Friday, April 4, 2014

Race Report: PCRF Half Marathon and Bike Tour - and other fun stuff.

The Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation puts on a great event each year - the Reaching for the Cure Ride and Run.  This is a 2 day event that has a bike tour of varying distances (15 miles, 35 miles, and 50 miles) on Saturday and a running event with varying distances (5k, 10k, Half Marathon, and kids 1k) on Sunday.  They have an option where if you do both of them, you earn the semi-coveted "PCRF Brick" award - which is kind of cool.
It's a stacked event that Renegade Race Series runs and has one of the best expos I've seen for a race of its size.  There is simply something to do for everyone - from a beer garden, to a petting zoo with all sorts of critters, to various booths with fun activities, to food vendors (with samples!) - everything.  It's just a great event for the family and something I cannot recommend enough.

So how was the race?

BIKE - SATURDAY

The bike course is a great one that I've actually ridden (more or less) a handful of times before.  It's a 50 mile route that is very hilly and actually includes portions of the 1984 Olympic cycling route - so that's kind of cool.  It's a non-competitive race (as in - it's untimed and you get the same medal for finishing first that you do if you finish dead last), but that didn't stop a lot of the riders from going head to head throughout the entire 50 miles.



Getting ready to get started on the bike course.
This race weekend was always intended to be a "big training" weekend for me in a race-like environment leading up to Leadman  (which fell a couple weeks after this event).   With that in mind, I tried to set my bike up much the same I would at the Leadman race - save for the wheels (I hadn't put the new tires on my Gray 9.5s yet  - so I used a tubular set that I normally reserve for hilly races/training days).

Coming into this race weekend, I had a sore hamstring which was bugging the hell out of me.  It wasn't something that was incredibly painful - but it was at the level where I thought "You have to be careful with this if you don't want any problems when Leadman comes around".  So I had been taking it easy most of the week leading up to the race in hopes that I wouldn't pull something and end my time at Leadman before it began.


Before the race at the start line.
The race was very well done.  They had roads closed off where there would be the most traffic, and then the roads were open to the public where there would not be as much traffic (mainly up in the hills).  It was very well done - and the course is set up that there is plenty of room even though it's open-to-public roads for a lot of it.

I used all of the same gear I would use in my triathlons - so that I would get a feel for it on a semi-long distance ride.

This is a pretty sweet picture - which I purchased a copy of and am waiting for it.

Dat helmat.
The Champion Systems skinsuit from my Big Sexy Racing team is outstanding.  I can't say enough about the suit.  Super comfortable to the point where it feels like it's not even there.  It really is a perfect tri suit (for me).

As for my ride, it went super well.  I pulled into the front of the pack and stayed with a group of 5 or 6 people until we hit the long hill in Mission Viejo and I pulled out in front.  Finished the race without seeing anyone else and collected my finisher medal and headed home.  I didn't bother with any of the festivities on Saturday mainly because I knew I would be coming back for the half marathon the next day - and wanted to enjoy the booths/tents with my family.

RUN - SUNDAY

First, there's this:

My son the night before the run - woke up in the middle of the night giggling.  Probably excited for his 1k race.
Then, there's this:  http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Magazine-Makes-Fun-of-Cancer-Survivors-Tutu-252560451.html

After hearing about the above article - I was a little distraught to say the least.  It seemed really crappy of a magazine to make fun of anyone, much less make fun of someone running for a great cause.  
So I decided I would help show my support in a special way - I would run my half marathon wearing a tutu just like Monika did in her race.  I figured it would be a neat nod to her, to cancer survivors (this race was in support of Pediatric Cancer, so it fit), and to people who have been bullied everywhere.  Since I wasn't going to be overly competitive in this race (due to the aforementioned hamstring issues) - I figured I might as well have fun with it.

So I borrow a tutu from a friend, and on it went.
Yes, I look ridiculous.
I started at the front of the race and went off with the first tier of competitors.  My thought process was to see just how sore my hamstring would be and go at a pace that was comfortable - but didn't put too much pressure on it.  There was a pack of 3 of us for the first 3 miles going at about a 5:50 pace or so, and right after mile 3 I decided to tone it down a bit.

