Friday, May 29, 2009

Sort of Ready for Dam to Dam

Chilling at the Apple Store in West Des Moines. They replaced my Apple In-Ear Headphones for free because the old ones were defective. Today has been amazing. I hope that continues into tomorrow!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Afton Strikes Back

We did it again. As if last weeks adventure wasn't enough the TNT coaches decided it'd be fun to hit that course up again but they added a little spice to it. Last week we biked 50 miles. This week was 62! 31 out and back.

The day started out like any other. Nothing unusual to speak of. I got my coffee prepared, bike clothes on, nice lathering of body glide and chamois cream (it's good to start with a visual), put on some sunscreen, and got all the rest of the equipment in check. All was well. Time to pack the car. And that's when the fun began.

As I opened the garage door the ground looked a little darker than usual. Granted it was about 5 AM and everything looks dark then but this was not right. After my first step outside I knew why: rain. I wasn't pouring. Actually it was more like a mist than actual rain but the roads were definitely not dry. I really don't like riding in the rain but a thought immediately came to mind: cancer patients don't exactly like chemo treatments but they do it. That instantly put the ride back into perspective, quieted the negative voices, and got me back on track.

As it turns out the rain was patchy. On the drive through the metro and into Afton I noticed many spots of dry pavement. My hope being restored I moved on. When I actually got to the ride start the roads were wet but it wasn't raining. Today would be a good test of mental endurance as well as physical because rain puts me in such a bad mood when I'm on a bike. I decided my task for the day would be to learn a new appreciation for the wet conditions.

Our team left at 7:20 AM on the wet roads. It was an interesting ride because I kept reminding myself that it could be worse and to keep the positive mental attitude (PMA). It worked too. I got 15 miles down the road and barely felt like 5 minutes went by. To top that off I was the leader of the pack too. Granted it was only practice but still cool. I also had to take my sunglasses off too because they kept fogging.

One thing that marks the Afton ride is the absolutely gorgeous scenery. The Mississippi River valley is amazing. Pictures simply don't do justice for this area. You really need to experience it for yourself to appreciate God's hand in shaping the land. It's breathtaking.

We were about 20 miles into the ride when I had my moment of zen and appreciation for the rain and wet roads. Looking at the rolling tree covered cliffs I noticed that the light rain and moisture had created a mist. The mist ran through the trees like a finely knitted web. Again, it was something a picture simply couldn't capture. It was so captivating that in that moment I felt one with my surroundings. I now have a much greater appreciation for the wet scenery. And the good thing was this happened only 20 miles into a 62 mile ride. That meant I had 42 miles left to focus on other things like form and technique.

On that note the rest of the ride went very smoothly. As the sun came up the roads dried and became much easier to navigate. The hills completely trashed me by the end (as expected) and the 4 mile transition run we did immediately after the bike left me completely spent. But that's what it's all about.

At the end of the day it was a great ride. 5,000 calories later a lot of team building, spiritual building, emotional building, and physical building got accomplished. I'll get a map up as soon as Garmin gets their services working properly again.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I got beat up today

And the sad thing is I got beat up by an inanimate object. This bike ride has been the hardest bike ride I have ever done. In fact, it must have been one of the hardest physical activities I've ever done. Check it out for yourself. The map is below with elevation. This was seriously insane. And I get to do it again next weekend.

You're not a true biker until you conquer this. Absolutely nuts.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

2009 Fargo Marathon

This was a great run. The weather was perfect for running (low 30's at the start, high of 50 by the end and completely overcast) which helped keep the heart rate down.

This entire run started up as being an experiment. I've been following an Ironman triathlon training program as my primary focus for the past 20 weeks. I thought it'd be entertaining to see if 20 weeks of Ironman training would get me through a marathon. To top that off, I decided to tweet each mile of the marathon using the Tweetie application for iPhone.

