Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Wrong Way Feldman

My running buddy Jim Macie and I ran the Firecracker 5K/10K foot race at Nash Farm in Hampton, Georgia on July 4th. Instead of following the masses to Atlanta for the Peachtree Road Race we decided on a local Get Set Grow race that was a little closer to home. Jim had pre-registered to run the 5K race and I made the decision to run the 10K the night before the race.

On race morning Jim picked me up at 6:45 a.m. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. so I had plenty of time to get ready. I set my gear out the night before so I wouldn't forget anything. My breakfast was light, just a bit of cinnamon roll, water, and Gatorade. Not too much.

Jim and I arrived at Nash Farm with plenty of time to spare. The starting chute was set up as were the registration tables. I registered and Jim and I set about waiting for the race to start. I brought several energy gel packs with me and ate two of them just before the race.

Jim with his race t-shirt before the race
I titled this blog Wrong Way Feldman not after the famous football faux pas when a player ran a recovered fumble the wrong way during the 1929 Rose Bowl or even the pilot who flew east from New York to Ireland instead of west to California in 1938. I found the second incident on Wikipedia. Instead, this is a Gilligan's Island reference. I'm a child of 1970's TV sitcoms. Feldman, also a pilot, landed on their castaway's island and when he left to go get help and rescue Gilligan and his fellow islanders he flew the wrong way. In my case, the 2017 Firecracker 10K was my Wrong Way Farmer.

The night before the race, and with a good deal of searching, I found the 10K race course certification on the USA Track & Field website. I was surprised that a certification even existed. That's rare for smaller local races. I posted the certified course map on the race director's Facebook page to verify the course map which he did promptly.

Firecracker 10K course map

Front side t-shirt artwork

Back side t-shirt artwork
The t-shirts are cotton.  Timing was done via a race bib chip that recorded runners times at the finish only. All runners have the same start time.

The race started just a few seconds after 8:00 a.m.. The 5Kers and 10Kers started all together. I whittled my way through the few runners that were in front of me and at some point the 5Kers and 10Kers separated. At that point I believe I was in second place about 200 yards behind the front runner. I continued on with the front runner no longer in sight. I took a right turn after calling out to a volunteer "10K left or right? Right right?" I turned right and continued on. My pace was good in spite of the heat and high humidity. I passed the 5-mile marker which was on the other side of the road and the front runner came by in the opposite direction soon after. As I approached the second turn-around I called out to the volunteer "is this the turn-around". She said yes but then said I was going "backwards". Thinking I had reviewed the course well the night before and again that morning I was taken aback by her statement but I decided to continue on. My new route dumped me out onto Mt. Carmel Road. I continued on, took a left onto Dutchtown Road which eventually dead-ended. I turned around there. I knew I was well off course so I removed my race number. I ran back to Conkle Road. As I ran I passed the water station I'd seen before and a few runners and walkers along the way. Thinking that my only error was running too far and not that I had completely gone off course I ran through the finish gate holding up my bib number in my hand. My finish time was 56:11. I had run 7.68 miles. My pace was good, under a 7 minute/mile for the first 5K but after I went off course I lost some of my motivation.
Jim came in first in his age-group. Apparently I placed as well but knowing I had gone off course I decided to forego the awards and Jim and I left the race. I must say that I was a bit disappointed in myself for missing the turn back onto Carl Parker Road, especially when I'd studied the course beforehand. I'd also looked at the 2016 results so, from the start, I knew my chances were good.

Now that this has happened, I can see how someone can unknowingly medal in a race. It wasn't until I got home and checked my Garmin watch that I realized how far afield I had gone. Somehow I missed the first right turn and took the second right instead. I was in fact running the course backwards after all.

Let this be a lesson to me and anyone else who either runs races or volunteers. If you're running - know the course. I thought I did, but I was wrong. Volunteers should talk to the runners, not yourselves. Runners are acting on depleted oxygen to the brain and need someone to tell us 5Kers go this way and 10Kers go that way. At least that's what happened in my case. I need someone to do my thinking for me.

