Sunday, 8 November 2015

Ironman Chattanooga -- Volunteer

It was most of the day driving for me to get to Chattanooga from the guidestones monument in Georgia.  Right away I was put off by the strange layout of Chattanooga's roads.  It took ages to find the hotel.  The city is bisected by a tall ridge.  The tunnel through the ridge to get from downtown to my hotel was closed for construction.  None of the gas stations where I stopped had a map of the city, and the attendants were entirely useless at giving directions.  The streets were busy, with little indication of being accessible by bike.

Heading to the water
The next day improved my feelings towards the city.  The downtown core has many bicycle routes marked. I followed one such southward, looking to follow the bike course.  Sadly, the expo had run out of guidebooks, so I didn't have maps or directions.  I came to the Georgia state line and was again disheartened.  I found it difficult to believe that they would cross out of Tennessee.  That was incorrect, with most of the bike course being in Georgia, down to the town of Chickamauga.  I ran one lap of what I remembered to be the run course, and got it roughly correct.  For my next year of training it will be in my head, like Wisconsin was all this summer.

The directive is to jump. No diving.
Race day I made it to the swim start before dawn.  The start is delayed to 7:30 because dawn comes later this time of year.  The time-trial start looked like a problem for those further back in line.  The line up went on for a long ways down the path through the park, so those towards the back half had some running to get to the start and onto the dock.  Your time starts when you get on the dock.  The day was mostly cloudy.  The water was 77 degrees, making it wetsuit optional.  It took until 7:55 to finish all of the non-wetsuit athletes.  They got to go first.  Then another 10 minutes for the wetsuit wearers.  I'm not going to wear mine. This is my big chance for a non-wetsuit race.

TT start, but still a mass of swimmers

Go that way! Over there!
Life is worth swimming
From the bridge, it was interesting to watch people's swim form.  Some of the slower swimmers had poor arm movement, not extending forward on entry, then bending their elbow for the propulsion stroke.  Can you do the iron swim using dog paddle?  Yes, there was a guy doing that.  He barely made his own headway at all, moving along largely due to the river current.  There was a competitor in the rescue boat.  Don't know what his story was, but that would suck to be out of the race before leaving the water. 

Slippery when wet. Wet. Slipping. Crashing. Hurting.
With everyone in the water, I biked back to the start.  The wooden bridge is slippery when wet, and my back wheel went out slamming me down to the walkway.  It left a bloody welt on my hip.  

Lunch was at Noodles and Company, a franchise that Noah I discovered in Chicago. You order and pay, then sit at a table where they will bring the food to you.  That feels so much nicer than standing in the McDonalds lobby.

I should have just started my volunteer shift, but after locating the station where I was to be on duty later, I headed off to Lookout Mountain by bike. The road is a moderate incline for six km, for a total gain of over 250 meters.  It was a tough ride, leaving me spent by the time I made the top.  Having enough of riding, I went for dinner at Five Guys, then to the aid station.  

Run aid #1.  My crew
The most requested item was ice.  Although overcast, the day was warm, and the runners struggled in the heat.  Some rain would have been nice to keep them cool.  

By nightfall, the runners had thinned, so I made a clean-up pass down the road.  Lots of Gu tabs.  Runners were coming out from special needs, so I found some strange items.  A couple shirts.  Cans of pop and energy drinks. A little hotel bottle of mouthwash.  A toothbrush -- because you want to brush your teeth during the race, right?  Cookies. Towel.  This one thing looked like a pair of socks on the road. I picked it up.  Nope -- dead squirrel.  I moaned for the next couple of runners to thank me for supporting them, because that was nasty and way beyond what I signed up for.  

I ended up selecting Chattanooga as this year's race because the lunar eclipse was happening at 9:30 that evening.  The moon came out for about a five minutes at 8:30, then it was cloudy for the rest of the night, so no joy there.  No blood moon over the race.

After the last runner, who stopped at our station and decided to abandon, I stayed on station cleaning and packing until the work was done and the captain said it was all over.  The trash was piled, and the cardboard recycle as well.  

By the light of the moon

I went down to the finish, but was too tired to stand there cheering.  They didn't have bleachers. On towards the midnight close, there were a few stragglers on course, and I hurried the one guy, yelling that he could still make it, but needed to run for it.  He found the speed, and ran the last minute to the line, crossing just as the clock ticked off midnight.  It seems like everyone who managed to finish was recorded an official time, as if the customary midnight cut-off didn't apply. The book still says that you get 17 hours, so maybe midnight doesn't matter here.  

