Monday, July 14, 2014

Race Report: Special Olympic World Games Endurance Weekend: Sprint Triathlon and Half Marathon

This is long overdue - but I've had some issues with spammers getting ahold of my blog account which has now been resolved.
Unfortunately, that meant that this race report is going to be a little late - but better late than never, I suppose.

The Special Olympics World Games Endurance weekend is an event to commemorate the Special Olympics coming to Los Angeles in 2015.  This multi-event weekend was put together as a "test run" for the event that will coincide with the Special Olympics next year.

The first day of the event is a sprint triathlon that encompasses a 1/2 mile ocean swim, an 11 mile bike, and a 3 mile run.

The event was run by the folks over at Renegade Race Series, and the organization went off without a hitch.  The transition area was very easily secured and perfect for the event.  I actually placed myself away from the bike in/out (it wasn't a huge transition area anyway) and more towards the run exit - mainly because there was a mass of people squeezing in their bikes right by the "bike out" and I wanted a bit more space.

In transition.  All set and ready to go!

By far my weakest leg and I haven't made much progress with the lack of training this year - but the swim in a sprint hurts me less than it does in an Olympic or Half Iron distance race - so I was hoping to come out of the pack reasonably decent this time around.

Getting ready for the swim start!
\This was my first competitive race with my Zone 3 wetsuit - and I was hoping for good things.  It's by far the best fitting and highest quality wetsuit I've ever owned and judging from the practice swims I had in it before this race - I was expecting to have a decent (for me) result here.

The swim was an 800 (ish) - advertised as half a mile) swim just out in the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach.  I lined up in the front - feeling that the faster I got to the first buoy the better I'd be.  

When the horn went off for my wave to go - I took off as fast as I was able to and swam as hard as I could to the first buoy and only had a couple of people ahead of me at that point.  Right after the turn I started seeing people pass me - and I just kept chugging a long to T-1.

It was a fairly fast swim for me (just a shade over 11 minutes according to my watch) and I'm reasonably happy with that.  I came out of the water with a bunch of people ahead of me - but that's nothing new.


The bike was a quick, two loop course with a hill in the middle of it.  Nothing really fancy about it, but it was kind of cool to cycle around streets that are normally never closed in downtown Long Beach.

It was about as fast as bike courses could go and I was relatively happy with how things were going on the bike.  It was my first ride since changing out my aerobars - and while I was stoked with my position on the bike - the bars themselves just weren't comfortable so I knew I'd be changing them shortly after (and I have since then).  However, my fit was great - done by Metis Bike Fit and I couldn't be happier.

Coming into the turn for T2, I did hit a pothole or crack in the road or something, and got a flat.  I was only about 500 feet from the transition area, so it wasn't worth fixing.

I managed to bike my way to the front of the pack - and came into T2 in 5th place.  I ended up with the second fastest bike split on the day.

The turn down the hill before the final turn into T2.

Unclipping for transition.

The run was a simple out and back along the bike path by the beach in Long Beach.  The weather was perfect and it was about as good a course as you could have for a fast run.  

I felt pretty good on the run - not as fast as I'd like - but I tend to carry unrealistic expectations for myself on anything running related.  Ended up with the second fastest run of the day which put me in 3rd place overall and 3rd place in my age group.  However, since the overall winner was in my age group - they bumped me to second place in the age group standards (they don't do double awards).  

I didn't find any of this out until later though - as I had to take off to home to fufill my fatherly duties (wife was called in to work).  

Sweatpants :p

The second day of the event was a half marathon through (largely) the same course as the triathlon.  There was only a couple hundred people at this race - so that created the perfect environment for me to bring Brucie along in the stroller and still be able to attempt to post a decent time.  

The course was laid out pretty nicely - basically twist and turns along the bike path and through some of the walking areas (by the pier and aquarium) in downtown Long Beach.  It was completely closed to traffic and had a police escort leading the pack the entire time (which was kind of cool because he was actually encouraging people running over his intercom).