I don't know if I was the only one to miss the turn. I hope so. I'd already planned to run a few miles more than the scheduled 6.2 miles but only after the race was done, not during. I guess I accomplished some of that goal, sort of.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

2017 Jailhouse Brewing 5K - Race Report

Saturday, May 13th 2017 was the date of the 7th annual Jailhouse Brewing 5K race in Hampton, Georgia.  This race is an evening event that starts at 6 p.m. in the heart of the bustling metropolis that is Hampton, Georgia. My buddy Jim Macie and I have run a few races together over the years. This time we were lucky enough to have my wife Susan and our friend Carla join us. This wasn't just a race though. It had the special attraction of being a race followed by beer. It was well attended. My co-worker Jay and his wife Alice were also there. Jay took these pictures - thanks Jay. Jay's wife Alice also raced. She finished with a solid 1st place in her age-group with a very respectable time of 25:00.

Carla, Jim, Susan and I
Revolution Running provided the timing; clock only - no chip. Registration was through the website http://www.revolutionrunning.net/ which links to ultrasignup.com/ where the results are also posted.

Awards are presented for the Overall Male/Female and Masters Male/Female finishers. The Revolution Running website indicated the age group awards were presented to male/female in the following age groups: 10 & under, 11-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, and 60 & over. However, the actual results indicated the age-groups were in 10 year increments: under 20, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 450-59, 60-69, and 70+. The race ends near where it started at Jailhouse Brewing in downtown Hampton where, if you're old enough and paid the $13 fee, you can enjoy 36 oz of refreshing cold Jailhouse beer. You get a wristband at registration/packet pickup to get runners into the brewery tour. Only 225 wristbands are sold so Susan and I bought ours when we registered online about a month before the race.

The Jailhouse Brewing tour includes a pint glass and 3 pours. It's good beer so it didn't take much arm twisting to get me to join in. After the race, of course.

Jailhouse Brewing 5K Race Start
The course was flat on a route that was pretty much out and back. There is one little hill near the turn-around loop. There are no rest stops on the course. That was fine for me but I'm sure some of the other runners would have liked a cup of water or something. There was water at the end of the race. Just as the time-keepers got your time someone handed me a bottle of water. It wasn't cold but...

I pushed my stubby hobbit legs hard to finish the race 18th overall and 3rd place in the 50 - 59 age-group with a 21:46 finish time.


Jim finished 2nd in the 70+ age-group in 40:18.


Jim and I both won Jailhouse Brewing growlers.

My Jailhouse Brewing growler award and Susan and my pint glass
Susan finished in 3rd place in her age-group. Her time was 49:19. Carla finished in 40:56.

We all took home Jailhouse Brewing t-shirts. Kudos to all of us.

Race t-shirt front side artwork

Race t-shirt backside artwork
This is a fun little race that's close to home and they have beer. Need I say more?

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Zwift Pain Cave Setup

I've been riding my bike on the trainer for quite a while now, about 3 years. During that time I've had three separate "pain caves" as they're affectionately called in cycling circles. That's just a cheeky name for a space in a room, basement, garage, or anywhere where one can ride one's bike indoors. My first setup was in the the partially finished space of my basement in a previous home. Then while I was having the basement renovation completed I moved my operation upstairs to a spare bedroom. Finally, my third and best ever pain cave setup is ready to show to the world. We down-sized and moved into a smaller home in May of 2016. The new home has a basement as well but it's unfinished and wholly unsuitable for anything but storage. With the approval of my wife I converted a spare bedroom into my I love me room, as she calls it.


