Friday, September 12, 2014

Product Review: Orange Mud Handheld and HydraQuiver Double Barrel

So this is a somewhat long overdue review of a piece of equipment that I use on most of my extra long runs and also a new piece of equipment that is surely going to see near-daily use from me.  Both of these products are from the Orange Mud line of hydration products.



The first is their newest offering, the Orange Mud handheld Hydration Pack.  This is a pretty unique hydration handheld that comes in a few colors (black, orange, purple, and grey).  It's a pretty unique and versatile handheld due to the fact that it uses a standard water bottle.  The pack comes with an Orange Mud branded 21 oz bottle, but the bigger bottles fit in just as well.

The new handheld, in orange.
For me this works the best as I can alternate between different forms of hydration without much real worry about using a bottle of electrolyte fluid instead of water - or worry about filling up a bottle that was used for a sports drink the run before and has a bit of an aftertaste.  I can plop just about any bottle in and go.
The Orange Mud 24 oz bottle next to the 21 oz bottle in the hydration pack.
The pack comes with a bunch of really cool features - would include an elastic pocket that expands a bit for storage needs, a key (or small gear) clip that's hidden beneath the pocket fold, and a pull tab that can also double up as a gear clip if needed.

Quick look at the pocket and the key clip.

The pull tab in the front of the bottle.  I can envision myself attaching a small lamp or something to this for longer ultras.
One of the best things about this handheld is the way it fits on your hand.  The strap is an elastic velcro strap, that's pretty wide - which means you can tighten it as much as you want.  I don't have HUGE hands and a I prefer my handhelds to be pretty tight (so that I can "wear" them without having to grip the bottle).  I prefer to be able to run with my fingers in the same place as they would be in if I wasn't carrying a bottle - and this pack accomplishes that very well.  The way my hand naturally curves supports the bottle, but the strap keeps it attached (not my grip).  It works out extremely well, for me.

The strap in action.  It's easy to run without much support from the hand.

You barely have to hold the bottle to move it around once it is in your hand. 

I would think that the strap is fairly versatile in the hand size range it can accommodate.  I've had co-workers try it on and the strap adjusts to people with hands much smaller than mine and hands much larger than mine.  The elastic on the strap really allows for a glove like fit each time.  The material beneath the strap does an excellent job in hugging and conforming to your hand - which helps relieve any direct pressure from overtightening the strap (and also any abrasions from the strap itself).

Side view of the strap undone.

Top view of the undone strap.  Notice the width.

Another side view of the strap.  You can see the material flap that your hand slides under when wearing the pack.

The strap when tightened.

Personally, I think it's a great pack and love using it.  It fits great, gives me multiple options with hydration (in terms of being able to use different bottles), and has enough room that I can bring some solid food/nutrition if I need to.

There are a couple slight drawbacks though.  First, if you're planning to take a phone with you and you have anything bigger than an IPhone5s - forget it.  It's just not going to fit.  I knew my LG G3  wouldn't fit just by looking at it, and I tried to fit an old Samsung Galaxy S4 into the pocket and - which I was able to squeeze it in by a hair - it wouldn't have been comfortable to run with and it was stretching the elastic to its limits.  Secondly, if you have a need to "shuffle" the handheld between both hands - it's a bit difficult to do that.  This isn't really a huge complaint, mainly because you can't have the best of both worlds (a handheld can't be tight enough to stay on your hand without support and loose enough to easily slide off to switch between hands mid run) - but it's something that is a factor.  It IS easy enough to pull the strap, slide it off, and slide your other hand in though - which is how I managed to get it to work.  But the "tossing" between two hands mid run won't work with this.

Hitting the trails with the new handheld.

There are worse views to have in the middle of a run, I suppose.
Next up is a pack I've been using quite a bit on longer runs - the Hydraquiver Double Barrel.  It's one of my favorite pack setups and it can carry just about anything you need to for any length race you do.