Wanting to get out of town early, I didn't go back in the morning to buy my ticket.  It shouldn't sell out for weeks.  I signed up online when I got home.  Ironman 2016 I'm back to Chattanooga. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Great Smoky Mountains

On my trip to Chattanooga, I wanted a side-trip to visit the Georgia Guidestones.  On my map, it's only "that way" about an inch, but it's a map of the South-Eastern states, so an inch is a few hours drive.  The direct route is from through the Great Smoky Mountains.  All off the routes made mad wavy lines in that region.  Thinking of Deliverance and Wrong Turn, I didn't want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere, so I chose the highway based on how easy it looked to navigate the backwoods. The first major city was Gatlinburg.  Did I say back woods?  This place was like Vegas South.  It was a long strip of hotels, shows, and attractions.  That was a surprise.  This was really the wrong place for me.  

Sunset from Clingman's Dome

Then comes the border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In an instant the crush of tourist-trap nirvana is replaced by endless woods and hills. 

My GPS watch says it was 280m up the hill

I got directions to the highest point around, and went for a hike.  Clingman's Dome is a peak on the ridge separating Tennessee from North Carolina.  It really did seem endless driving out of the mountains.  It was a couple hours just to get clear of the park, and then I drove for several hours through the mountains as night fell.  Then it started to rain, so I abandoned drive for a nearby hotel.  

Let These Be Guidestones To An Age Of Reason

So is translated the hieroglyphs at the top of the monument.  As with other great stone monuments worldwide, the designers of the guidestones are unknown.  Operating under a pseudonym, a man arrived many years ago, acquired the small plot of land, and hired the local stone cutter to build them.  It's not exactly a great mystery.  Whoever put them here knows why.  In a few hundred, or even several thousand years, they should still be standing, as a message to the future.  

Selfie at the Georgia Guidestones

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Ironman Wisconsin - Madison Race Report

Begin at the sun
I went running on Sunday, for 20k, and it hurt.  Aching in my leg muscles. I need the run.  STWM is only three weeks away.  The scar on my arm is still sore, and my right foot has something wrong that aches when twisted too far.  Ironman was hard on me. 

This year, my son Noah was race support.  We visited the capital building together.  He was there for me at the finish line at 9 PM, like I suggested.  I wouldn't be along until after 10 o'clock.

Noah was race support
In Madison, they built a scale model of the solar system.  The sun is right at the start line of the bike course, where riders come down the spiral ramp of the Monona Terrace parking garage. Mercury is a block away, then Venus a few blocks after, and the Earth a few more blocks after that.  Then it's on for several kilometers to get past Ceres, Mars to Jupiter.  Neptune and Pluto are out towards Mount Horeb, the furthest point on the bike course, 50 km or so away.  

Some people suggested that we skip the aero bars; that the course was endlessly hilly.  Not so.  The ride out until Mount Horeb has plenty of flat road.  The moderate wind from the South East made riding in aero by far the preferred choice.  After the climb to the village of Mount Horeb, the hilly parts begin.  The twisty downhill of Garfoot Road and the steep drop on Timberline were posted with caution signs.  I saw no evidence of crashes, but several flat tires, and a guy with a broken chain.  Someone else had his behind-the-seat dual-bottle holder fall off onto the path.  You need lock washers to hold that in place.  

I love this bike course.  The hills are tough going up, and a lot of fun coming down.  There's plenty of them to enjoy.  Especially Garfoot, with all of the bends in the road.  It was shared road, and someone was coming up in her pickup as I flew down the first time.  Yikes.  The road surfaces weren't as bad as I remembered, except for Stagecoach.  It's a mess that needs resurfacing.  Old Sauk Pass was the worst of the struggles.  Long, long, and steep, with crowds of silly people to cheer us on.  

Coming in from the bike, I made my second great blunder.  I got off, and started running to T2.  I hadn't had sensation in my right foot for over an hour, and it wouldn't be commanded.  The pain, then the limping set me to walking.  I pulled something in my foot that still aches a week later.

In the queue to get into the water, the sun was an orange glow beyond the horizon.  It rose just moments before race start.  At the Friday briefing, they warned us of cold weather to come, but it didn't happen.  We won the weather lottery, with the best conditions imaginable -- almost no wind, cool temperatures, but not chilly, and zero clouds.  

Because of the threat of cold weather, I made a horrible blunder by choosing to wear a T-shirt under the wetsuit.  It might keep me warm on the shore, I thought.  Swimming, it chafed under the collar, and bunched up under my left armpit cutting at 4-inch long gash that hasn't healed in a week.  It didn't bleed, but it hurt when it rubbed on anything.  Mostly that was fine during the race.  My cycling kit was loose enough not to affect it, and I carry my arms high enough on the run for it not to be a bother.  

One lap of the run
I managed to run most of the first lap.  After that, I walked a bit, which lead to walking a lot.  They had Red Bull on course, so I sampled a cup, ending up vomiting it into the bushes along Lake Mendota.  That seemed to settle my stomach so I could take another Gu, bringing on energy for more running.  It was just a slow shuffle really.  Even so, the run of 5:25 was only 10 minutes faster than my 5:35 in Mont Tremblant, where I walked most all of it.  The tough cycling course added a half hour, coming to 7:30.  My swim was consistent, at 101 minutes, was just on par for my regular pace.  