This was my first trip to Fargo and my attempt to knock out one of the states in my 50 state marathon goal. Getting there was a cinch: 3.5 hours straight northwest on I-94. When I got there I remembered I forgot to book a hotel room so I had to be a bit creative with my room & board situation. But I'll get to that. Once at the Fargodome I found a nice spot to park near the start of the race. It'd be a great place to set up home base.

The expo was great. Below are some shots of the expo I took. The Fargodome really has a lot of room to accommodate for an expo.


The expo was a lot of fun. I even had a chance to meet one of running's great athletes: Dick Beardsley.


After the expo I went back to my hotel room (which happened to be my car), set up camp and slept the rest of the evening.

Sparing all the details, everything went without a hitch. The run was a lot of fun and I actually finished. I was sore in places I haven't been sore in a while but the sense of accomplishment was still there. I'm working on my running technique and I'll have to say it really helped me out. A coach at the expo, Gerard Pearlberg, talked at length about form and how we should be pushers instead of pullers. I've always been a puller so I decided to take the marathon as practice for this push method. And I have to say, it worked. My hip flexors didn't hurt nearly as bad as I thought they would and I felt amazingly strong until nearly mile 22. That's when I hit the wall. And for someone who's longest run up to that point was 11 miles, I thought that was pretty darn amazing.

Amazingly, I finished in 4 hours which is about my average. That got me to thinking and I'm still thinking. If I work on strengthening my glutes and start focusing on my form like the coach suggests, when I start training specifically for marathons I may actually qualify for Boston. Heck, I may even hit my real goal which is a sub 3 hour marathon. That'd be something. I'd like to get this done at the end of my 30's but there's not going to be an artificial timetable on it. I'll get there when I get there. You cannot make a tree bear fruit before its time. Nor will I get to where I'm trying to get before it's time. My role is to keep pushing and keep aiming for that goal. Eventually I'll get there.

But my final note on reflection is I'm surprised how "in shape" triathlon training has made me. I didn't think I'd be anywhere near my typical average time but I was. Hmmmm...

Sorry this was such a poorly thought out essay. I've got some things to get done and need to get working on them. But I hope the essence of the message gets through.

First off, my stats.

Now, the course map:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My First Century Ride

It's taken me longer than expected to get this post up. A combination of not working properly over the weekend and an exceptionally busy Monday kept me from sharing this with you until today.

My first century was a lot of fun. First off, let me address the distance issue. Observant readers will notice my GPS logged 97.91 miles, 2.09 miles short of my claimed distance. There was actually a portion of the ride in St. Paul where I forgot to turn the watch on after stopping for a break. I guess that distance was about 3-5 miles so technically I covered more than 100.

Overall you almost couldn't have asked for a better day. The air temp was a little too cold for me but it's better to be too chilly than too hot. Plus, it was dry the whole time. For me there's almost nothing worse than riding in the rain.

I started the ride at 6:00 AM and met up with my Team in Training group in Maplewood at the intersection of 694 and 36. We rode from there up the northwest corridor of the Gateway Trail to where it ends north of Stillwater. We turned around and backtracked a bit until we got to 75th Ave. We took that right into downtown Stillwater for a lovely brake on the St. Croix River. It was also on this road I reached my max speed of 41 MPH.

After hanging out in Stillwater we turned around to go back to the Gateway trail. The way back was much harder than the way out. We not only had the wind in our face but we now had to ride up all the hills we rode down. If you've ever been to Stillwater you know this is no trivial task.

Once we managed to get out of Stillwater we then headed back to where the group met up. That's all they had in mind for the day but I still needed to go back home. Once we parted ways I jumped back up on the Gateway trail and headed back the way I came until I got to Rice St. From there I turned south to go into downtown St. Paul.

I got some lovely pictures of the Capitol building, the Cathedral and, once down on the river, the route along Shepard Rd.

Finally, I took the river road to Minnehaha Parkway and that back to the Greenway and finally back home. Got all that? The map is below and you're more than welcome to check out the route.

But that was my first century ride. It was an amazing experience and I would do it again in a heart beat.

Here is a link to the pictures.