The Hydraquiver Double Barrel during a quick photo break in my latest Griffith Park run.
Hydration packs that are not handhelds and I have always had a love/hate/hate relationship.  I loved the fact that they provided me with necessary hydration during events, but I've always hated the way they "weighed me down" on the front - even on the least bulky of packs.  In addition, I've never been a huge fan of using a bit valve to get water from a bladder.  I've done it before on previous races - but it's a lot easier to simply have a water bottle at the ready (which is why I eventually moved to ditching the pack and going with a "double handheld" - which creates its own set of issues).

The Hydraquiver Double Barrel solved some of that for me.  For one - it sits high on your shoulder blades - which alleviates a lot of the cumbersomeness that other packs provide.  The straps that go over your shoulders are a bit difficult to get dialed in - but once they are - it's smooth sailing.  It carries two bottles (24 ounces pictured but you can get it to work with just about any standard size water bottle).

You can see the straps of the pack in this picture - which gives an idea of how high on the back the pack sits.
When I first used the product - I thought for sure that the bottles would bounce out.  When you place them in the pack - they seem loose and seem like they will fly out - even with the strap properly tightened.  However - I can attest - after using it on a variety of trail and road runs, and after taking my fair share of spills with it on my back - that they absolutely will not fall out.  They are about as secure as any bottle can be in a pack.

Mid run selfie of the bottles in the pack.

As you can see - full 24 oz bottles barely jostle around at all during running.
The pack also has a metric shitton (that's an official measurement where I'm from) of storage in it.  There is a "gel storage" slot on each of the shoulder straps that work well for just about anything you can cram in there (I use gels on one side, and Honey Stinger waffles or Bonk Breaker bars broken up on the other side).  There's also a main pocket in the back that can store quite a bit of stuff (phone, music player, extra nutrition, wallet, etc) and a smaller pocket within that pocket that can store smaller stuff that you need to quickly access while running (navigation unit, course map, etc).  Between the bottles there are elastic drawstrings that can be rigged to carry additional storage if needed.  Orange Mud also sells a storage pack specifically for this if that's what you're looking for.  Also - there is a key/gear hook which comes in handy for obvious reasons.  It's quite the utility pack.



A look at the storage pocket of the HydraQuiver pack.  Beneath that pocket is a larger area for even more storage.
Another positive from the HydraQuiver is the mesh backing that the pack has.  This makes the pack highly breathable - which is something that previous packs I've used failed horribly at.  It works well for heat management but also for general comfort.
The back of the HydraQuiver pack.
The pack does have a couple of downsides.  First, it takes some time to get it dialed in to fit perfectly.  During this time, you'll get abrasions, scrapes, etc under your armpits and along your shoulders.  However, once dialed in - you should be fine.  Those problems all disappeared for me by the second or third run - but I know a couple of people who got fed up before then and decided this wasn't the pack for them.
Also, be ready for the peanut gallery to make comments on it.  It's different looking from most hydration packs on the market - so a lot of people will not have seen it before.  I've gotten the "Oh wow, nice rocket pack - you're about to blast off!" and the "WHOA!  You look like a samurai but with water bottles!" a bunch of times before.  In fact, when I was on my death march at Vineman - I heard that almost non-stop.  That said, that's not really a negative as much as it is a preference.  The pack is definitely different aesthetically from "normal" hydration packs.

On the run at Vineman with the Orange Mud HydraQuiver.  It was a life saver in the 95 degree weather.
All in all, both are incredible products that step out from the "norm" of hydration products currently available.  I'd highly recommend either product, and if you're interested in either and have some more questions or whatnot, feel free to give me a shout and I'll do my best to help you out.

My son playing with the pack a long time ago when I first received it.













Friday, August 29, 2014

Race Report: LA Galaxy 5k

This race came about a month after Vineman - and I was originally 50/50 over whether I wanted to do it or not.  This was mainly because I originally intended to do Ironman Lake Tahoe - and my training was all pretty specific so a "toss away" 5k didn't really have it's place in my training load.

However, when Ironman Lake Tahoe was cancelled due to my injury at Vineman, I ended up taking a few weeks completely off (no training swim, bike, run at all) throughout most of August.  Even still, I didn't really intend to do this race.