The 10' by 11' room features a, homemade shelf along an entire wall for awards and medals, Amazon Basics 5-shelf shelving unit with plastic bins for cycling, running, and swimming gear, 2 racks with hooks for helmets and hydration belts, a bench to sit on, small table, tv small cabinet, Whitmor 6267-13 organizer collection over-the-door shoe organizer for water bottles and sunglasses, 2 CycleOps Fluid dumb bike trainers, each with a bike for me or my wife, 2 fans (1 Lasko 3637 remote control air flexor floor/wall mount fan and 1 similar non-remote control fan), a Bikehand pro mechanic bicycle repair stand with a homemade laptop computer tray, and a foam floor mat covering much of the hardwood floors in the room. I also have a Vibrelli universal bike cellphone mount, Plantronics BackBeat FIT wireless bluetooth headphones which replaced my TaoTronics TT-BH06 BL bluetooth wireless earphones, and CliC adjustable front connect reading glasses. I have 2 Tripp Lite 7 outlet (6 individually controlled) surge protector power strips and an old computer monitor for video streaming or use as a larger display for Zwift. My WiFi router is also located in the same room. I purchased 4 nice 18"by 24" poster-sized picture frames of which I've used 2 to frame Ironman triathlon posters I received at previous races. The other 2 frames are mounted but haven't been used yet. I've been looking for the right poster. A digital clock and analog scale round out the room's accouterments. All that in such a small room means that there's not much room for anything else.

Awards on the "I love me" wall

Shelves and bins for everything

Bikes and gear

The cockpit with laptop, cellphone, Zwift shortcut list, and fan remote close by
To be thorough I'll include a few additional comments about some of my gear. I replaced the inexpensive TaoTronics earphones with the Plantronics equivalent because the longer strap on the Tao's always flopped to one side. It was irritating. The Vibrelli cellphone mount works well but without a hinged clamp it feels like I'm going to break it when I stretch it open to fit around my handlebars. It hasn't broken though. The $90 BikeHand repair stand works great and performs a dual purpose of providing a stable platform for my laptop and a bike holder when I need it.

The only things I might add are of course a smart trainer, a new smart TV, and a new more powerful laptop to run the Zwift App. I think I'll stick with what I've got for now though. It seems to be working since my Cheaha Challenge Ultra race results were much better than me or anyone else had expected.

And before I go I'll add images of the routes available on the Zwift Watopia course. As Zwift continues to improve their platform they add small changes that make the experience even better. Recently they added route maps at the start so riders can choose the map that best suites their needs. That's nice because previously I had to guess and usually opted for the Surprise Me route.

1 - Volcano Circuit

2 - The Pretzel

3 - Hilly Route

4 - Mountain Route

5 - Mountain 8

6 - Figure 8

7 - Flat Route

8 - Volcano Circuit CCW

9 - Volcano Flat

10 - Group Riders Nearby

11 - Surprise Me
Of course I haven't even included the various routes on the Richmond and London courses.

And I organized my closet too. All bike and running related stuff in the same place.

A cleaned-out and organized closet
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cheaha Challenge Ultra - Ride Report

Training - I have to preface this report by saying that I haven’t ridden on the road much lately. In fact, I hadn’t ridden on the road with a group of any kind since December of 2015 or, more specifically, in a bike club group ride since July of 2014. That's almost 3 years. My most recent non-trainer ride was with my grandson in August of 2016 when we casually rode 11 miles on the Clayton Connects Path Foundation trails at the Clayton County Int’l Park near my house. The Path Foundation also created the Silver Comet Trail.

My bike's first trip out-of-doors in months
I rode a full century on the trainer on Sunday, May 14th, and ran a 5K race that afternoon. I took my bike off the trainer on Monday May 15th and rode 30 miles with my old friends of the Southern Crescent Cycling (SCC) club less than a week before the Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo race on Sunday, May 21st.
Cheaha Challenge 2017
Getting There - The club's plan (and the Cheaha Challenge) was to ride the from Atlanta to the end of the Silver Comet/Chief Ladiga Trail in Anniston before backtracking to Jacksonville, Alabama where we’d pick up our ride packets for the Cheaha Challenge. That was on Saturday. On Sunday we’d ride the Cheaha Challenge, some riding the 124 mile Ultra distance event, others riding the 100 mile century, and still others riding the 44 mile distance course. The event had six different distances from which to choose; 24, 44, 62, 84, 100, and 124-mile distance. We had 16 riders making the trek west on Saturday with full SAG support at various stops along the way. A few others met us in Jacksonville for the race.

