into the aid station (19.1 miles before, now 30.9).

At this point, every joint south of my belly button was aching, but my muscle endurance felt pretty good. With almost 20 more miles to run, I didn't want to blow up, but I did begin to wonder if I might ratchet up the effort just a little to get back on that 9:45 pace, which I still trailed by three or four minutes.

First, though, we had a mile and a half of climbing, amounting to about 500 feet elevation gain. I power-walked the climb, as I had all the extended climbs throughout the day. That technique is nearly as fast as running and seems to require far less effort. The only thing I don't like about walking is that late in a race, when I've gotten to the top of a climb, getting back into running mode can be challenging. But with just a couple of exceptions, the next 12 miles would be downhill or flat and it didn't take me too long to get into a groove. I was probably running 10-minute miles or better for long stretches, a sturdy pace for me late in a 50-mile race. I was helped along by some attention-diverting conversation with The Guy in the Green Shirt. He was in our group on the sandy portion of Mount Hood, and here he led me awhile, then me him, and along the way I learned his name was Mo.

I arrived at the last aid station, 6.1 miles from the finish, with my race clock showing 8 hours and 30 minutes. I did my refueling thing and got my bottles back on my belt. Then, as I was about to turn and head out, it occurred to me that I really did not want to run anymore. I'd spent the past 12 miles putting out a little extra effort, knowing that once I got to the last aid station, well, then I'd be home free. Problem was, subconsciously, I think, I'd confused home free with done. They are not the same thing.

I headed out of the aid station dreading what was ahead. OK, just walk for a little bit and get your head back on straight. At least keep moving forward. After 100 yards or so, Mo passed me on his way out of the aid station. He was running. "I'm out of gas," I told him. "Nah, you got a lot left, you're doing great, you'll catch me," he said. That was enough to get me running again. Sort of.

The final segment—6.1 miles, remember—was mostly flat, a few rollers here and there, a tiny elevation gain overall. The challenge as far as terrain went was that this was the dustiest, rockiest, most root-strewn portion of the course. Plus, on the way out early in the morning, with the sun barely up, it was entirely shaded. Now there were significant stretches in the sun. It was kind of miserable, but I never doubted I'd get through it OK. It was manageable misery and there was just the slightest bit of melancholy creeping into the emotional mix, as well—after all, soon, another experience anticipated would be an experience completed, filed away, one more memory left to suffer the ravages of time.

Mo gradually pulled away from me and after a few miles, was out of view. Farther along, because we were close to Timothy Lake and the campgrounds and trailheads, there were quite a few hikers on the trail. Off in the distance ahead I heard an old hiker dude say to a couple of runners, "There's a Dairy Queen just a little bit ahead." When I rounded the bend, the old dude used the same line on me. I thought about telling him to stick it up his rear end, but instead said, "They've got, what's it called, a frosty there?"

"Blizzard," he replied.

"Blizzard, yes, very good," I smiled. "I'll get me one of those."

By now I was starting to wonder when the hell I'd get to the road, which would mean I was less than a half-mile from the finish. Soon I found myself behind two runners who were mostly walking, even on flat ground, so I gave it the "on the left" call to pass. The guy in the back scooted aside and said, "Great job." The other guy just stayed right in the middle of the trail. Didn't give an inch. I was tempted to mutter, "Asshole," but instead said, "You know, there's a Dairy Queen up ahead." No reply.

It took me just over an hour and 13 minutes to run the last 6.1 miles. That's 12-minute miles, which is not a bad overall pace for an ultra, but is amazingly slow given I actually ran the entire segment. Weirdly impressive, if you ask me.

I forgot to stop my watch right when it was over, but I'm thinking I finished in 9:47. That's four minutes slower than Autumn Leaves, but in degree of difficulty I'd say PCT is at least a half-hour tougher. So the time was just fine and as always I was relieved to be done.