At the start line making sure Brucie has a ton of fuel for the race.
Once the horn went off, I took off at a fairly fast pace.  I wanted to put as much distance between myself and everyone else as possible right off the bat.  Mainly because if anyone was going to pass me, I wanted them to be able to do so without any issues but also because the faster I go at first - the quicker my son falls asleep and the more he's asleep - the less chance of me having to stop to change his diaper, etc.  The possibility of him deciding he's "over it" is very, very real - so in stroller races of any kind of distance (and a half marathon is about as far as I'd ever go with him) - it's a real possibility that I'll be in the front of the pack and have to stop and walk the rest of the way because he decides that the race is done.

With that said - the race went as well as it could have gone.  Once I took off in the lead, I spent the rest of the time pushing myself and trying to catch the motorcade in front of me.  At about mile 4 or 5, I realized that no one was close to me and I'd be able to win the race outright if I kept going at the pace I was going.

At around mile 10 (according to the signs posted), I was at 1:05 or so.  It was about this time that my son work up and start fussing a little bit.  I slowed down (because I felt the bumps where the concrete panels change on the bike path were irritating him) and took it in at a 7:30 or so pace the rest of the way.

I ended up finishing just a shade under 1:27:00 and in first place overall.  Which is a pretty decent time for me in a stroller, all things considered.

The final turn into the finish line.

Brucie and I at the finish chute with out medals.
 The awards were kind of fun, and I came home with a couple of cases of drinks that were kind of nice to have and give out.  All in all a pretty solid weekend for me!
Brucie wanting to talk into the microphone.

Some pretty decent prizes!  Luckily I had a stroller to haul them away.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Race Report: Laguna Hills Half Marathon

The Laguna Hills Half Marathon is a Memorial Day race that is run by the good folks over at Renegade Racing.  This event honors all of the military, past and present.  Specifically, for this year, it honored the United State Marine Corps Dark Horse Battalion.  The event is fantastic with a huge expo / fair and fosters quite a few people who come out to run the race.  They have a 5k, 10k, and half marathon option for the race - as well as a few youth fun runs.  There's literally something for the entire family to do and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this race to anyone considering attending.

I was set up to push my son in the half marathon, and then afterwards - he would run in the "Diaper Dash" 50 yard race.  I was really excited to see him do his race - since he's finally walking now, so this would be his first official "race" where he was moving all on his own.

As for the Half Marathon - the course is fairly technical (in terms of turns) and has several rolling hills with a few steep sections.  It is NOT an ideal course for a stroller because of this and one can expect to lose a fair amount of time from their standard half marathon times if they are pushing a stroller (at least, *I* can expect that).

There were metric shitton of people corralled into the start line and everything went off without a hitch with one exception - and that would be my chief complaint with this race:  They made everyone with a stroller go to the back.  This was more or less loosely enforced (since I passed a few people pushing strollers - which means they started ahead of me and not in the back), but when I tried to line up in the front I was told to go to the back of the line because all strollers had to be there.  Despite my attempts to protest ("Dude, I'm expecting to finish this under 1:30 - I won't be in ANYONE'S way!") - I was sent to the back.

Now, that leads to several issues and probably one of the worst things about running with a stroller in a race if you're a faster runner.  If you cannot get out in front of the main pack - then you're going to be stuck behind it.  There is no inbetween.  So when you're stuck in the very back of a gigantic race with people doing the 5k, 10k, and half marathon in front of you - you WILL be slowed to a slow jog (or even a walk at time) for the first couple of miles because of the people in front of you who are casually doing the race (not that there is anything wrong with that - in fact - I applaud anyone who was supporting this cause).

Unfortunately, this is what happened to me.  I was in the very back when the race started, and as we began the race - the streets were narrow and windy before it opened up to "open road."  I did the best I could with what I could do - but there were several people walking, lightly jogging, and more than a few with earphones in (and subsequently not paying attention and drifting back and forth throughout the course).  This lead to (what felt like, at least) 9:30 miles for the first two miles or so of the course.

Weaving around people delayed me a bit, but once I got opened it worked well enough.
Once the course was open, I was able to kick it into high gear though and spent most of my time saying "Stroller on your left! Heads up!" and smiling and waving as I passed whoever was kind enough to sidestep for me.