However, my son is a big LA Galaxy and soccer fan (despite being one and a half years old, not being able to communicate in any discernible form of language, and probably having no idea what soccer is).  He'll zone out to a soccer game on TV (which is usually the Galaxy since they're the local team so I have an automatic rooting interest) - so I figured taking him to a real, live soccer game would be a treat for him.  That's basically what drove me to do this race - the fact that they let you stay to watch a game afterwards for free.  Pretty nice incentive for people to register in my opinion.  This, coupled with the cool swag bag and the fact that the race is 10 minutes from where I live - pretty much drove me to sign up and participate.

My son and I pre-race with Cosmos, the LA Galaxy mascot

Renegade Racing was running the race for the LA Galaxy and they could not have done a better job.  The race went off without a hitch and was easy from start to finish (from registration onsite to the finish).  It was just incredibly well done and I was stoked to be a participant in it.

Bruce roaming around at registration.

Now, to be clear - I had no illusions of winning this race.  First off, I would be running it with a stroller.  On smaller races, that may or may not eliminate me from being in contention right off the bat.  Second, I was coming off of an injury with very little training at all - so I wouldn't be performing as well as I could be.  Third, there was a huge prize given away (free airline tickets, season passes, signed jerseys, etc) to the first overall male and female finishers - which attracted a pretty good contingent of runners ranging from USATF guys to collegiate and high school cross country teams.  What this basically equated to was that I wasn't even in the league of some of the runners at this race - even if I was completely healthy and trained and not pushing a stroller.  So it would truly be a "fun run".

Also - there was a kid's race which I wanted my son to do that came afterwards - so that's always fun.
Puppies and children - it's like fishing with dynamite!


Anyway, on to the race report:

The 5k is actually a pretty cool and unique route that basically goes around the Stub Hub Center and around the two fields inside the Stub Hub center.  It's fairly flat (a couple of short inclines) with several "in and out" turns.  The scenery is unique and makes the run go by fairly quick (empty fields and an empty stadium that's very clean provides a pretty unique feel than the typical 5k scenery).  There were 3 aid stations - which is more than enough for a race this long.
At the field before the race started.

My son was a little confused about which way to go at the start of the race. hehe

I was able to get to the start of the race in my stroller, convincing the race directors that I would stay far to the outside of everyone and that it would be the easiest way for me to be out of everyone's way.  I explained that if I started at the back - I would end up walking and - even then - people consistently "zone out" and cross into my path.  They agreed and let me start up front (although people cut in front of me so I ended up walking the start anyway).

Stroller parked at the start line before the race.

The race went pretty well.  I stayed with the first group for the first one and half miles or so and then lack of training and lack of ability caught up with me and I started falling back.  The small inclines were really effecting me during the race - and I'm not sure if it's because I was just out of shape, pushing a stroller, or what.  I was able to make another push once we ended up back in the stadium to go up a few places.  I ended up 15th or so with a time of 18:38 (according to my watch).  They didn't have final results posted up by the time the kids race started, and they were gone by the time I got back from the kids' race - so I'm not sure what the final thing ended up being.  Either way - I'm pretty satisfied with the race, even though it was hardly a PR for me by any definition.
Going up the last hill pushing the stroller.

At the finish and, of course, they gave my son a medal too. :)
After the race, we got to hang around for a bit and pick up our swag bags (which were dubbed "finisher bags") - which were actually pretty sweet.  They contained an Herbalife water bottle, an LA Galaxy towel, an LA Galaxy soccer ball, some misc protein bars, a pair of cheapo sunglasses, and the bag itself was a pretty nice drawstring bag.  Pretty impressive in my opinion!
Of course, when we went to see the cheerleaders handing out the bags - they basically kidnapped my son and started handing me their phones to take a picture with him.  I'd love to puff out my chest and say it was because of his dad's handsome looks - but I can't even kid myself with a straight face saying that.
My son is apparently quite the lady's man.