Crossing the line, I got the traditional hug from Olga, who offered me a choice of a white running cap or a black one. I took white. I found shade. I drank some lemon-limey soda thing, or half of it, until my stomach said enough. I got a burger and ate half of it, until my stomach said enough. I had half of a beer … well, you know the drill. I sat a bit. Beginning to feel a little better, I headed to my car to get out of my sweaty, dusty, Accelerade- and gel-splattered shirt, shorts, socks and shoes. I used a bottle of water to wet a towel and wipe off about 10 percent of the grime, which felt like a gigantic improvement, then put clean clothes on. Then I remembered the chocolate milk.

My buddy Dan had me drink a chocolate milk after Ironman. The stuff is said to be the perfect recovery drink, offering carbs and protein in a proportion ideally suited for uptake by your muscles. And here's the really great thing about yesterday's chocolate milk: I had frozen it overnight in the hope it would stay cold while in an insulated bag in the car all day. And it had stayed cold. In fact, it was, as I grasped it in my filthy hand, in an absolutely perfect state of slushy goodness. It was a like a light milk shake. It was cold and chocolaty and icy. It was perfect. Made the 50 miles of running entirely worth it, actually.

Thanks, as always, to all the great people who helped make this race possible. Your generosity of time and spirit is humbling.

Pictures with this post courtesy the PCT 50 website.

UPDATE: Results are in.
Time: 9 hours, 47 minutes, 39 seconds
Pace: 11:45/mile
46 out of 125 starters overall
42/106 men
9/29 men 40+

Friday, July 25, 2008

Backyard Curiosity

So there's this flower in my backyard. Yep, that's it in the picture. As you can see, bees go crazy for it, swarming it from dawn to dusk. My question: Do you know the name of the flower? The previous owner of the house planted it, and I'm almost 100 percent ignorant of plant names anyway.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

When Pitchers Were Pitchers (And Mays Was Mays)

It was 1963. Marichal vs. Spahn.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wild, Still
I remember riding alone on the trails at Bicentennial Park outside Anchorage, on a trip to Alaska in 1991. Great ski trails through the woods. Wonderful stuff. But I had just read McPhee's "Into the Country" and was scared shitless that I'd be attacked by a grizzly. Of course, at the same time, I thought this was foolish worry. Apparently not.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Happy, Fast Women

When I ran the Race for the Roses half-marathon a few months ago, I ended up chatting with a guy as we waited for the start. The guy said he was from the midwest, visiting family. I asked about his family, and he explained that his daughter lived out here and ran for the Nike Project. Last night, that daughter -- Amy Begley -- finished third in the women's 10,000-meter run at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, earning a spot on the Olympic team. That's her on the right, with fellow Olympian Kara Goucher, a Nike Project teammate.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ironman in Pictures

Dan (aka, Chief Photographer) at the cabin

Getting marked

Yep, 45

Donning the tools of ignorance

Let the scrum begin

Along the bouy line

Fellow competitors desuited

Swim-to-bike bags lined up

Moving out of T1

My first 'aero' tri

Halfway through the run

Done and, yeah, happy

My Own Private Ironman: Coeur d'Alene '08
Before the race I wrestled my hopes, worries, assessments and expectations into a forecast for Ironman.

Swim: 1:25 – 1:40
T1: 5 – 10 minutes
Bike: 5:53 – 6:50
T2: 4 – 8 minutes
Run: 3:55 – 4:50
Total: 11:22 – 13:38

As chronicled earlier, a good deal of silly, unspecific worry crept into my mind in the weeks leading up to I-Day, but some of my fear, while not exactly productive, had a rational basis. I feared that the tumultuous waters of the mass swim start would freak me out, and that I'd be vulnerable to foot cramping in the final 1000 meters of the swim; and though a good runner, I thought my less-than-adequate training on the bike could set me up for a staggering, drooling run finish that would embarrass Julie Moss. So I added the caveat that times toward the slower end were more likely than times toward the quicker end. Just to be safe.

* * *

In Boston, the night before the marathon, I did the toss-and-turn thing for three or four hours and ended up sleeping maybe two, two and a half hours. It was hell. But things went better this time around. I was out within a half-hour, had only one brief wakeup, and probably totaled five hours of shuteye. Being at a peaceful cabin in the woods helped, I'm sure, but more importantly, I didn't stress about falling asleep. My PR at Boston after virtually no sleep taught me it didn't really matter whether I got three, six or eight hours before Ironman.