At the beginning of the race in the first group.
After dialing it back, I ended up falling to 5th or 6th place in the group, but at about mile 7 or so - I noticed I had very little pain in my hamstring, so I decided to pick up the pace again and see how hard I could push it.

Shaka brah!

I've incorporated having a bit more fun into my races lately.  This means not ignoring the camera guy when I see him!

Once I picked up the pace, I passed a few people and moved squarely into third place.  I even got a comment from one guy I passed "Oh man, I thought there was no way I was going to lose to a man wearing a tutu!"

Passing someone who previously passed me on the course.
One thing I have to say - the volunteers (mostly high school kids) who were at the aid stations were absolutely great.  They were cheering me on and clapping for me whenever I ran up.  Shouts of "I love your tutu!" and stuff like that were common and I didn't have a single negative comment (outside of one kid shouting "Alright man!  Gay pride!" - but I think he was just mistaken at what I was getting at and wasn't being malicious).

I finished the race pretty squarely in 3rd place - with a time of 1:27 - which isn't a PR for me by any means but is a pretty good time all things considered.

Crossing the finish line.
The results had me bumped down to 4th place - which didn't make any sense because no one finished ahead of me or was even close to me when I crossed the finish line.  I'm assuming it was either an error (like someone with a half marathon bib did the 10k or something) or someone started late and just finished late and was able to put up a decent time.

In any case, I claimed first place in my age group - so no real complaints here.  I got a nice mug, some gift cards, a cool little certificate, and my PCRF Brick award.

Me with my hardware.  And my tutu.
Now - that performance was great and all - but hardly the highlight of my day.  The highlight of my day was Bruce's first race - a 1k kid's fun run.

Brucie, my wife, and I at the start for the Nestle Kid's 1k run/walk.
Now, we were really hoping that Bruce would be walking by the time this race came around.  He's standing up.  And I mean, he's REALLY standing up. Sometimes for a long, long time.  He just isn't taking that step yet.  In any case - we had a back up plan in case he wasn't walking, and we executed it PERFECTLY.


He was a champ and walked the whole way without whining.





Now, my son DID finish in dead last place.  However, he was ALSO the first in his age group (1 and under) - although that's not official since it was an untimed walk.  Regardless of that - it was one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had at an event.  Crossing the finish line with my son, picking him up, and having him stoked that he accomplished something was really cool to see (especially since he just turned 1 a few weeks before).  

Brucie crossing the finish line and with his medal.


All in all, a great day and a great event - which I would recommend to anyone who is wanting a boost to their training, as a competitive race, or someone who just wants to get in shape for a good cause.

Next up for me is Leadman in April, which is my first major race of the year.  I'll be gunning for a belt buckle there - and we'll see how that goes.  I'm as ready as I'll be for it.  

Hope you enjoyed the race report - and I'll leave you with some pictures of my son at the petting zoo (which was at the event):

This was a big lizard that had some teeth on it.

I was pointing out how hard the shell was to Bruce.

Brucie touching an absolutely gigantic snake.













Thursday, March 27, 2014

Race Report: Leprechaun Leap 5k (and other weekend stuff)




The Leprechaun Leap 5k is a really cool race put on by Renegade Racing and the Tustin Chamber of Commerce.  It's one of the better 5ks in Southern California with a fun, flat, and fast course that is more than just a "run 1.5 miles out and then turnaround and run back" type of course.

I tend to not do 5ks unless I want to use them as an idea for where my "sprinting" fitness is at or unless I have family and friends doing them.  Usually, a 5k is simply too much of a hassle (registration, driving over, waiting around, etc) to spend 3-4 hours in a day for what is essentially a 20 minute race.

What can change that for me is if the venue is pretty unique, if the course is something special, or if it is for a good cause that hits close to home for me.

This particular race is highlighted by a run that goes through an aircraft hangar as an actual part of the course - which really perked my interest.  In addition, it's a race that isn't a "straight out and back" - which I felt would be a good test for me to push the pace and see where I come out.

Course Map of the Leprechaun Leap 5k - not your standard out and back by any means

I wanted to get a good time in this race - so I decided to use my Skora Phase running shoes.  This was mainly because they were green (really florescent yellow, but it's as close to green as I had).  I did, afterall - have to keep with the theme.