The kid's race was a lot more fun.  There was a bunch of kids SUPER psyched to run the race, and they were chasing Cosmos (the mascot) throughout the entire thing.  My son was a bit whiny at the start - so I carried him for the first half of the race (which was ~half a mile or so).  
Heading out at the start of the kid's run.

Bruce wanted to be carried for the first bit - and I brought along the stroller just in case he wanted to sit down later on.
About halfway into the "race" (I hesitate to call it that because it wasn't timed or anything to my knowledge) my son decided he wanted to go down and walk around.  Which was awesome, except for the fact that he had absolutely 0 intentions of walking along the race route to the finish line.  He wanted to go down to the field, into the janitor's closets (the cleaning crew were outside prepping the stadium for the game), etc.  I managed to corral him in and hold his hand to the finish line - where he was greeted by a small army of cheerleaders who were head over heels in love with him.
Bruce trudging along.

Almost to the finish line.

Crossing the finish line to get his medal from his legion of adoring fans.
He backed away after getting his medal - pretty unsure of the entire thing.  lol
It was a really fun race and is a really fun way for a family to get together for a day to run a fun 5k, do a kid's race, and then stay for the game.  Lots of fun to be had all around and I'd recommend it to anyone when they do the race again next year.  I know I'll be doing it next year - as it's about as cheap of a family day as you can have!
Post race with our medals - well earned a fun day!

Of course, when we get OUT of the stadium is when he decides he wants to start running!

As soon as we got home he was KOed.  lol

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Vineman 2014




This race was sort of a "bucket list" race for me.  Everyone who I knew that did triathlon had done the Vineman race and it was something I wanted to do when I first started getting involved with the sport.

So when the opportunity to sign up for the 25th anniversary of the Vineman race presented itself to me - I pounced on it without a second thought.  For me, that was something special and I figured it would be perfect for me to finally do this race alongside it celebrating its 25th year in existence.  A nice round number (except 25 isn't a round number at all, but you get what I mean).

This was an awesome logo designed by someone who won a contest for them.  It was on the shirt you get and is pretty sweet.

The Vineman race is located in Guernville and ends in the adjacent town of Windsor in Northern California.  This is all roughly considered the Sonoma area.  It's a beautiful place (and the Sonoma coast looks like something out of Lord of the Rings - just incredible cliffs leading down to some beautiful, beautiful beaches)  It's a pretty chill place that has lots to do even when there isn't a triathlon in town.

Family portrait with a pretty cool rock formation in the background.

However, it does present some issues.  Mainly lodging.  I signed up for Vineman MONTHS in advance (shortly after they opened registration with their Buy 1, Get 1 50% Off Special) - and had a tough time finding available lodging from the get go.  The main issue is that I would be traveling with my son and wife - so I wanted to get something that was nice and quiet, in a safe neighborhood, within reasonable vicinity of the transition areas, and not ridiculously expensive (some of the cottages in the area go for $1k a night).  The way it works - there are two main hotels in Windsor (which is very close to T2/Finish Line).  These are the Holiday Inn and the Hampton Inn - and both of them were very expensive (~$450 a night at the time I was searching) for the Vineman weekend.  Looking at cheaper options leads to some ridiculously inexpensive options - but the reviews on Yelp for a lot of these places were so terrible that it was borderline comical ("The Bed Bugs were doing meth on the dirty sheets when I came into the room - Don't stay here!").  Obviously a lot of these reviews are exaggerated - but since I was traveling with an infant - I wanted both myself and my wife to feel relatively comfortable with whereever we ended up staying at.  What this eventually came to was me finding a small hotel / cottage on the Russian River (which was 3 minutes away from the swim start).  The reviews for it on yelp were 50/50 - but it was in a perfect location and looked nice from the pictures.  So I decided to give them a call and talk to them about the bad reviews (mostly to see how true the "place is outdated and falling apart" stuff was - turns out they recently remodeled the entire place) - and - long story short - they put my mind at ease and I ended up getting a room at an incredibly reasonable rate.  