I was up at 3:30 a.m. and got the coffee going, which woke my main man Dan, who was squeezed onto the living room couch. I had coffee, muffin with cream cheese, and a banana, used the bathroom and did some last-minute packing. We were on the road by 4:10, with the sky already showing some light.

The scene at the race epicenter was wild. There it was, not even 6 a.m., and tons of people were wandering around. Out on the lake, the FORD sign was being towed into place. Music was thumping. An announcer was delivering updates and instructions, most of which I didn't catch. I dropped off more stuff—special needs bags, which would be available at 62 miles on the bike and halfway through the run—and got body marked: 1329 on each upper arm, and my age, 45, on a calf. My marker did a very elegant, artistic job, but by Mile 70 on the bike a fellow competitor passed me and told me I didn't look like I was "95." Even if I felt like it.

* * *

Two thousand people in the water, headed in the same direction at the same time.

I was kicked and whacked and I gave out some kicks and whacks. And I had to pause and veer to avoid people from time to time. And there was a decent chop to the lake that belted me a few times. But I remained calm. I can honestly say I enjoyed the swim. The water was fresh and clean and it was wild and wonderful to be a half-mile out in the beautiful lake with a couple thousand other folks, getting the big day going. So I just kept doing my thing, moving along, getting it done. After the first loop, my watch showed 42-something, so I figured I was on the way to a 1:25 or so. That, I could live with.

The second loop was pretty uneventful. I stayed calm and just kept stroking. I exited the water and saw 1:26 and change on my watch. Officially my split was 1:27, putting me 1432nd in the field. Not great. Not even good. But then again, nearly 600 more people came after me, and that doesn't count the dozens who dropped out!

On the way to the transition, I unzipped my wetsuit top. At Ironman, they have crews who help you take the thing off, so once I was in T1 proper, they finished the job on the top, and after I pulled my bib straps down over my butt, they ordered me on my back and ripped the rest of the suit off my legs and feet. I ran to get my swim-to-bike bag and headed into the changing tent. A volunteer met me there and began removing my stuff and asking me what I needed. It was cool—until I said, "I need my white tri shirt" and he said, "What white tri shirt?"

I had forgotten to put it in the bag.

OK, so the problem was that the shirt I had on—the one I had worn under my wetsuit—had no pockets. That meant I wouldn't be able to carry food to nibble on during the ride, nor would I have a place to stash my spare tube.

I ran to my bike, holding my Mojo bar and the tube, wondering how I would manage this situation.

First thing I did was, I ate the Mojo. No bites, really, just kind of swallowed the thing.

After mounting the bike, I tried stuffing the tube under my shorts, on my right thigh. I didn't like that. Then, making my way through the streets of downtown Coeur d'Alene, I noticed the rolled-up tube was bound by a sturdy blue rubber band. Aha! I used the rubber band to hook it to my aerobars, positioning it just inside my right forearm.

One hundred twelve miles and six-plus hours, with a marathon to follow—that's daunting, but I mostly managed not to think in those terms. I took a moment to appreciate what a great day it was for a long race: partly cloudy, breezy, fresh, and heading only to the low 70s. Then I got back to thinking about what I was doing, and there I stayed, pretty much: present. It wasn't that hard, actually. There were so many immediate concerns to occupy the mind. This was the most crowded triathlon I'd ever done, so it was no easy challenge to stay the required four lengths behind the cyclist in front of me, and to make sure the passing zone on the left was open when I entered it, and that I got back over to the right safely after completing the pass.

And there was a lot of passing (and being passed). Sometimes I found myself passing someone, and then being passed by the same person, then passing him or her again, and so on and so forth. Niki—our names were on our race numbers on our backs, that's how I knew her—and I went back and forth and there were a few others (less attractive, I guess) whose names I've forgotten.