I would rate this course as a difficult half marathon course WITHOUT a stroller.  It was hot - and once you got out in the open road there was absolutely no cover from the sun until the turnaround.  However, there were a multitude of aid stations that were well placed and the volunteers did an outstanding job getting the water and sports drink out to the runners.  In addition to the heat, the rolling hills would wear you down after awhile.  There were several long climbs with long descents and some steeper, shorter ones mixed in as well.  It made for a challenging course for the people running it - but provided an extra challenge to those pushing a stroller.  The problem with hills and a stroller is that you're pushing a bunch of extra weight going up the hill and then you're pulling the stroller coming down the hill (to prevent it from getting away).

Pushing up a hill is tough.
In any case, I pushed fairly hard and gave it as good an effort as I could and ended up with a 1:32:00 - well short of my expectations but considering the delays in the first couple of miles and the dodging of people I was doing - it's about on par with the effort I put in.  It was good enough for 5th in my age group, but pretty far down the list overall.

Crossing the finish line.
Happy but disappointed with the finish - but super stoked on the medal I received.  It's definitely one of the better ones of the year.  In addition, because I did the Reaching for The Cure event in March - I got a special "March to May Marathon" medal - which was equally as nice.

With Bruce and the wifey before his race (I know, he looked THRILLED)
After the event, we went off to do the kid's fun run with Bruce.  The only other complaint I had with this whole race was that the fun run was so delayed.  I'm not sure as to why it was (there was no traffic or street closures or anything to delay it) - but it was.  Suffice to say - once it finally went off - it was awesome.  All sorts of kids of all ages having fun and exercising.

Bruce did well.  He started walking and about halfway to the turnaround saw a dog playing off in the field and a kid bouncing a ball - so he immediately decided that those things were more interesting than the race and started walking towards them.  I had to redirect him several times, and he eventually finished.  One of the volunteers apparently took away the medal box too soon - so they had to go hunting for a medal for Bruce.  They eventually gave him the same one that the Half Marathoners got - which was pretty cool since it was a much nicer medal (not that my one year old would care either way, but still).
Brucie crossing the finish line, so proud of him.  

All in all, a really good day and a really well run race.  I will be back next year (probably sans stroller) to give it another shot.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Race Reviews: XTerra Bonelli, Cal State Long Beach Tri, and Contest Winner!


What a way to close out May.

I ended up doing five events in the span of two weeks to finish May out, with mixed results and lots of back to back races.

I'll cover the first batch of races in this post, and then get to the others later this week.

We'll start off with the ugly:

Race Report:  Xterra Bonelli Triathlon

Let me preface this entire report with the fact that this is an incredibly well run event and had a lot of positive energy around it.  The course is laid out, the good folks at Renegade Racing put on a first class event and even hosted preview rides and runs for the course.  There's really no excuse to not come into this race with a ton of confidence and knowing exactly what you're doing.  And even if you don't - there is a metric shitton of course markings everywhere on the course - so it's impossible to get lost.

I was really psyched for the event (as I've won my age group in a "normal" triathlon at this same spot last year) and couldn't wait to actually try out an "off road" triathlon.  In addition, this was going to be my first triathlon competing in my super snazzy wetsuit from Zone 3 Wetsuits (review on the suit forthcoming)!  So I was stoked to have a great swim, hit the trails on my mountain bike (which is an older Fuji model that's probably too small for me), and then kill it on the run!

Did that happen?  Well...not really.

Gear all racked up in transition.  You're not missing anything by not seeing the bike.

Before I go over my race - I should probably state that I've ridden my mountain bike a grand total of three times leading up to this race.  That's three (3).  Also, all three were on the bike path by the Los Angeles River (where I would occasionally zoom off the path and ride in the dirt for a minute or two and then zoom back on).  This would ultimately lead to my demise - which I will get to in a moment.

First off:  The swim.

I must say - it's absolutely refreshing to finally have a fullsuit that actually fits me and is flexible enough for me to swim in.  I've been dilly-dallying with entry level suits and "whatever suit I can find a deal on" for awhile now which has led me to swimming in stiff suits that weren't flexible or suits that "fit but really didn't fit" because they were a few bucks cheaper.