Taking a walk with my son the day before the race.
The drive to Windsor High School from the hotel was relatively short and painless, and packet pick up was a breeze.  They had you watch a video of the race and went over the rules before they weighed you in (which was for information purposes only in case they found you passed out on the side of the road).  Sadly, with the weigh in - I started having doubts about whether I would have a good race or not - as I was about 7 pounds "overweight" from where I wanted to be.  Really it was 10 pounds - but I was weighing in with my clothes on - so I gave myself the benefit of the doubt with 3 pounds.  In any case, I weighed in and headed to the packet pick up.  Once we got my packet, I quickly set up my T2 transition area and headed out.  We then grabbed some pizza at a local pizzeria (really, it was the first pizza place we saw on google) and headed back to the hotel so my son could swim for a bit before I hit the hay for an early night's sleep.  

Little nervous in the line for packet pickup.  10 or so pounds heavier than I should had been.


Did I mention, by the way, that it was boiling hot outside?  At packet pick-up it was 98 degrees at one point and they kept cautioning us over and over and over that we would need to be hydrated to the max during the next day's race.  They said it wouldn't be quite as hot - but would be north of 90 degrees in Windsor on race day.  With that in mind, when I set up my T2 area - I went ahead and tossed my Orange Mud Hydraquiver by my shoes.  My thought was that I would be able to carry plenty of fluid on my back and not have to worry about stopping at aid stations unless I needed to refill.  Usually, two full 24 oz bottles would carry me over the course of 26 miles - maybe a bit more needed it it was very hot.  

My little corner of T2 - yes, that is absolutely baby spray on sunscreen.


With that out of the way, I'll get right to the race.  I won't bore you with cumbersome details about my training.  While my training didn't go exactly how I planned (with a 1 year old in the house it rarely does) - I still felt that I put in more than enough work for this race and I came in feeling completely fresh and ready.  

So the morning of the race, we set out to the swim area and got my bike set up in transition.  Nothing out of the ordinary here - just a normal transition in the dirt with mats.  I did make the mistake of leaving my towel on the ground (nice and folded) - not really thinking of what happens when a ton of wet feet carrying soaked wetsuits out of the water would do to the dirt (i.e. transition became a muddy mess - but more on that later).  In any case, it was more or less pretty standard.

Bike all set up in T1.

Just in case you wanted to get a closer look at the disc wheel I was running.  It's a Reynolds Element with a custom team decal on it.

Early morning set up in the transition area with my Team Big Sexy Racing skinsuit on.

THE SWIM:
The swim is a 2-loop (1.2 miles each loop - although I heard afterwards that it measured long for a lot of people) swim - that has an "in-water" start done in age group waves (but still quite a few people in each wave).  

Before the swim with the wife and kiddo.
I was hit with a sudden wave of nervousness as I kissed my wife and son goodbye for the majority of the rest of the day and got into the water.  Last minute jitters - as I felt I was woefully unprepared for the swim all of a sudden.  The swim is, by far, my weakest triathlon leg and I don't put nearly enough time in the ocean and pool that I should be putting in if I want to get my swim at a level where it can be competitive.  With that said, I got over the jitters fairly quick - and when the horn sounded I took off.

The swim actually went very well for me.  I wasn't front of the pack by anyone's stretch of the imagination, but I didn't get passed up by too many people.  The good thing about the swim at Vineman is that it's about as beginner friendly a swim as there can possibly be.  The sighting is incredibly easy and it doesn't give you too much room to swim off course.  While this causes congestion in some areas - it also allows someone who isn't that great at sighting (*coughscoughsMEcoughs*) to stay in a clear line simply by keeping up with other swimmers around them.

The other thing about the swim is that it is shallow in a lot of places.  This year it was especially shallow and there were many areas where you simply couldn't swim at all (mainly around the turnaround and a couple of areas when you crossed underneath the bridges).  It's pretty widely publicized, however, so most people would know that going into the race.  My goal was to finish in under 1:30:00 without walking a single step. 