My friend and I arrived at the race with plenty of time to spare and I actually got to get near the front of the pack at the start line - so I hoped to end up with a good time.  The gun went off and off we went!

Start line was crowded but it opened up pretty quickly.


My wife says I'm always taking myself too seriously at races, so I'm trying to goof it up a bit.
1
Pulling away from the main pack at the first turnaround.

This was right before we entered the hangar towards the end of the race.
The race itself went as about any 5k would for me.  I pushed the pace at the beginning attempting to stay with the front of the pack but wasn't able to maintain my pace (mainly due to lack of fitness this early in the season).  My PR for a 5k is in the 16:30 range - but I knew that would be out of the question due to the lack of running I've had recently (both in overall mileage and speed work/interval training).  As soon as I realized my legs were not going to hold a 5:30 pace through the race - I dialed it back again and just tried to keep ahead of the "second group".
Coming down the turn into the finish line.



At the finish line.


I managed to do this - thanks to a late kick as we exited the hangar.  I ended up with a 17:58 for first place in my age group and 5th overall.  That's about as good as I was going to be able to do.  There may have been a few seconds in there if I had paced myself better on the first mile - but all in all - I'm a happy camper.

My brother in law (who did the race with me) also did very well  - scoring a PR on the 5k for him - going at a sub 8:00 pace for the first time.  Super stoked for him!

The event was extremely well run, with lots of little fun things to do at the festival.  The awards presentation was fun too, as Tustin native and former UCLA/Carolina Panthers running back DeShaun Foster was there to hand out the awards.  Was pretty cool getting an award from a guy who helped carry my fantasy team in 2006/2007.  There was also a band playing - which created a really fun vibe for everyone at the event.
As for the support on the course - it was fantastic.  There were multiple water stations - and the volunteers at the finish line were tremendous in making sure that food and drink were available for everyone around.  To top all of that off - the finisher medal is pretty cool as well.  I'll definitely be back next year!

Getting my award at the award ceremony.


.
The finisher medal is really high quality - and very cool looking.


In other news, my wife somehow convinced me to try out a crossfit competition last weekend.  Now, keep in mind - I do NOT do crossfit.  I really don't do much outside of swim, bike, and run exercises Sometimes the occasional time on the rower, paddleboarding, surfing, hiking - that kind of stuff - but never any weight lifting or anything like that.  

So when my wife approached me about doing the Beach Body Bash put on by Road Runner Sports Torrance, I was extremely hesitant.  However, she convinced me to give it a try so I went in having no idea what I was getting myself into - and simply deciding to take it easy and just relax the entire time.

I met up with her crossfit coach, from Crossfit Tough Angels, and were the first ones to show up.  He assured me that I had nothing to worry about and that everyone from CTFA would be doing the workout as a group. Also, I had to get clarification from him and my wife as to what half of the workout terms meant.
The crowd starting to come in as registration opened.
The workouts were basically a mix of running and general crossfit workouts with mini "challenges" thrown in.  Basically, you were to do a crossfit workout, then run to a challenge booth (located 1/4 or 1/2 a mile away), perform the challenge, and then return for another crossfit workout - and so on and so forth.

This was the workout board for this event


The event started with everyone getting their space in the parking lot, and then doing their 50 burpees (which I grew up with them being called "up and downs" or "sloppy sprawl drills").  A note - there were people keeping count, but due to the amount of people that were doing the event - you were more or less on the honor system to make sure you did the correct number.  I actually didn't have too much problems with the burpees - and was able to do all of them without slowing down too much.

Everyone getting their burpee on.
When I finished mine I stopped and waited for everyone else to finish - but I saw that a couple of people from our gym had already taken off.  Figuring that it was now every man (or woman) for themselves - I took off on the run as well.