I'm now using a Zone 3 Aspire, which is hands down the best wetsuit I've ever swam in (and I've demoed a lot of the more expensive suits).  Finally having a wetsuit that I could swim in and not be burdened by was a big help - and it showed in this swim (which was the first race I've had it in).  Prior, I've been averaging 2:00/100m in the open water - which is a decrease from my 1:40/100m pool time.  Now, that's not blazing fast by anyone's definition - but the difference was something that always puzzled me (I've been told by many coaches that pool time ALWAYS transfers to open water).  During this race, it transferred and I think I finally was able to put my finger on it.  I did this race (a 900 meter swim) at 1:38/100m.  For me - that's a spectacular swim and if I can keep that pace in my races this year - I'll be thrilled.  Can't say enough how much I love this suit (well - I can and I will - but in a future post, not this one).

Hopping out of the swim in actually a semi good position in the middle of the pack.

I'm using a GPS watch in my swim cap which is why I'm staring down at it here.  Doing some testing with my current GPS unit.

Then the bike came.  I expected to murder this segment and do incredibly well.  I average 15-16 mph on the flats of the riverbed path and figured that would translate to this race.  Which it did, for about a half mile until the race went off of a path onto the trail.

And that's when things got a little difficult.  First off - the course is epic in my opinion.  I loved it - I was just woefully underprepared.  I found out - very quickly - that bike handling skills on a mountain bike are approximately a billion times more important than raw power.  In addition, while you can get away with having a bike that's not really mechanically up to par on the road - that shit doesn't fly when you're climbing a super steep vertical rock face on a mountain bike.  There is one section where it was a long, rocky hill and I fell over trying to climb it.  I ended up hopping off and carrying my bike up it (like a lot of other people were doing as soon as they saw it).  

Off I go on the bike!

In addition, I had my life flash before my eyes several times with "close calls" where I almost lost control of my bike.  However, being as hard headed as I am, a "close call" isn't good enough and I need to actually wreck to get some sense knocked into me.  Well, that happened coming down one of the hills where it turns left against a ridge and then cuts back right around the ridge (not incredibly sharp and there is plenty of room if you're not bombing the hill like an idiot - like I was).  Well, as I came down, I made the left pretty easily but wasn't able to turn all the way right - and off the path I went.

A lot like this - just less dramatic.
I was scared to death as I was tumbling down knee high grass - not knowing if there was a rock or large branch that was going to be in my path and cause me to have a serious accident.  It seemed like minutes of falling down this steep hill - completely out of control (the whole thing was probably 10 seconds at the most), but I did manage to spot a "bare area" of the grass covered in what appeared to be very soft clay.  The moment I saw it - I made a split second decision to lay my bike down (motorcycle style) on it and just hope for the best.

It actually worked out well!  I went down, skidded a bit and then stopped.  I sat there stunned for a few minutes - knowing full well how bad it could have been.  This was confirmed as I was climbing back up the cliff with my bike and I was walking over a ton of big roots and jagged rocks.  It was pure luck that I didn't one of them and faceplant onto a rock or something.  

This spooked me, and I spent the rest of the bike ride and pretty much all of the second loop with my hands on the brakes and just going as slow as humanly possible.  Although I will pat myself on the back a little bit - it took pretty much everything I had to not pack it in after the first loop and call it a day (which I REALLY wanted to do).

So I hopped off the bike and decided that, after that crazy bike ride, I would just take it easy on the run and enjoy myself.  The run was actually pretty challenging, especially since I had toasted my legs on the bike portion.  Beautiful, but challenging.  It gets pretty hilly once you go off of the trail - including a "straight up to the sky" portion at about 1/4 of a mile in.  

Pretty clear and non technical path for the most part on this run.

The Skora Cores were the perfect shoe for the run portion here.
I had a blast on the run, although it was probably one of the slower runs I've ever done (intentionally, as I had all but given up on getting a good time at that point).  I used my Skora Cores and they were really at home on the trail.  Such a great and comfortable shoe.  Also, my Headsweats Supervisor worked like a champ.  Great for keeping the sweat off of my face in what turned out to be an incredibly hot day on the trails.