Unfortunately, I didn't meet that goal as I walked around the first turnaround, walked in the area under the bridge on the second lap (I must have drifted slightly over to a slightly shallower area on the second lap because I didn't walk this part on the first lap), and walked the second turnaround.  However, I did meet my goal time - as I finished in 1:14:00 (ish) which isn't great for most people but - for me - it a fantastic time and I'll be thrilled if I can continue to keep that on future full distance races.  

The time shows that my swim has come a long way from what it used to be - but I still wonder how much "recovery" I was able to have with the short walks in the interim on the course and how much of it was due to the fact that you really can't swim off the course at Vineman.  We'll see - but it gives me a lot of hope that I can have some real potential for future races.

Out of the water and it wasn't nearly as bad as it looks in this picture.
THE BIKE:

The bike is also a two loop affair.  It's mostly flat through the Sonoma wine country but has two sharp uphill efforts that seem to be pretty strategically placed.  The roads are fairly rough - although many areas were repaved this year.  Prior to the race, I'd read that going with a more durable tire was a decent idea - as you're prone to flats on the course.  

The set up I chose to run on my bike was basically as if the course were "not rough".  Since I was running a tubular in the rear and a clincher up front, I went with one extra spare tubular and two extra spare tubes (which I stored in my flat kit that was modified from a Torhans V40).  My thought process was that if I did get a flat, I would be able to change it relatively quickly which would outweigh the loss of time from riding slower tires over 112 miles.  I elected to use Schwalbe Ironman tires on both the front and the rear, carrying a spare Challenge Triathlon under my rear hydration mount.

My bike set up for Vineman.
Anyway, back to the race.  So out of transition I got to my bike relatively quickly and without incident.  The only real issue was that the place was a mud bath (as I obviously was not among the first out of the water).  My towel was drenched and was basically brown, so I just kind of tossed everything off and into the transition bag and let it be.  I'd figure the rest out later.  I tossed my helmet on my head and darted out of transition as fast as my two wee little legs would take me.


Heading out of the transition area.
As soon as you mount your bike, you're faced with a steep little uphill climb.  This was something - despite walking down this very same hill and knowing full well that I'd have to get up it - that I was unprepared for.  I was slowly grinding in the big ring, attempting to power my way up the hill and I couldn't help but laugh at how ridiculous I must look while doing it.  As soon as I chuckled, I looked up ahead of me and saw one of the photographers snapping pictures with joy.  Outstanding. 
FINALLY over that hill.

Oh - my picture is being taken!  Well - I assure you, the smiles stopped here.


Almost immediately (within the first 4 miles) - my bike computer died.  I'm not really sure what happened, but I suspect it was the same thing that always happens when it dies early (like in group rides, etc) and that it was cycling through pairing with power meters and other devices non-stop until it just drained itself.  It's a bug ( I guess?) and has since pushed me to move on to another unit.  Anyway, I was flying blind (more or less) for pretty much the entire bike course.

Because of that, I don't have much to go by on how I performed with the exception of how I felt.  I felt REALLY good on the first lap and breezed through that.  According to my splits - I nailed the first lap in just a shade over 2:30:00 - which, considering the heat, it about as fast as I'm ever going to go on that course.  
The bike course is really gorgeous at some spots.

Position felt good, legs felt great as I was pushing the course as best I could.  


Things started to unhinge on the second lap, and the comedy of errors began when the hydration cage I had between my aerobars (it was ziptied) came undone.  This was largely in part to two things:  1)  The roads were bumpy as hell on the course and 2) I was using a bottle in the cages (the XLab Torpedo) that I shouldn't have been using.  I kind of rigged the Torpedo setup to fit in a Speedfil Z4 cage - I wanted to have something that was easily drinkable on the course but still see my Garmin and this was the best I could do at the last minute (the XLab Torpedo has a special cage specifically for that bottle available - but I was unable to source it locally before the race).  As it turned out, it was all for naught anyway because my Garmin died shortly into the bike course.  In any case, I spent a fair amount of time fiddling with the bottle trying to wedge it inbetween the bars so I wouldn't lose it.   I eventually just ditched the whole thing - opting to put the Xlab bottle on my rear hydration mount and just resting one of my normal bottles inbetween the aerobars (in the cage - but not tied down since all four zipties broke loose due to all the rattling).