The only problem was that my neck was beginning to ache like hell. It actually started soon after the ride began. I must have tweaked it while swimming. Now, in the aero position, which hunches you over and requires you to lift your head up severely to see the road ahead, it was becoming sore and tired. Riding upright was scant relief, and was slower to boot. So what I did was, on the non-technical stretches, I kept one hand out on the aero extenders, and put the elbow of the other arm on one of the rest pads, with my hand under my chin, holding my head up. You know the mug shots they have for a newspaper columnist when he's got his chin on his hand and he's looking all thoughtful? That's how I rode a good deal of Ironman.

When all was said and done, I had traveled the 112 miles in 6:11:54, passing 514 people and moving up to 918th place.

* * *

I struggled to understand the run as it unfolded. I felt great out of T2, shockingly great. And I felt good for up through six miles, rolling along at a 9-minute/mile pace, which, if I could have maintained it, would have brought me home in around 11 hours and 50 minutes -- and 12 hours is the (unofficial) cut-off for being a damn strong 45-year-old male Ironman. In my mind, at least. I wasn't buying at all that I'd be able to maintain that pace, but I did allow myself to entertain the fantasy that I might squeeze in under 12 hours. By, like, one second. Maybe.

But there's a big hill right before the Mile 7 marker and that hill did something to me; it didn't feel that god-awful, but I was not the same afterward. I kept running, but gradually slowed, eventually down to 11, 11-1/2 minute miles. Thus the marathon time of 4:34:11. Maybe if I'd held back a little bit on the bike—in particular, in the final 10 or 15 miles into town, when I passed dozens and dozens of people and posted my fastest split at 18.4 mph average speed—I would have had more left for the run. Maybe, maybe not.

Anyway, I did pick up the pace down the home stretch, the long straight shot down Sherman. There was a guy just in front of me, a 55-year-old, and I didn't want to pass him—there wasn't any point to doing so—but I wanted to run strong. Luckily, he ran strong, too, and remained a few yards ahead of me. Two or three blocks from the finish, with the crowd cheering, I felt a surge of emotion and almost cried. I didn't try to stop tears. The moment evolved on its own, and I just smiled all the way through the finish chute. It was good to stop.

Despite running out of gas on the run, I actually moved up from 918th to 769th place in the process. My cumulative time was 12 hours, 26 minutes and 7 seconds. In my age group, I finished 73rd out of 205.

I couldn't have done it without Dan. It was great to see him several times, both on the bike and on the run. His words of encouragement were tremendous. His help in carrying gear was great. And his confidence in me in the hours leading up to the race was huge, too. I could tell that he believed in me, and that meant a lot. When it was over, we hooked up just beyond the finish line, and then sat on the lawn outside the athletes feed zone, where I had grabbed pizza for the two of us. I don't remember what we talked about. I think Dan said "great job," and I smiled stupidly.

* * *

The really weird thing was how sore I wasn't the day after Ironman. Back in Coeur d'Alene, those blessed volunteers were no doubt still scouring the roadsides for crumpled green paper cups, golden shreds of gel wrapper and the rest of the mess we left behind in our single-minded pursuit. And here I was, with Dan, enjoying the long Portland evening strolling around and about Mount Tabor. "Dude," Dan said, "I thought you'd be a mess!"

I did, too—and since I wasn't, I began to wonder if I had raced too cautiously. Maybe I was Spry Guy on Monday because I'd played it safe on Sunday? It's been a real struggle to sort out this aspect of my Ironman. I do feel proud of my achievement and not at all embarassed about my effort. But I also know that what happened with me on June 22, 2008, was just one way of doing Ironman. Being steady and careful, I got through the 140.6 miles and earned the Ironman title, and along the way I gained insight into what it might take to do my best Ironman.

So it's all good. It's all very good. And now that I've done Ironman, it's time to race Ironman. See you in Coeur d'Alene on June 21, 2009.