Upon finishing, I happily received my finisher's medal - which meant a lot to me.  Mainly because I had a disaster of a race and managed to keep my cool and still tough it out, but also because the medal is pretty damn cool too.

With all that said, I think this will be my first AND last Xterra event.  Mountain Biking just isn't for me.

Pretty awesome medal for the event.

Race Report:  Cal State University Long Beach Reverse Sprint Triathlon

The next day - I ended up doing a reverse triathlon at Cal State Long Beach put on by the Cal Stat University Long Beach Triathlon Team.

This was kind of a just for fun event and was something that I was hoping to use as a "speed day" and a tune up for future triathlons in my upcoming season.  However, I was hoping to do pretty well for what was, generally, a pretty small event.

The format for this was pretty standard for a reverse triathlon.  5k run, 12 mile bike, and a 400 yard swim in the pool afterwards.  Seemed easy enough.

All racked up and ready in transition.
The run came first and off we went in a long loop around campus that went up some stairs and had some tight turns.  Nothing too troublesome - but I knew during the run that I wasn't going to have a great day.  My legs were simply toast from the day before.  I finished with a 19:50 or so on the run - which isn't a great time for me when I'm not running off the bike.

The bike was four loops around campus on a course that wasn't too technical, but had some turns to it.  There was one hill in the middle of the course that proved to be a difference maker (for me) - as I just couldn't keep the effort up throughout the bike.  I went from being with the leaders on the bike to falling to the second group after the second lap.

Crunching up the aforementioned hill.
I came off of the bike in 10th or so place and jumped in the pool for the swim.  Surprisingly, I actually had a decent swim (although I was passed by two people in the pool).  It's always confusing for me to go under lane ropes to change lanes and it slows down my already slow swim time immensely.

I ended up 12th overall and 5th in my age group - which is a result that I'm pleased with considering the weekend I was having.  Still a lot of work to do as I felt I definitely should have been faster on the day.

The finisher medal.  Pretty generic, but it looks cool.

Brucie obviously like the finisher medal as well.
So that was part the first weekend in my race - packed month of May.  I'll follow up with additional blog posts including the recap of the Laguna Hills Half Marathon and the Special Olympics World Games Endurance Weekend.

So now onto the winner of the giveaway for the contest I ran at the beginning of last month.

The winner is....

Derrick Maybar of San Clemente, California!  I've sent Derrick a facebook message (have yet to hear back from him) - but he will get to choose a pair of shoes out of any brand that A Runner's Circle carries or a pair of Skora Fits!  Congrats Derrick!  I'll post a picture of you with your new shoes as soon as you send them over to me.

I'd also like to thank everyone for the support, and hope everyone sticks around as this blog grows and gets continually updated.

With that, I'll leave you with a picture of my son rolling in his ride.  Once he gets in this thing, he never wants to get out.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Joys of Beet Juice! Product Review: Biotta Juices

Let me start this post by saying that never in a billion gazillion years did I ever think I would be writing about beet juice.  Never ever ever.

First off - as a child - I hated beets.  Hell, as an ADULT - I HATED beets.  Couldn't stand them and generally just avoided them.  Nothing ruined a salad (or anything else) like a random beet.

However, as a triathlete - I'm consistently looking for any (legal) edge I can find - and when I came across Biotta Juices (who is a sponsor for the Big Sexy Racing Triathlon Team that I'm a part of) - I was incredibly intrigued at some of the claims being made in regards to the benefit of beet juice.  So I figured I'd give it a try.

Consider me a beet convert.

Now - I preface anything I'm about to say with the following:  I'm no rocket surgeon.  A lot of the stuff on the internet goes into an incredible amount of detail of how beets and beet juices can benefit you and such.  So I'll break it down in the simplest way possible based on my understanding:  Beets have a very high concentration of dietary nitrates in them which result in a lower energy burn during endurance events.  This basically means that you can go longer on the same amount of energy.  That means more endurance.  It gets much more involved than that - but that's the basic gist of it.

On top of that - beets are just generally healthy for you anyway.  Lots of benefits outside of endurance related stuff include tons of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that's just generally good for your day to day health.