The Thursday, May 18th projected weather radar map for the race on Sunday morning
We also lost a few riders who probably got scared off by the weather forecast. The race director said that the weather forecast kept the rider numbers down as well. There were somewhere around 550 riders instead of the expected 800 had the forecast been better.

Our group in Smyrna, GA before departing on the Silver Comet Trail

Coot's Lake rest stop

The group headed west toward Jacksonville, AL 

Cedartown rest stop

Cedartown rest stop

Rolling out to the next rest stop on the way to Jacksonville, AL

Eubanks Welcome Center rest stop
We also stopped in Dallas, GA, at the Georgia/Alabama state line, and briefly somewhere in rural Alabama where no one had cellphone service.

The Anniston, AL end of the Silver Comet/Chief Ladiga Trail
All our riders made it safely the entire 100+ miles to Jacksonville State University, the host venue for the event, where we checked in and picked up our t-shirts, bib numbers, and timing chips.

Ride packet coupons and finisher's cap

Race t-shirt artwork
Just as we arrived to check-in at our hotel the rain that we’d all been fearing finally arrived. It rained buckets all evening. Those staying in the upper floors of the hotel enjoyed the sound of thunder which made us all weary of the day to come, but Sunday came and, though cloudy, there was no rain. The forecast for 100% rain and thunderstorms from the previous days ended up overcast and humid with the sun occasionally peeking through the clouds to heat everything up a bit.  As the day wore on the roads would even dry out and provide a nice grippy surface to ride on.
The Race - Gran Fondos are timed events and the Cheaha is no different. There was a start/finish timing mat and several other timing mats along the course. The mats keep track of the 1st and 2nd King of the Mountain (KOM) times, and each rider's overall time which are posted in the results.

Ultra distance riders lining up at the race start
The start of the race for the Ultra riders was at 7:30 a.m. Riders lined up in front of the timing mat and waited for the call to roll out. At the start riders made a left out of the parking lot which was followed by a right turn onto Nisbet Street NW before turning right onto Highway 21, and so on. The first few miles had the riders start to string out and separate into packs. I stayed with my club mates for a bit until we got separated and I found myself off the front with another rider named Jose Acosta from Miami. Jose and I rode together until the 4th rest stop where we waited for the members of my club to arrive. After a few minutes they hadn’t arrived so Jose and I took off again. The next time I saw my club group they were going in the opposite direction headed toward Adam’s Gap. I’d see them one more time later in the day.

Cheaha Challenge Ultra elevation profile

Cheaha Challenge Ultra course map
Jose and I stopped briefly a few more times. I was sure to take in all the nutrition including gels and Endurolyte tablets every 30 to 45 minutes. The rest stops were well stocked with food and drinks, water and Gatorade, and volunteers. I don’t recall a volunteer ever grabbing my water bottle and asking me what they could fill me up with “water or Gatorade”, I took one of each. I have to say too that the course was beautiful. I didn't know Alabama had so many pristine mountains. I would see more trash on the roadside during one trip to work than I saw all weekend in Alabama. I only work 11 miles from my house.

Me

Me and Jose
As the day wore on each hill climb became more and more difficult. I was running a compact 34t/50t crank and a 12t/25t Ultegra cassette so, as it is apparently not uncommon, I got off my bike and hoofed it up a few of the steeper hills. Fortunately I made two good decisions earlier in the day. Firstly, I decided not to wear a light jacket. It never rained so I didn’t need it. I also didn’t put on any sun screen so I did get a little sunburn. Secondly, I brought along my cleat covers. I was glad to have them as I pushed my bike up the steep inclines.

