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.
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 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.


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.


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. =)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Race Report: Coaster Run 2014

I was pretty pumped to do this race - yet another great race put on by Renegade Racing - for a variety of reasons.  1)  It would be my first official race with my son (i.e. me pushing him in a stroller).  He was turning one a few days after that - so it had a bit of special meaning to me to be able to run this race.  2)  I've always wanted to do this race since I first heard about it.  The race is unique in that it goes through Knott's Berry Farm.  Besides the cool scenery, it also makes for a pretty technical and challenging course.

My running this year is finally starting to get back to where it needs to be, and I'm "nagging pain/injury" free - so I figured to do pretty well in this race.  Having not done a 10k with a stroller in awhile - I figured it would hamper my pace by a few minutes (it did on the last 10k I did with my niece).  So I was aiming to basically break 40 minutes and would be satisfied with that.

When we arrived that morning - there was a couple of things that would immediately work against me.  For one, it was raining.  Not an "armageddon" type of rain, but a light drizzle.  This posed a problem because it would make the surface through the park extra slippery - which would require great care when running through it.  It also presented a bit of a problem with puddles throughout the park.  Secondly, there was no stroller division.  Typically, in races where strollers are permitted, they start the strollers in a single place (usually at the very front as the first to go off or at the very end after everyone else already started the race).  This is done mostly for safety reasons I'd guess - although I never really understood the practice.  What this meant for me was that I would have to start in a normal corral, surrounded by people running without a stroller.  It also meant that "sandbagging it" to get an easy win (i.e. in a stroller division) just wasn't going to happen (this was my bigger concern - haha).

At the start of the race inside the first corral.
Being that there was no stroller specific division, I just hopped in to my designated corral (the first one) - which was set according to the estimated pace one would run the 10k at (which you gave at registration).  Now, I understand how incredibly impossible it is to enforce such a thing, but it was apparent as soon as I was in the corral that a lot of the people inside of the first corral shouldn't have been in there. That's not a huge deal in of itself - it just imposes delays for the faster runners in the corral.  With that said - I have no idea where the "cut offs" were in terms of placing people in specific corrals.  In any case, I knew the stroller was going to cost me a few minutes on my time and navigating around people was always going to be a part of that.  I ended up positioning myself in the back of the first wave - knowing that bullying my way up front would just be a dumb thing to do.

Other than that, the race start was actually really cool.  They had the Sheriff (who apparently is a character from Knott's Berry Farm) come out and fire off his gun to start.  My son (who thankfully was already awake) really enjoyed that - and off we went!

As you can see - it was difficult to navigate around the crowd when starting in the first corral. 
One of the highlights of this race (for me) was being able to go through the park by the roller coasters and exhibits.  This proved to not be a disappointment as it was completely refreshing to see a different backdrop while doing a race.  The other highlight was how technical the course was - with a ton of turns and out-and-backs which proved a challenge for any runner (much less someone with a stroller!).  That said, it was really fun to weave through the park.

I managed to pull away from the main group pretty quickly (right after getting out of the park), and began my chase to catch the leaders when I ended up in more of a straight away.  I was able to keep a pretty good pace with the stroller, and was very pleased in how well the Skora Fits worked in this weather.  They are such an incredible shoe - and were very fast even in these less than ideal conditions.

I don't always make faces at the camera - but when I do I make sure to throw a shaka and give the photographer the impression that I want him to call me.  =\  *sigh*

You can see in these two pictures the amazing backdrop of running through a classic amusement park.

I was able to make up some ground on people in the straight aways by the Buena Park mall (outside of the park) and finished under my 40 minute goal time.  I would have destroyed that goal time had I not been in a stroller (the associated challenges of dodging people in a stroller would have, more or less, disappeared - and I would have started in the front of pack).  With that said, I was pleased with my performance.

Since the 5k runners finished in the same place as the 10k runners - it was impossible to tell what place I was in.  I was guessing anywhere from 5th to 10th (there were at least 3 people I saw coming on the out-and-back on the way back from the mall - but I wasn't sure how many were ahead of them).

I ended up 5th overall and first place in my age group with a time of 39:38 - which was seconds within 3rd and 4th place.  

The finish line is where the good part comes into play.  Not only do you get a really cool finishing medal (with Snoopy on it!), but you also get a great big piece of Boysenberry Pie.  A rather delicious way to finish a race!

The finisher's medal was really cool.

Post-Race goofing around with Snoopy.