So how have I been using it?  Well, I've been drinking about 1/2 a bottle of Biotta Beet juice daily and have noticed significant improvements in my mood and feelings post training.  I'm dead in the middle of training for one of my "A Races" - so I'm putting in quite a bit of training.  I've found that I generally feel less tired and exhausted day in and day out - which is a gigantic plus for my family as I've become less irritable.  The change was enough that my wife has noticed it and commented on it - and now I have a beet juice requirement each morning.

I've also made steady gains in performance at a quicker rate (which is due to more training with is partially due to the beet juice) this season.  That's the main kicker.  Performance increases are what the game of triathlon is all about, and Biotta has certainly helped me with that.

So the natural question is:  Why use Biotta?

It's for more than the immune system!

Nutritional mumbo jumbo.

Simple:  It's easy and convenient.  It can be found at your local Whole Foods, and it's convenient and easy to drink without taking up a ton of space in the refrigerator.   You don't have to actually do anything except for pop the top of the bottle, pour it, and drink up.

Originally, my wife wanted to try using our juicer to make "our own" beet juice.  The problem with that is that it's messy (the beets WILL stain your juicer) and (somewhat) time consuming.  With my schedule packed the way it currently is - I simply don't have the time to "juice" beets.  What would inevitably happen is that I would just avoid it altogether and stop doing it.

That's where Biotta shines, it's easy, relatively inexpensive, and accessible.

Pop the top, pour, and go.


Now - the cons of beet juice?  Well, the taste is something that has to be acquired.  Unless you love beets (and while I realize that a lot of people do - I certainly wasn't one of them) - it'll take some getting used to.  Personally, I went straight to it and just downed it until I was used to it - but I've heard from friends that they mix it with other fruit juices (which doesn't effect the concentration of the juice or the benefits you get from it).

The other downside is that it will turn your urine and your poop red (or even purple).  It's completely harmless, but it does happen.  I'll save you the gruesome details, but I woke my wife up in the middle of the night when I thought something seriously went wrong in the bathroom.
This video does a great job of summing it up:

Other than that - it's a great juice and you should really head to your local Whole Foods and pick up a bottle or check them out at Biotta Juices.  To top it off, they have lots of other juices which are pretty good as well  I'm partial to their Breuss Vegetable juice - (which has beets, by the way) and their mango juice is absolutely delicious.

Ignore the stuffed monkey and concentrate on the juice.  Mmmmmmmm delicious!

My dog wanting to get in on the Biotta action.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Race Report: Los Angeles River Fun Run 5k, A Runner's Circle Ambassadorship, AND A SHOE GIVEAWAY!!!!!!

During my lunch breaks, I often will hammer out 6 to 10 miles on the Los Angeles River Bike/Run Path - which is right by my work.  It's a lot easier than running the streets (mainly due to lunch time traffic) and is more scenic and enjoyable as well.  It's become my daily route, more or less.  Some days - I'll even bring my bike and ride up and down the path to get my workout in.

When I got connected with A Runner's Circle (more on that later) - they mentioned a 5k race that they do that was put on in the exact area of my daily route.  To me, this seemed like a no brainer to enter - so I did.

The La River Fun Run 5k is a really great event that A Runner's Circle puts on.  It's basically an out and back on the LA River bike path - but crosses over to the other side right before the finish.  This makes it a fairly unique race and pretty fun and easy to run for any level of runner.  To top that off - the mini-expo that A Runner's Circle sets up right next to their store is outstanding.  There's a pretty good selection of vendors, lots of stuff for kids to do, and a 1k kid's fun run that they do an outstanding job of putting on.  For a race of this size - it's easily one of the classiest 5ks I've ever been a part of.

I decided to do this race with my son for a variety of reasons - chief among them that my wife was working that day and that he actually seems to enjoy going on runs with me in the stroller.  It makes it a hair difficult (having to pack up and do 10x the logistical work in order to bring him to a race), but it's worth it in the end.  Plus it would be a chance for him to get out and have some fun doing something new.

My son in the stroller with an old bib from a previous race that I hadn't removed until the last minute.