Final time: 

Monday, 30 March 2015

Around The Bay

Jen described it as reminders of parts of her favourite races.  There's the store-lined streets of downtown, like The Yonge Street 10k, the highways and overpasses of Disney, the hilly suburbs of The Mississauga Marathon.  

Across the overpass

Long road ahead

The crossing lights were on, alarms sounding

We parked several blocks away, then found that the lot across from the stadium was still mostly empty.  It was great to be able to wait for the start in the warm stadium.  It was really cold outside.  

Batman! That's going on the blog

I can understand people complaining about the weather if they are summer runners, and tried running here in shorts.  After the Hypothermic Half, we were well prepared, with layers of Merano wool to keep us warm, heavy gloves, hats.  It's what you need.  It was a nice sunny day if you had the right gear.

Happy Palm Sunday

It was Palm Sunday, and two churches had people out waving palm fronds, wishing us a good run.  

Skyway in the distance. We just came from there.

I like how you could always look across the bay to see where you were going, or had been.  It really gave a sense of the scale of a long run like this.  

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Hypo One Half Race Report

There isn't even an athlete briefing.  It's just expected that everyone knows what they are doing and has dressed how they need to.  The weather forecast this year was for ice pellets.  With some wind, that would be bad.  Really, really, frostbite, ouch this hurts, what are we doing here, bad.  I think this is the most dangerous race that I enter.  In triathlon, I'm not going to drown, I might get scraped falling off my bike, but that wouldn't compare to freezing rain and ice pellets.  For this I packed my ski goggles that I use biking in this weather.  You can't have any skin exposed.  Sunglasses are to keep in warmth as much as to keep out the light.  It could be horribly cold, or wet, or strong winds with ice pellets.

Hypo One Half

Jen worked Saturday, so I picked her up at Pita Pit at 5.  I should have gotten there early to eat, but traffic was bad and I couldn't find parking, so I was late.  I grabbed a chicken sandwich at Tim's on the highway out of town.  We collected the race packets from Dayna in Sarnia.  She got them for us yesterday.

We stayed at the host hotel, the Holiday Inn near the bridge.  It was packed for a weekend pool tournament.  People carried bags everywhere with their cues.  We were to bed early, but every hour or so, drunken pool players would pass loudly down the hall.  About midnight, one came pounding on the door of the room next to us.  In the morning, Jen suggested we return the favour.  No.  Breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  Toast with jam and peanut butter.  Just like one of our driving trips where we go to Tim's for the same.  

We assembled at 8:30 in front of the hotel.  That's great.  No driving, just walk outside and ready to go.  I want to do that for one of the Toronto events.  

Lake Huron is frozen over

The weather was nice!  It was right around freezing, with no wind at all, not even for the stretch of the run along the lake shore.  As we came in to finish, it began to rain, and that's all of the precipitation we had.  I hadn't snowed for a few days, so the roads were clear of slush.  The water at the aid stations wasn't icing over.

The run begins towards the bridge, then heads east to the outskirts of town, and loops back along the lake.  We passed the church where my mom's funeral was held two weeks earlier.  That's why I raced here two years ago.  It gave me an adventure while on a trip to visit her.  It pleased her that her granddaughter (Jen, whom I race with) took care of herself with all the running.  You can't go home again, but you can go running there. 

Back at the hotel, we enjoyed the brunch provided.  Chocolate milk, eggs, and bacon.  Lots of bacon.  Usually after a run I'm not very hungry.  I use Gu to keep my energy up, but today the sight of all the hot food brought on quite a craving.  The drive back was horrendous.  Freezing rain kept icing up the windshield wipers;  and ice pellets;  but not for the race.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Winter sunset

I wanted to include a pic of the sunset.  I pulled out my phone during today's run, and wondered what the flashing green light was.  I turned on the screen, and it immediately shut down for low battery.  That's the green light.

The sunset was nice, but a bit of a problem.  There was a train across the tracks earlier, just sitting there. Instead of waiting, with my sweat giving me a chill, I took the long way around. It's another 5 km, making the run 21 km total.  I was feeling good and had an extra Gu to keep my energy up.  The railway crossing was at the outskirts of town, and the bonus distance was on the gravel road into the countryside.  I began the run in the afternoon, with plenty of time for the planned route, so I was wearing my black and red Brita jacket from last year's Resolution Run.  I got a nice and bright MEC jacket for Christmas, all covered in reflective highlights, but it was at home. So here I was, a kilometer from town on a country lane, dressed in my black ninja outfit, with the sun going down.  The streetlights would be on by the time I made it to the house. Plus, my phone was dead, taking my music away.