Torpedo looks weird sticking out on the back - but it is what it is, I suppose.
Shortly before I got fed up with my bottle situation, another "disaster" (put in quotes because in the grand scheme of things, it's not that bad) struck.  A truck pulling a gigantic boat buzzed both me and another rider - knocking him completely over and sending me off the road.  I managed to not crash, but ended up flatting my front tire in the process.  The rider who went down was ok - he didn't seem to have any issues other than a few scrapes.  I helped him up and he stuck around to help me out with my tire - which was super cool of him.  We got that going and we were both on our way.  However, as I clipped in to go, I noticed that my left leg wasn't clipping in.  The pedal would go into the cleat - but it wouldn't lock in place.  I flipped the pedal and tried both sides, but no avail.  Upon inspection, it looks like a portion of my cleat actually broke (assumingly from the quick dismount or something that happened along those lines - because it was locked in until that point) and I was able to perfectly fit my foot on the pedal, but was not able to lock in.  What this caused was my foot sliding off of the pedal several times in my ride, and also gave me this weird sensation of having an upstroke with my right leg, but not one with my left leg.  Maybe it was just me being tired, or me not trained enough on the bike, me not being mentally tough enough, or whatever - but it really affected the rest of my ride.  It happened with around 35-40 miles left to go - and it was also about this time that I started to feel a "twinge" in my left knee.

A moment captured by the photographer where my foot slipped completely off of the pedal.

Things got considerably tougher at that point, as I was getting more tired, more frustrated, and had more and more pain in my knee the closer I got to the end of the bike portion.  I began getting passed up by a lot of people, and that's when I realized that I wasn't going to come anywhere near matching my first bike split (which, at the time, I didn't know but it felt fast to me).  

It was also extremely hot outside.  As the sun came up and the temperature warmed up (which started to happen probably around the time of the end of the first lap - around mile 50 or so), the heat started to become somewhat unbearable (for me).  This was all probably compounded by the fact that other things just weren't working out for me on the bike  - but the fact that it was very hot and I was going so slow only added to my frustration.
Towards the end things started getting ugly.  You know it's getting bad when the front of the speed suit unzips on the bike.
I came off the bike in 7 hours and some change according to the clock in T2.  There weren't a TON of bikes racked in the Full Vineman section - so that actually lifted my spirits a bit.  It seemed I wasn't the only one having a really tough day so far.

However, it only took until shortly after I put my run shoes on for my day to take a dramatic turn for the worse.

THE RUN: 

The run for the Vineman course is three out and backs of about 8 1/2 miles each or so.  For the most part, the run is pretty shaded and away from the heat (although that didn't do much on this day).  It is NOT a flat run though.  There is some rolling hills, with the final hill before the turnaround being fairly steep (and doing that three times is mind numbing - although the nice people cheering you on picks up your spirits).

I came into this race hoping to break 10 hours and I tempered that because of the heat (by the time I got to T2 it felt just as hot, if not hotter, than the day before).  Going off of previous races and how my training was up to this point in the run - I truly felt that a 3 hour marathon was within my grasp for this race if everything came together.  The clock was reading 7:15:00 or so when I was in T2 and I knew that I didn't have the 3 hour marathon in me that I thought (and planned) to do at this race.  What was an original goal of under 10 hours turned into 10:30:00 - and that was if everything went perfect on the run.  So I strapped my aforementioned hydration pack on and took off....


....which lasted about 50 yards or so until I came to a screeching halt.  

My left knee - which was hurting a bit on the bike - basically seized.  It felt much like a cramp does, except this was painful and obviously wasn't a cramp.  My initial inclination was to let it relax and walk a half mile or so, see how it felt, and try jogging again.  