Fellow A Runner's Circle ambassador Deo and I before the race start.

On to the race specifics:

Setting up at the start line.

I managed to get (somewhat) towards the front of the line - which I was hoping to do just to avoid other problems with other runners.  One of the many woes of running with a stroller is that, if you're one of the faster runners, you will inevitably be bumping into people, running them over, etc.  There are only two ways around that - run ahead of those people so that you're never in each other's way - or slow down so that you're running behind them.  I was really hoping to get out ahead of everyone from the get go - which would allow me to be "clear" of other runners and if anyone was faster than me, I'd be able to move to the side for them to easily pass rather than have to weave between contestants on a stroller.

You can see I managed to get right to the front of the start....

...but when the horn sounded, I was instantly surrounded by people who scooted in front of me and I fell back.

Alas, it was not to be.  I managed to get to the start line in the front group (which was grouped as "People finishing in under 20 minutes") - but was just behind the first row of people, and was surrounded by the next row.

Wasn't a big deal, except I found myself jogging and weaving between people on the first 1/4 mile or so of the race.  This put me at a 9:30 or so pace (just guesstimating - but a lot of the people starting out at that time were NOT going at a sub 20 minute 5k pace).  I managed to clear the pack and get "open" without any issues (except someone who ran into my stroller by accident, but everyone was ok thankfully).  Once out in the open, I was able to close the distance pretty well by running at my normal 5k pace.

Pulling ahead once I broke free from the pack.

I managed to pull solidly in third place - with both the second and first place runners well in my sights - but, once again, the woes of pushing a stroller in a race struck again.  This time it was in the form of the bridge you had to cross - which had bollards on each end of it that created an opening that was too narrow for me to get through.  This required me (with a bit of help from the volunteers) to hoist my stroller up and over the bollards onto the bridge, and then do the same on the other side (without any help).  Unfortunately, while I was doing the heavy lifting, my competition was passing me by.
Coming back on the return leg right before the bridge.  Notice how there's no one behind me - that lead disappeared when I had to stop to get the stroller up and over the posts onto the bridge.

Once across the bridge, I was unable to catch all of the people that passed me (I managed to catch one) and had no hopes of catching the people in front.  I finished in 4th place with a 18:38 time - which isn't bad considering everything.  We got our medal at the finish line (which is actually a really cool little medal) and headed over to the mini-expo.

Crossing the finish line.

Time aside, the best thing about the race was that my son was incredibly well behaved in the stroller and seemed to have a blast.  I've taken him on training runs (up and above 15 miles) and he usually just sleeps through those.  On this run (albeit it was a lot shorter and faster), he was talking and "ga-gaing" the whole way.  Which, for me, was pretty awesome.

More awesome for Bruce, however, was all of the fun stuff they had available for kids to do.  From air balloons, to different balls to throw and kick, to a soccer net, to fun little obstacles - there was a lot for little ones to enjoy after the race.  Bruce, of course, decided that while all of that was fine and dandy - he wanted to play with two random sticks he found on the ground and pet a puppy that another contestant brought to the race.

Of course, his favorite toy/activity is two dirty sticks he found on the ground.
He played with the soccer ball too!
Crawling through an obstacle tunnel.
The puppy that Bruce was petting.  He did NOT want to let the puppy go.

With Derek - one of the founders/owners of A Runner's Circle after the finish.  Bruce obviously wasn't in the mood to be held by a stranger - but it made for a good picture anyway!
All in all, a great race put on by a fantastic running store and filled with an outstanding community.  Couldn't ask for more than this.
A pretty sweet medal and a nice T Shirt for a well run 5k.

On another related note, I was recently selected to be an Ambassador for A Runner's Circle (the aforementioned store who put on the great race).  This is a huge honor for me, as it took a lot of work to put together but also was a great avenue to meet a lot of people in the Los Angeles (and beyond) running community.

The voting process was pretty straight forward - and if you're reading this blog, you likely have already spoken to me when it was going on.  Aside from some light drama (apparently there was some cheating going on in the voting process and some confusion with votes), it was really fun campaigning for this ambassador spot.  I swear, sometimes I felt like the freakin' President with the way I was talking to people.