The result:
Swim: 1:27:00
T1: 7:36
Bike: 6:11:54
T2: 5:28
Run: 4:34:11
Total: 12:26:07
769/2060 overall
73/205 M45-49

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How It Started
About a minutetwo minutes into this news report, Ironman Coeur d'Alene 2008 gets going. Pretty wild.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ironman CDA Results
Swim: 1:27:00
Bike: 6:11:54
Run: 4:34:11
Total: 12:26:07
769/2060 overall
73/205 M45-49
Story to follow soon!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Race Report: Blue Lake Olympic-Distance Triathlon
Why in the name of Geebzus H. Crisco Oil did I sign up for Ironman? One week out, nothing about the experience is striking me as fun. I'm under-trained and over-worried. I'm consumed by dread. Every once in a while, the idea of just not doing it flickers in my mind, extinguished only by the fact that however bad the race might end up being, living a lifetime knowing I wimped out would be far worse.

Sure, if I'd put half the energy into training for it that I'm devoting to obsessing about it, yeah, then maybe I'd be fired up and ready to go. Alas, didn't happen. Didn't commit myself completely to a better diet. Didn't start swimming until March. Didn't get on The New Bike until May (and didn't get on The Old Bike nearly often enough in the months before then). OK, no regrets on the run part, although I suppose some would say doing Boston for a PR in late-April was less than wise. But at least, for the run, I put in the work.

I'll tell you what really has me wondering about taking on this challenge: Today's Olympic-distance race at Blue Lake. I signed up for Blue Lake because it's less than a half-hour from home and because I hadn't done a triathlon since last September. I figured I needed a taste of race atmosphere before CDA. And that I got, but mostly what struck me today – and what leads me to wonder about the point of doing Ironman – was how much fun it was to race short.

Swim 1.5 kilometers, ride 40K, then wrap it up with a 10K run. The segments are just long enough to provide a good workout, but you don't have to worry about all the stuff that plagues the mind in Ironman (in the Ironman I'm imagining). You don't have to worry about your calf cramping up during a 2.4-mile swim, or getting enough hydration and calories during the 112-mile bike ride, or any of the million things that can go wrong on a marathon that follows seven or eight hours of racing hard. With an Oly, you get out and go and enjoy the swimming, biking and running. It occurs to you – it occurred to me today – that these are activities you love to do. How about that.

Of course, my Ironman obsessing over the recent days and week had left no room to worry about Blue Lake – and maybe that was a factor in how much fun the race was. Maybe it wasn't so much the distance, as the attitude.

And maybe that's something to think about over the next several days.

Today's unofficial data (from my watch):
Swim...31:36 (2:07/100 meters)
T1.......5:16 (long run to bike, long run out of transition)
Bike.....1:07:22 (22.1 mph)
Run.....45:40 (7:21/mile)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Early CDA Weather Outlook
I don't hold much stock in forecasts beyond a few days, but the trends are pointing toward a warm June 22 in Coeur d'Alene for Ironman. From the Spokane office discussion today:


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Solid Workout
Sorry for the half-assed post here; tired, want to go to sleep, but want to get this workout down before turning in. Just the facts...

Background: The plan was to do the Moses Lake oly-distance tri this weekend, because it's a qualifier for the age-group nationals in Portland in September. But I needed to go long and a 500-mile roundtrip drive wasn't exactly what I had in mind. So this morning I dropped Niko off at my sister's (Grandma & Grandpa were visiting from San Jose, so it was a treat for him) on the way out to Hagg Lake. After endless days of chilly, gray and drippy weather, we got some sun and temps well into the 60s today. A great day for riding.

Numbers: I did nine loops around the lake, 93.2 miles, then ran 5.2 miles. I stopped three time to swap water bottles, twice to pee, once to have a conversation with an old fart walker who had admonished me for not "sounding my horn" as I passed him, and took a four-minute transition from bike to run. From start to finish, the workout took 6 hours, 8 minutes, 35 seconds, with almost exactly 15 minutes of stoppage. Total time from start to finish of the bike portion was 5:19:13, for an average speed of 17.5 mph. Time stopped during bike ride was 11 minutes; average speed without the stops was about 18.2. Total climbing (per MapMyRide): about 6,500 feet. Run time was 45:18, about 8:42 per mile.