I'm not the fastest runner in the world, but I'm definitely a much better runner than I am a crossfitter - and it showed at this race.  I managed to catch everyone who was running out to the first challenge and was the first back to the parking lot with the egg (the first challenge was to grab an egg, and run back to the "transition area" without breaking it).  Next up was 30 push ups - which wasn't a problem at all.
I probably don't have the best form anymore, but I did thousands of these daily in college.
After that, I ran out to the next challenge (get a toothpick and run back with it in your mouth).  Easy enough - and it was about at this point where people from my wife's gym (and my wife herself) were cheering me on.  This is when I realized that I was in the lead of this event and if I could keep pushing it - maybe I could win it.

I got back to transition area and the next "crossfit" workout was 30 air squats.  "Sweet, no problem!" I thought.  My wife showed me how to do these right before we started and I did 3 or 4 and it didn't seem like a big deal.

Well, it kind of is a big deal.  Especially after you have been running and are going full speed and working muscles in your body that aren't really into getting worked.

In any case, I got them done - but it wasn't pretty.

This is how I thought I looked while doing them.



This is how I actually looked. =(
Once that nightmare was over (it was never really over - as my legs were in pain after doing those) - I ran out back onto the run course - still in first place by some miracle - to the next challenge.  The next challenge was to sort though this big box filled with loose cards and bring back a "heart."  Not only did I find a "heart" - but mine had Han freakin' Solo on it - which could mean nothing but good things.

When I got back, they pointed me over to the kettlebells and had me do 30 kettlebells.  Basically, the technique shown to me prior to the event for the kettlebells was similar to the air squat - except you're swinging a 50+ pound kettlebell while doing it.  There's also this thing you do with your pelvis (where you pop it out to make the whole process easier) that I either completely forgot about when my wife showed me how to do it, or she neglected to tell me.  I was basically squating and using nothing but my shoulders and triceps to move the kettlebell.  There aren't any pictures of the process - but judging by how my face was contorting, I can assure you that they wouldn't have been pretty.

By this time, my legs were pretty much toast - and none of that had anything to do with the running.  I wasn't wearing a GPS watch during this event, but I figured my last mile (the final run was a .5 out and back before the final workout) was in the 8:30 range or something like that.  I felt like molasses on the road.

When I got back - I was still in first place and well ahead of most everyone.  However, the last event was 100 double unders with the jump rope.  Outstanding.  I hadn't jump roped in...well...in forever.  I couldn't remember the last time I did that.  Even during wrestling and BJJ - where they used jump rope as a good way to warm up or cut weight - I always elected for something else and never really did it.  I'm sure there was a time where I did though and just can't remember - which is the only reason I'm not saying that I've never jump roped before this.

I kept thinking "just remember 5th grade hopscotch, just remember 5th grade hopscotch"

I managed to finish and still maintain first place - which was a miracle considering how horrific I was a jump roping and how many people caught up to me because my jump rope was just THAT BAD.  

A pretty good day - all things considered.
The prize I ended up winning was a "Head to Toe" Reebok outfit - which I gave to my wife (since she'll get more use out of the stuff than I will).  So she was pretty stoked to get outfitted in all new gear.  Also, during the raffle they held, I won a pair of Beats by Dre studio headphones (also given to her since our dog ate the pair she previously had), and my wife won a box of Rock Tape and a seminar on how to properly apply it.  Pretty good haul for a day's worth of work!

Next up for me is the PCRF Ride and Run which is another event put on by Renegade Racing.  It was outstanding last year and I hope for more the same this year.  It's a 50 mile ride on Saturday, and a half marathon on Sunday.  I'm nursing a sore hamstring, so these won't be competitive events for me - but they'll be fun nonetheless.  



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gear Review / First Impressions: Garmin Fenix 2 Multisport Watch




First and foremost, I'd like to say that this review is not going to be a massively in depth review that details every nook and cranny of this watch.  There's simply no need to do that as it can all be found at Ray's blog - here. The DRRAINMAKER review.  He does an outstanding job, as always, of detailing out basically every feature, comparing it to other watches, and going so mind-numbingly in depth on a product that by the time you're done with the review - your work day is over and it's time to go home and you've accomplished nothing all day.  Thanks Ray.  =)

No, this review is going to be more about the watch in general, my impressions of it, how I've used it so far, how I think it will work for me, and some tidbits that I haven't seen on other blogs.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS



The first thing you notice about this watch right out of the box is that this isn't your typical triathlon / multisport watch.  Right off the bat, everything about this watch screams "Grow a beard, move to Siberia, live off the land, become a lumberjack, and run 75 miles a day!".  Aside from the picture of the ultra runner running straight up a mountain (quite literally), the watch itself is just extremely rugged and, excuse my French, badass.