Ambassador group shot with Joe and Derek (owners) and the other ambassadors.
Regardless, all the hard work paid off and I'm proud to be a 2014 Ambassador for the A Runner's Circle store.  Aside from all of the goodies that they have for ambassadors (some of which I'm able to take advantage of, some that I'm not able to take advantage of), the real reward in being an ambassador is being able to help represent such a great running community and store.

A bit of information on A Runner's Circle:  They started in 2006 and have blossomed to truly become a one stop shop for anything that involves running (be it your run of the mill casual 5k, an ultra-marathon in the hilliest of mountains, or a marathon on the tail end of an Ironman).  They have a friendly and supportive staff of knowledgeable people who actually care about running and can help you advance your running in whatever direction you're looking to advance it in.

More than just a store with a healthy selection in any form of running gear you might need, A Runner's Circle is also a backbone of the Los Angeles, Ca running community.  They have several programs - from their run club, to their running school, to their tri team, to their community fun runs, to their pacing programs, etc - that really bring the running community together in a way that no other store is able to.  Their ambassador program is a part of that, and I'm extremely proud to take on the responsibility of helping A Runner's Circle succeed in that goal.

At the Ambassador Meet and Greet Dinner with Nadia and Myrna - two very awesome and accomplished runners.
For the Ambassadors (myself and 5 other people selected from different regions throughout Los Angeles), they held a fun run / dinner in honor of the 2014 Ambassadors.  The dinner was awesome and really fun.  It was great to meet everyone and hopefully we can all compete in races in the future representing the Red Army!

Now for the fun stuff.  I owe it all to you guys for helping vote me in - so I'm going to give something back.  I'm going to put on a contest to give away a free pair of shoes from any shoe that A Runner's Circle carries.  Easy as that - if they carry the make and model of shoe you want - you get it.  Here's how it will work:  This giveaway will be open to anyone out there who is reading this.  I'll randomly pick a person who follows the criteria below as the winner.  If you win and you're local - meet me at the store (we'll snap some pictures for the blog) and you'll get whatever pair of running shoes you want.  If you're not local - I'll ship the shoes to you on my dime (free to you - assuming continental US - if you're international let me know and we'll work something out).  Since I'm a Skora ambassador and A Runner's Circle does not carry Skora (YET!) - I will offer up the option of providing the winner with a pair of Skora Fits in place of the shoes from A Runner's Circle.

Sound good?  Great!  Now, what do I want from you in return?  Nothing (except something, but they're all minor!) - since you've already given me tons of support.

My son watches a cartoon show called Special Agent Oso - and that's how we will be doing this contest.  IN THREE SPECIAL STEPS! (Anyone with a child under the age of 5 is singing this song in their heads right now)

Unfortunately Oso, you don't qualify to get the shoes for running on your treadmill.

STEP 1:  Follow me on Facebook (or add me, if you want to be friendly) and Twitter (I'm not bothersome - I promise).

STEP 2:  "Like" A Runner's Circle and Skora Running on Facebook.

STEP 3: Comment below saying you've done the above and leave a couple of words about what you would do with the shoes (doesn't have to be a heartfelt address - just something more than "I WANT SHOES").

That's it!  Easy peezy!  If I get enough entries, I may give away both a pair of Skoras and a pair of shoes from A Runner's Circle - but we'll see how many entries we get.  I will be checking to make sure everyone who comments followed the instructions, so be sure to follow steps 1 through 3.

I'll give it until the end of the month (until the Special Olympics World Games Half Marathon on June 1st) and select a winner then.  Anyone is eligible to enter except those related to me (since -  you know - I don't want any foul play).  So enter it and win!

With that said - May looks to be a (somewhat) busy month for me as (outside of this 5k) I'll be tacking two Triathlons (the XTerra Off Road Triathlon and the Special Olympics World Games Endurance Weekend Triathlon - both put on by Renegade Race Series) and two Half Marathons ( the Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon and the Special Olympics World Games Endurance Weekend Half Marathon - also put on by Renegade).  So it's a pretty busy month for me racing wise - especially considering that the Special Olympics Triathlon and Half Marathon are back to back!