Quick thoughts: This ride isn't a killer, as I mentioned in a post below, but it's good work. No extended, killer climbs, but continuous ups and downs and curves. You never can really get in a groove and just mindlessly power along at 22 or 23 mph. I rode it comfortably and was really happy that when I got off and ran my legs felt fantastic. Perhaps riding aero really does save the legs for the run. But back to the ride for a second: I've come a good distance on The New Bike in a pretty short time. Neck and shoulders didn't start to ache until I was 50 miles in (that used to happen about 20 miles in), and back didn't begin screeching until I was around 60. All in all, definite signs of progress. Give me another month or two and I'll be ready for an Ironman race! (That's right, the race is June 22.)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It's That Time of Year (They Say)
So -- this I'm learning -- according to lore, Portland weather sucks during the Rose Festival. Is it true? The National Weather Service renders no ultimate verdict, but does provide history galore.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Dear Portland Weather Gods
You call this June?
Monday: Occasional drizzle.
Tuesday: Showers likely.
Wednesday: A 20 percent chance of showers.
Thursday: Mostly sunny.
Friday: A chance of rain.
Saturday: A chance of showers.
Sunday: A chance of showers.
T-Minus Three Weeks
CDA draws near. Yikes. After five days in New York last week, I arrived home Friday afternoon in time to get in a 2000-yard swim. Saturday, it was 60 on the bike along flat and fast Marine Boulevard, followed by a six-mile run. Today, I headed out to Hagg Lake for the Gecko Tri Club's open water races. It occurred to me yesterday as I began to get my stuff ready for the early morning outing that I had never before worn my new wetsuit. So I tried it on. Easy on and easy off, that was nice, in contrast to my previous suit. But it felt all tight and I didn't like the fact that due to the cold water (64, I'd heard), I wouldn't be advised to wear my vest and instead would have to go with the full-length sleeves. I hate swimming in full-length sleeves.

So instead of doing one of the longer swims -- 2000 or 4000 meters -- I decided to break in the suit with the sprint, the 800-meter race. Which I did, though getting to the start was a bit of a comedy. First, as I left my car to do day-of-race registration, I tore out a check to pay. But by the time I got to the reg table, the check was gone. I retraced my steps, but no dice. Gone. So back to the car to get my checkbook. Oh, no! Lost check was also last check. Throwing myself on the mercy of the volunteers, I was allowed to register with a promise to send in my check afterward. Geckos, you rock.

OK, so now it's time to put on the suit. A little Body Glide here and there, boom-boom-boom, suit on. But it feels funny. Hmm. Oh. Forgot to pull bibjohn straps over my shoulders. Off comes the top of the two-piece, up go the straps, on goes the top. OK, to the lake I trundle. "Yo, dude," I hear someone say, and it sounds a lot like the voice is aimed at me. I turn. "You dropped your goggles."

Finally, I swam. Under deep gray skies, the calm water was actually not too cold -- I could have worn the vest top. And I wished I had. The suit felt a little tight up top on the chest and toward the throat. It wasn't drastically wrong, but I didn't feel totally comfortable. Well, anyway, I swam the 800 meters in 16 and a half minutes, which is fine. Then as the 2000-meter folks went out, I put in another 1000 yards or so, looking for a decent workout and a better comfort level with the suit.

Out of the water, it was onto the bike. I figured two or three 10.5-mile loops around the lake would be a nice follow-up to the previous day's 60 miles. And it was. This was a really good ride. Pretty much all my riding on The New Bike has been on flat terrain; my goal has been to try to get used to the aero position, and straight, level roads have allowed me to do that. Hagg, however, gave me a great taste of what I'll face at Coeur d'Alene. Lots of curves, and lots of ups and downs -- no huge climbs, but a little more than rollers. I felt pretty good going up and down and staying aero, and did three loops, each of them in 33 minutes.

The ride

By the time I finished, the Geckos had the post-swim grill going (even as the 4000-meter swimmers soldiered on), so I built myself a burger. I ate it sitting beside the lake. Munching away, I peered out at the buoys, laid out in a 2000-meter sort of triangle with a very long hypotenuse. Two loops, 4000 meters. That's what I'll have to do at CDA. Gulp.