The watch has an incredibly solid feel to it - and feels like it could take quite a beating and keep on ticking.

The unit comes with a heart rate monitor, some extra tools and goodies to replace parts on the watch strap, a charger, and an instruction booklet.
The watch, again, looks badass and has an extremely rugged feel.
View from the side which has the Start/Stop button (Red) and the Back button (black).
View from the other side with the Light, Menu/scroll up, scoll down buttons.

The strap on the watch gives a very "military grade" feel.

The back of the watch is solid - and the charging port is very easy to hook up.





USING THE WATCH:


The watch has a variety of multisport options which include trail running, running, swimming (indoor and outdoor), cycling (indoor and outdoor), navigation, climbing, and hiking - as well as some other modes that I'll never use (XC Ski, Ski/Board, etc).  You can go to the blog I mentioned above to get the run down on each of these modes - but I'll delve into how I've used the watch thus far.

As soon as the watch was out of the box - it was on my wrist and taken for a run.  Keep in mind, this was at 9 PM or so and I hadn't read the instruction manual (but I did read Ray's blog - which basically equates to the same thing).  So I turned the unit on - set it to Run - and off I went.

The first thing I notice is that the watch is a bit robust.  Not as much as the Garmin 310xt (which I previously used) or the 910xt - but the Fenix2 comes off as more of a "bigger watch".  It isn't a VCR on your wrist though - which is exactly what the other two triathlon offerings from Garmin were.

The buttons were extremely easy to access and the backlight was awesome for being able to see your progress during your workout.  In extremely dim lighting - it made the watch completely visible and easy to read.

The backlight on the watch is a thing of beauty.


After the run, I scrolled through the watch to check out what kind of data it records or doesn't record - and was quite surprised with the amount of running metrics it gives.  It uses the same platform as the Garmin 620 running watch - so you get cadence without a footpod, a detailed map of your route, and all of the normal stuff (distance, pace, elevation, speed, etc).

I have yet to upload any of my workouts to the computer - and I'll either update this post (or make a second review that's a bit more detailed on my thoughts).  Like I said before - I just don't see the need to get to into it with DCRainmaker having such a complete and thorough review.

I like the "circle timer" that gives you the progress when you bring up an old activity.

Example of the running metrics provided.

I've also used it for cycling and indoor swimming (but haven't taken any pictures of the device in those applications yet).  I will be putting it through its paces via open water swim next week.  With indoor swimming - the watch works basically just like the 910xt and Garmin Swim - giving all the swimming metrics you would ever want.  I didn't find much fault with that.  I'll be comparing the watch to my 310xt and a Garmin 220 (using one or the other in my swim cap) when I open water swim with it next week.  I'll put some of the results of those in a new post sometime in the future.

So far - this watch is nothing but positives (which one exception - which I'll note later).  I'm very happy with it and I think it's a complete multisport watch that surpasses the 910xt in nearly every way and can be considered one of the better running-only watches as well (it's somewhat slightly bulky profile is the only thing that holds it back in that regard).

Giving you an idea of the bulk of the watch.  Bigger than your typical running watch - but not the VCR that the 310/910 is.

Giving you an idea of the how the backlight illuminates things at night.


With that said, I have found one major flaw (for me) - and that is the lack of a quick release. I'm sure this will be remedied in the future (I don't see why one couldn't be made for this watch) but the lack of a quick release makes this watch difficult to use for cycling in a multisport environment.  One option that I've considered doing is stashing my phone in my flat kit on the bike and using the watch as a "live tracker" while on the bike (and using my bike computer for power data, etc).  This would allow me to swim with the watch and run with the watch without ever taking it off my wrist.  I haven't really decided yet.

So, in a quick summary - I like the watch.  A lot.  A whole lot.  I think it's the best watch for triathlon out there - especially if it gets a quick release.  

To conclude - here's a picture of my son dressed as a Ninja Turtle. =)