At that point, 50 yards into the run leg of the race - any hopes I had of finishing with a decent time went flying out the window.  My goal of finishing sub 10 hours, which turned into 10:30:00, now turned into "just finish and try and make it before dark."  

When I tried to jog again after a half mile (which is right about the area where you leave the coned entrance into the transition area), I was able to hold it for about 30 seconds in a slow jog and then my knee started hurting again.  So I stopped and kept walking.  This repeated itself for much of the first lap - with the walking portions getting longer and longer and the running portions getting shorter and shorter.  Every time I tried to do anything other than walk - my knee started screaming at me and it was the type of pain that I couldn't just ignore.  

Attempting to get a run started, but I was in pain, it was hot, and it just wasn't happening for me.
I spent the vast, vast majority of the run leg walking.  If I saw a camera guy, I'd try and muster up a jog of some sort and I tried to run at the turnarounds, but that strategy wasn't even that successful as 90% of the pictures are of me walking with my head down.

Running through the turnaround after the first lap.
It was around the second lap (right after you get out of the transition area) that I started to drift off into the "Why the fuck am I even doing this?" frame of mind.  Lots of really dark thoughts as I was doing the death march and I must have promised myself that I would quit triathlon over a hundred times.  The second loop was a miserable wreck of a time up until the turnaround at the top of the hill.

That is ONE sad (and hairy :(  *sigh) panda.
At the turnaround, there was a timing mat set up with a little trailer and an older couple who were cheering the people on.  As I came across the mat (walking and moping), the lady ran out after me (dressed head to toe in Hawaiian garb) and gave me a big hug.  I don't remember the exact words, but it was something to the effect of "You look like you can use that, I'll see you one more time and I want you to be smiling when I do!".  Surprisingly, this cheered me right up and, while I still wasn't able to run, I picked up the pace walking a bit.

At this point, I figured since I was already walking, I wasn't going to be on any kind of podium, I wasn't going to be breaking any PRs, and I already wasn't going to bow out of the race - I might as well make the most of it.  It's really an incredible thing as to what happens when you just force yourself to smile and enjoy your surroundings.  It becomes infectious and, really quickly, you find yourself smiling and enjoying yourself without having to "force it" at all.

Giving the camera guy a thumbs up on my way back from the second lap.
At the turnaround on the second lap, ready for only 8(ish) miles left.
My wife and son didn't catch me on any portion of the run up to this point.  She stayed at the finish line waiting for me (expecting me to be done fairly quickly), but on the first turnaround she had a poopy diaper to deal with.  On the second turnaround, I came by and explained to her that I was having probably the worst run I've ever had in my life - and told her it would be another couple of hours.  She told me that she was proud of me and to keep going - which really helped push me through the last lap.

Pretty awesome pic that I had no idea was taken until afterwards of my wife sending me off on the last lap of the run.

Last lap was much the same as the second half of the second lap - I just kept trudging along, encouraging people and high fiving people as they past by.  All in all - it wasn't an absolute disaster - it took me just over 6 hours to finish walking a marathon - which is something I suppose.  I finished the race in 13:43:00 or so - which, while far from what I was originally aiming over, is something I can hang my hat on (I just beat the sunset - so still finished during light).
Crossing the finish line - I was downright exhausted and sick of walking.
Crossing the finish line was incredibly bittersweet for me.  In my mind, any finish of a race this distance is a good one and overcoming any obstacle in a race is something you can be proud of (whether it was the stuff I went through in this race, or something happening to anyone else in any other race).  With that in mind though, I came into this race with some very specific goals that I didn't meet - but I have a general idea on what to do to work to those goals.  Hopefully at my next 140.6 - I'll achieve them and do better.  

Up next for this is to take some time off (this writing is actually late - and I stopped all training for 3 weeks after this race was finished - just complete rest) and make sure my knee is right.  This means cancelling a full I had slated for September, but it is the smart thing to do.  If my knee is in good shape - I might pick up another race (shorter race) in the interim.  We'll see - but until then - I'll enjoy the finish as one that was well earned.




Well earned medal given to my son.