The awards ceremony, as always, was very well done by the folks at Renegade.  They do an incredible job in making people feel really special about achieving a podium spot.  You also get a pretty sweet mug and a giftcard to BJ's Restaurant.  I was stoked about both things!

My son and I at the awards ceremony.

On the way back to the car from the race with racing partner and our first place award!

All in all, this was an incredible race and will become an "every year race" for me.  I had a blast - and that was in the rain!  Everything was well done - from the tents and booths, to the course set-up, to the course support - there just isn't much more to ask for in a 10k race.  They did an outstanding job and anyone doing this race (or any of their races) in the future will NOT be disappointed.

Next up:  The Leprechaun Leap 5k in Tustin, Ca.  This is a super cool race that will hopefully prove to be just as unique as the coaster run, as this course is laid out through the blimp hangars in Tustin!  If you're interested in going - use code BRYAN10 to save a few bucks.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Review: Cobb Cycling JOF Fifty Five Saddle

I've used a bunch of saddles designed by Cobb Cycling (and by a "bunch" - I mean all of them).  They flat out work for me, and I've never experienced discomfort, numb pepis (man parts), or saddle sores.  All were somewhat common problems with other saddles and they simply vanished when I got on a Cobb Saddle (first the SHC 170, then the Vflow, then back to the SCH, then the Gen 2).

Being that I'm a pretty open minded person - I've tried a variety of other brands with little to no luck - so when I first saw the JOF 55 saddle online - I had mixed emotions.
The saddle's "wide back" threw me off initially when looking at it in online photos.

"Man, this looks a lot like the Adamo that didn't work for me"

"Holy cow - this saddle looks badass!"

"Looks kind of wide - doesn't that kill the point?"

"Holy cow - this saddle looks badass!"

Anyway, I knew that I had to give it a shot and see how it worked for me, but I had tempered expectations simply because it was different from the other Cobb Saddles I was currently riding.

So I finally got my grubby little mitts on one, and here's what I thought:


The first thing I thought when I got the saddle was "JOF?"  "55?"  "WTF does that even mean?"

Well, JOF stands for "Just Off Front" - which describes how the saddle is intended to be ridden.  For many of us, this will mean "Junk Off Front" - which basically amounts to the same thing.  It's a train of thought with this saddle that incorporates a very tri-specific geometry (although I've seen lots of road riders - like the Haute Wheels Racing Team - have great success with this saddle in an aggressive road geometry).  The shorter nose of this saddle allows you to "scoot" further forward and still remain comfortable.

The "55" is the distance between the two prongs up front.  55 mm.  This is actually important for this of us who look at this saddle and think "Oh man, this is going to be different from the saddles I've become accustomed to".  It's actually not.  I was a "nose-rider" anyway on the old saddles - and the narrowness of this saddle up front (not that much wider than other Cobb saddles) made it so things were pretty similar.

View from above - you can see that it's not as "big" as the pictures make it seem.

The first ride I put on the saddle was a 1 hour interval session on the trainer.  From just sitting on it, you immediately shift into your "sweet spot" and find where it's comfortable.  The time it takes to "get used" to how the saddle feels is extremely minimal.

One word of caution:  I was lucky enough to have my fitter tell me what adjustments to make when putting this saddle on.  Due to the height of the rails on the saddle, and the geometry, you likely will not put this saddle in the exact same spot as your old saddle.  It might take some tinkering on that end to get just right in terms of your fit.

The saddle "disappears" underneath you - which is perfect in my opinion.  I've had it on 4 hour long rides with no issues whatsoever.  It is extremely comfortable in the aero position, but just as comfortable if you sit up and scoot back to just chit-chat while riding.  

Sitting on the nose of the saddle, extremely comfortably.
As seen in the picture above - the JOF 55 is compatible with the Cobb Rear Hydration unit - which is an outstanding way to carry fluids / nutrition for long course racing or training (or any racing - as I use it in all my events).  
The saddle with the rear hydration system.  I use Arundel Mandible bottle cages - which I find to be the best carbon cages around in terms of holding bottles.

I would recommend this saddle to anyone looking for something different or for anyone who is having issues with discomfort, saddle sores, aero positioning due to the saddle, etc.  No single saddle is a universal fix - but I'd imagine that most people would be able to get this saddle to work for them very well.

For me, it's an outstanding saddle that will be a mainstay on my time trial / triathlon bike.

The TT bike with the Cobb JOF 55 on it.

Go to Cobb Cycling JOF 55 to purchase or find them at any of your local Cobb retailers.