The inclines are just the forerunner of the impending white knuckle descents off mountains. The miles I’d put on the trainer had not prepared me for these. I had decided at the onset that I would brake at the start of every descent and keep braking until I was safely at the bottom. Whomever I was riding beside at the time would quickly be out of sight long before I’d come around the last turn into the valley below. I’d put pressure on my pedals to quickly catch back up with them. Jose and I eventually met up with Cody Meyer from Birmingham. The three of us pushed each other, figuratively speaking, up and then back down Bain’s Gap until at some point Jose was gone off the front. Cody and I chatted about this and that which took my mind off the task at hand and that eventually led us to the pièce de ré·sis·tance, Chimney Peak. I walked a good bit of the road to the top of the mountain as cyclists whizzed by at 60-mph or so. My maximum speed for the day was 47-mph and I only did that because I could see the end of the road.
Results - Cody and I both crossed the finish line just under 9 hours and 4 minutes after the start resulting in a fifth place finish for me in my age-group. It was a long day. I found Jose, who had finished several minutes before us, to congratulate him. I found my club mates who had also already completed their rides. They were seated nearby enjoying the bar-b-que dinner provided by the event organizers. I was the first from my group to finish the ultra course. The rest crossed the finish line together after 10 hours and 40 minutes. Results

Cheaha Challenge Ultra male aged 55 to 59 results
Since "if it's not on Strava, it didn't really happen" I've included my Strava activity as well.


Post-ride Thoughts - Afterwards, I felt bad having not stayed with my group but frankly, I was a lot more scared than I might have led on. My bike handling skills had suffered a bit from the hours I’d spent on the trainer. I felt safer with one rabbit to chase than a whole group of rabbits. I didn’t want to be that guy on the side of the road waiting for an ambulance after crossing a wheel and hitting the deck, and I surely didn’t want to ruin someone else’s day either.

Cheaha Challenge finisher's t-shirt front artwork

Cheaha Challenge finisher's t-shirt back artwork
Finisher's medal
Getting Home - The ride home back to Atlanta was shorter than the ride out, and again, we had awesome SAG support from the club. We had a few less riders, 13 in total. It was only when we were about 10 miles from the end of the trail that the bottom dropped out and we were soaked by rain. It got cold fast and I could hardly see through my dark sunglasses. The only notable events on the trip back were a copperhead snake and a loose cow on the trail. Neither of them were impressed with us.
Kudos - It was a great trip. The club’s organization was spot-on and was only outdone by the race organizers. All the rain that fell on Saturday night should have strewn debris all over the course making the descents even more harrowing but the event organizers had crews out sweeping up the course before most of us were even out of bed on Sunday morning. The volunteers were plentiful and enthusiastic. Roads were closed. Intersections were manned with police and/or other safety personnel. The residents of the city of Jacksonville and the university went out of their way to make us feel welcome. The only negative I'll mention has to do with the restaurant we chose on Saturday night. I won’t mention the name of the restaurant but I will say – don’t order the sushi! The chicken and fried rice was delicious but the sushi, not so much. On Sunday we ordered pizza which we had delivered to the hotel. That was a much better option.

The list of SCC Cheaha participants from their website includes 25 members. Some of these didn't attend. We had others who registered at the event and aren't listed.  Either way, it was a large group.


In Conclusion - Over the course of the past 12 months I’ve ridden my bike about 1,700 miles, approximately 1,400 of which were exclusively indoors on the trainer. There are two reasons for that. The first being that I, unlike most people, enjoy riding the trainer especially now since Zwift has come about. The second reason is that it’s safer. I don’t have to worry about a distracted driver killing me because they had to check their Facebook feed. The point I’m trying to make is that I felt completely safe during this race with the one caveat that I was surely gonna die on one of those hair-raising descents.

She had a bath and now old Betsy is in her rightful place again.

My pain cave
For the record, I completed 320 miles and 15,807 feet of climbing during the course of three days.

Thanks for reading.